“Meatless Monday” Recipe of the Week – Asiago Vegetable Risotto

January 6, 2020 at 6:01 AM | Posted in CooksRecipes, Meatless Monday | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This week’s “Meatless Monday” Recipe of the Week is a Asiago Vegetable Risotto. To make this dish some of the items you’ll need are Zucchini, Red Bell Pepper, Asparagus, Saffron, Asiago Cheese, Lemon Juice, Fresh Basil and Toasted Pine Nuts. The recipe is from the CooksRecipes website which has a huge selection of recipes to please all tastes, diets, or cuisines so be sure to check it out today. Enjoy and Eat Healthy in 2020! https://www.cooksrecipes.com/index.html

Asiago Vegetable Risotto
Comforting, creamy risotto loaded with vegetables like zucchini, red bell pepper and asparagus, and seasoned with saffron, Asiago cheese, lemon juice, fresh basil and toasted pine nuts.

Recipe Ingredients:
2/3 cup (6 ounces) butter – divided use
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth – divided use
Pinch of saffron threads
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch half-rounds
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
2 green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Asiago* Cheese, shredded
2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Cooking Directions:
1 – In 3-quart pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add rice and stir continuously until edges of kernels are translucent; about 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth and stir until it is absorbed; about 3 minutes.
2 – Reduce heat to medium and add another 1/2 cup broth, saffron, zucchini, asparagus, red pepper, onions and pepper. Cook until all liquid is absorbed; stirring frequently. Continue to add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, cooking until liquid is absorbed each time.
3 – When all liquid has been added and absorbed, stir in lemon juice, Asiago and remaining butter. Mixture should be creamy and rice should be al dente.
4 – Before serving, stir in basil and pine nuts.
Makes 8 servings.

*Tip: Parmesan cheese can be substituted for the Asiago.
https://www.cooksrecipes.com/mless/asiago_vegetable_risotto_recipe.html

Herb and Spice of the Week – Saffron

April 2, 2015 at 5:37 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Saffron – valuable stigmas, or threads, are painstakingly plucked, piled, and dried

Saffron – valuable stigmas, or threads, are painstakingly plucked, piled, and dried

Saffron (pronounced /ˈsæfrən/ or /ˈsæfrɒn/) is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Crocus is a genus in the family Iridaceae. Saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are the distal end of a carpel. The styles and stigmas are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food. Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight, is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece. As a genetically monomorphic clone, it was slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.

The saffron crocus, unknown in the wild, probably descends from Crocus cartwrightianus, which originated in Crete; C. thomasii and C. pallasii are other possible precursors. The saffron crocus is a triploid that is “self-incompatible” and male sterile; it undergoes aberrant meiosis and is hence incapable of independent sexual reproduction—all propagation is by vegetative multiplication via manual “divide-and-set” of a starter clone or by interspecific hybridisation. If C. sativus is a mutant form of C. cartwrightianus, then it may have emerged via plant breeding, which would have selected for elongated stigmas, in late Bronze Age Crete.

Saffron’s taste and iodoform- or hay-like fragrance result from the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid pigment, crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Its recorded history is attested in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical treatise compiled under Ashurbanipal, and it has been traded and used for over four millennia. Iran now accounts for approximately 90% of the world production of saffron.

 

 

 

The domesticated saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, is an autumn-flowering perennial plant unknown in the wild. Its progenitors are possibly the eastern Mediterranean autumn-flowering Crocus cartwrightianus, which is also known as “wild saffron” and originated in Greece. The saffron crocus probably resulted when C. cartwrightianus was subjected to extensive artificial selection by growers seeking longer stigmas. C. thomasii and C. pallasii are other possible sources.

It is a sterile triploid form, which means that three homologous sets of chromosomes compose each specimen’s genetic complement; C. sativus bears eight chromosomal bodies per set, making for 24 in total. Being sterile, the purple flowers of C. sativus fail to produce viable seeds; reproduction hinges on human assistance: clusters of corms, underground, bulb-like, starch-storing organs, must be dug up, divided, and replanted. A corm survives for one season, producing via this vegetative division up to ten “cormlets” that can grow into new plants in the next season. The compact corms are small, brown globules that can measure as large as 5 cm (2.0 in) in diameter, have a flat base, and are shrouded in a dense mat of parallel fibres; this coat is referred to as the “corm tunic”. Corms also bear vertical fibres, thin and net-like, that grow up to 5 cm above the plant’s neck.

The plant grows to a height of 20–30 cm (8–12 in), and sprouts 5–11 white and non-photosynthetic leaves known as cataphylls. These membrane-like structures cover and protect the crocus’s 5 to 11 true leaves as they bud and develop. The latter are thin, straight, and blade-like green foliage leaves, which are 1–3 mm in diameter, either expand after the flowers have opened (“hysteranthous”) or do so simultaneously with their blooming (“synanthous”). C. sativus cataphylls are suspected by some to manifest prior to blooming when the plant is irrigated relatively early in the growing season. Its floral axes, or flower-bearing structures, bear bracteoles, or specialised leaves that sprout from the flower stems; the latter are known as pedicels. After aestivating in spring, the plant sends up its true leaves, each up to 40 cm (16 in) in length. In autumn, purple buds appear. Only in October, after most other flowering plants have released their seeds, do its brilliantly hued flowers develop; they range from a light pastel shade of lilac to a darker and more striated mauve. The flowers possess a sweet, honey-like fragrance. Upon flowering, plants average less than 30 cm (12 in) in height. A three-pronged style emerges from each flower. Each prong terminates with a vivid crimson stigma 25–30 mm (0.98–1.18 in) in length.

 

 

 

Saffron contains more than 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds. It also has many nonvolatile active components, many of which are carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, lycopene, and various α- and β-carotenes. However, saffron’s golden yellow-orange color is primarily the result of α-crocin. This crocin is trans-crocetin di-(β-D-gentiobiosyl) ester; it bears the systematic (IUPAC) name 8,8-diapo-8,8-carotenoic acid. This means that the crocin underlying saffron’s aroma is a digentiobiose ester of the carotenoid crocetin. Crocins themselves are a series of hydrophilic carotenoids that are either monoglycosyl or diglycosyl polyene esters of crocetin. Crocetin is a conjugated polyene dicarboxylic acid that is hydrophobic, and thus oil-soluble. When crocetin is esterified with two water-soluble gentiobioses, which are sugars, a product results that is itself water-soluble. The resultant α-crocin is a carotenoid pigment that may comprise more than 10% of dry saffron’s mass. The two esterified gentiobioses make α-crocin ideal for coloring water-based and non-fatty foods such as rice dishes.

 

 

High quality red threads from Austrian saffron

High quality red threads from Austrian saffron

The various saffron crocus cultivars give rise to thread types that are often regionally distributed and characteristically distinct. Varieties (not varieties in the botanical sense) from Spain, including the tradenames “Spanish Superior” and “Creme”, are generally mellower in color, flavor, and aroma; they are graded by government-imposed standards. Italian varieties are slightly more potent than Spanish. The most intense varieties tend to be Iranian. Various “boutique” crops are available from New Zealand, France, Switzerland, England, the United States, and other countries—some of them organically grown. In the U.S., Pennsylvania Dutch saffron—known for its “earthy” notes—is marketed in small quantities.

 

 

 

Consumers may regard certain cultivars as “premium” quality. The “Aquila” saffron, or zafferano dell’Aquila, is defined by high safranal and crocin content, distinctive thread shape, unusually pungent aroma, and intense colour; it is grown exclusively on eight hectares in the Navelli Valley of Italy’s Abruzzo region, near L’Aquila. It was first introduced to Italy by a Dominican monk from Inquisition-era Spain. But the biggest saffron cultivation in Italy is in San Gavino Monreale, Sardinia, where it is grown on 40 hectares, representing 60% of Italian production; it too has unusually high crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal content. Another is the “Mongra” or “Lacha” saffron of Kashmir (Crocus sativus ‘Cashmirianus’), which is among the most difficult for consumers to obtain. Repeated droughts, blights, and crop failures in the Indian-controlled areas of Kashmir combine with an Indian export ban to contribute to its prohibitive overseas prices. Kashmiri saffron is recognisable by its dark maroon-purple hue; it is among the world’s darkest, which hints at strong flavor, aroma, and coloring effect.

 

 

 

Almost all saffron grows in a belt from Spain in the west to India in the east. The other continents, except Antarctica, produce smaller amounts. Some 300 t (300,000 kg) of dried whole threads and powder are gleaned yearly, of which 50 t (50,000 kg) is top-grade “coupe” saffron. Iran answers for around 90–93% of global production and exports much of it. A few of Iran’s drier eastern and southeastern provinces, including Fars, Kerman, and those in the Khorasan region, glean the bulk of modern global production. In 2005, the second-ranked Greece produced 5.7 t (5,700 kg), while Morocco and Kashmir, tied for third rank, each produced 2.3 t (2,300 kg).

In recent years, Afghan cultivation has risen. Azerbaijan, Morocco, and Italy are, in decreasing order, lesser producers. Prohibitively high labour costs and abundant Iranian imports mean that only select locales continue the tedious harvest in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland—among them the Swiss village of Mund, whose annual output is a few kilograms. Microscale production of saffron can be found in Tasmania, China, Egypt, England (the village of Burnham Norton France, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey (mainly around the town of Safranbolu), California, and Central Africa.

To glean 1 lb (450 g) of dry saffron requires the harvest of 50,000–75,000 flowers; a kilogram requires 110,000–170,000 flowers. Forty hours of labor are needed to pick 150,000 flowers. Stigmas are dried quickly upon extraction and (preferably) sealed in airtight containers. Saffron prices at wholesale and retail rates range from US$500 to US$5,000 per pound, or US$1,100–11,000/kg, equivalent to £2,500/€3,500 per pound or £5,500/€7,500 per kilogram. In Western countries, the average retail price in 1974 was $1,000/£500/€700 per pound, or US$2,200/£1,100/€1,550 per kilogram. In February 2013, a retail bottle containing 0.06 ounces could be purchased for $16.26 or the equivalent of $4,336 per pound or as little as about $2,000/pound in larger quantities. A pound contains between 70,000 and 200,000 threads. Vivid crimson coloring, slight moistness, elasticity, and lack of broken-off thread debris are all traits of fresh saffron.

 

 

 

Crushed saffron threads are soaked in hot—but not boiling—water

Crushed saffron threads are soaked in hot—but not boiling—water

Saffron’s aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange coloring to foods. Saffron is widely used in Indian, Persian, European, Arab, and Turkish cuisines. Confectioneries and liquors also often include saffron. Common saffron substitutes include safflower (Carthamus tinctorius, which is often sold as “Portuguese saffron” or “açafrão”), annatto, and turmeric (Curcuma longa). Saffron has also been used as a fabric dye, particularly in China and India, and in perfumery. It is used for religious purposes in India, and is widely used in cooking in many cuisines, ranging from the Milanese risotto of Italy, the paella of Spain, the bouillabaisse of France, to the biryani with various meat accompaniments in South Asia.

Saffron also has a long history of use in traditional medicine.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

eat. run. southern.

a guide to food and health with a southern twist

Homemaker's Habitat

Homemade Food & Fun for Families

Nordic Violet

Food photography, easy recipes & magical slow life

Join Us, Pull up a Chair

Food, Wine, Family. Fun!

Sunup to Sundown

A practical guide to living a simple and competent lifestyle

Kara Lydon

The Foodie Dietitian

Healthy Goodies by Lucia

Healthy Recipes and Food Photography

smitten kitchen

Fearless cooking from a tiny NYC kitchen.

Texan Vegan

Whole Foods Plant Based: Beautiful, Healthful, Inspirational

Flavor Bible

Flavors from around the globe

Marina Makes

Homemade & Handmade

Slutty Martha Cooks!

Tie on that apron and grab those balls girls...meatballs that is!

The Farmers Wife

From our table to yours: a place to find easy recipes and the farm tales that go with them.

Lee’s Real Food

Back to the Basics in Cooking