Well, yes, there may be. It can be made easily in small batches, which gives it the wonderful creamy texture often lacking from more expensive varieties of saffron (read: buttery). However, the cost of making it is prohibitive for everyone except the most dedicated. I don’t know of a better option, because it’s the one thing that really makes the spice stand out.
A similar substitute, called koshari, is made using turmeric, a mild curry spice that, when finely ground, adds a mild, peppery flavor to curries (like ours). I’m not sure how popular it is among Americans — but when I was in New York last winter, I saw a woman using it as a food processor in her kitchen, making soups and stews (and, later, even a risotto, which she liked!). A few months ago, I also ran across another recipe that was inspired by the spice (and called ‘Balsamic Saffron’), but has a less savory flavor: sweetened condensed milk, with raisins and lemon zest. (I’m not sure just how effective it is in making pasta, either way, but I’d still drink it.) What I find most interesting about my recipe is that it’s actually a riff on a traditional dish known as dal dal.
Dal Dal is a dish typically made with lentils — and in India, it’s known as one of the most important dishes of the week, so I figured there must be plenty of uses for the spice here. For one thing, it’s high in beta carotene, which has been shown in experiments to protect eyes from ultraviolet light and protect against cancer. Dal isn’t very nutritious (it takes a lot of protein), either: you’ll need to make a lot of it for just one small meal, which takes up to 20 minutes. Plus, there’s no dairy — except for yogurt, which is a substitute. Which means you have to eat yogurt, which means that you’ll have to make it yourself, which is a bit of a drag.
But, for the love of the spice, don’t forget to serve this dish with a yogurt sauce, especially as someone with a sweet tooth. It’s not a dessert, but it’s a dessert that is both comforting and satisfying.
The “Empirical Testing of the Effects of a Single, Large-Scale Taxon on Other Taxa” experiment at the University
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