I hope your summer was nice. Mine was more of a giant lesson in life. During the normally quiet weeks of early August while I tried to relax a little in Greece, I received four (!) interview requests. But instead of stepping back and politely declining, or asking my agent to do so, my overly ambitious self went into overdrive. Never one able to say “no” easily, I convinced my self that every one of those requests was worth the time and effort, always hoping that I will change the world — if only by helping people understand ancient grains a little better.
Well, the world did change, but mostly on my end. I returned from my voluntarily interrupted vacation less than restored, and almost immediately fell into a terrible summer cold. This, at last, took me away from my computer for good. I was a complete mess. I will spare you the details.
Still, wiped out or not, one more task beckoned. Before leaving for Greece, I had made a commitment to be a guest on the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU in our nation’s capital. They already had made a change to accommodate my vacation schedule so there was no way I could not show up. Being on this show with the fascinating topic of Ancient Grains and Wild Greens was a dream come true. How could I possibly cancel last minute? Just because I had been flat on my back for 3 days? Just because I had a terrible headache, could barely breath, and had not been able to eat for 24 hours? Not me. Never!
On the morning of the show, I heaved myself out of bed, just in time to make it. I showered and dressed in bare basics, equipped myself with a thermos of hot tea, tissues, and a bag of lozenges. My reasonable husband didn’t even try talking me out of it! He just dropped off his insanely imbalanced clown of a wife and decided to let me fend for myself.
And fend I did. Thank God no one can see you on radio! Normally when I’m interviewed from my home-office, I always dress well. I even put on lipstick! This time, I sat there in all my miserable beauty, with my cheat sheets about grains spread out on one side and a warm cup of mint tea on the other, always concerned that I would knock the liquid over some technical equipment and end the show.
But I still could speak. The tech guy in the studio said I sounded great (but he had a cold coming himself so I believe he was just cheering himself on.) And when I learned of the “cough button”, pressed many times during the next 60 minutes — I was ready. Miraculously so seemed my brain. I felt alert and happy as a clam which you can see on the grainy picture here on the side.
In the end, I had a blast, seriously. I can never stop talking about grains and Kojo was amazing, fast and whip-smart, and charming, as always. You can listen to the show here:
Saffron honey helped me through my self-inflicted crisis. Before leaving for Greece, I had made a small jar which I discovered in a cupboard. As I looked for ways to sooth my aching throat, I often had a small spoon with my hot tea and felt instant relief. My Greek mom had introduced me to local saffron honey last year. Some of you might remember the spectacular speckled liquid from my Instagram feed. I have been spellbound by its mesmerizing color and delicate aroma. So I started tinkering with a recipe to recreate the memory of this delicacy.
As soon as I recovered from my personal week of hell, I decided to write about my giant learning lesson — don’t work on vacation! — and to introduce you to this wonderful honey. Good quality saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is key to this simple recipe. I’m lucky because I always have beautiful Greek saffron from Kozani at home from my mom, and (mom, don’t keep reading!) an even better one from my sister-in-law from Iran.
Enjoy the homemade honey saffron on a slice of buttered whole-grain bread for breakfast or drizzled over a bowl of Greek yogurt with a few toasted walnuts. It’s amazing! Or spoon some into a bowl of warm breakfast oats and wait for the vibrant strands to release their orange hues.
Dear readers, I’d love to hear from you. What is your experience with saffron? Do you use it in your kitchen? Often? Rarely? How do you use it? Did you ever have a memorable saffron dish? What’s your favorite recipe using saffron?
Homemade Saffron Honey
1/2 cup mild honey (see Fine Points below)
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed between your clean (!) fingers
1 Spoon or pour the honey into a small screw-top glass jar. Stir in the saffron threads, close the jar, and set aside for at least 3 days to allow the flavors to meld. I like it best after infused for 5 days. Enjoy!
Saffron has a very delicate aroma so you should choose a mild honey such as clover or tupelo to allow the spice to shine.
My understanding is that honey is a powerful natural preservative but since I am not a food safety expert so I recommend you make a small amount at a time to consume within a couple of weeks.
You can learn more about choosing, storing, and buying saffron under saffron.com and saharsaffron.com. Esteemed Mediterranean food authority Paula Wolfert recommends Kalustyan’s in New York as an excellent source. My lovely Facebook friend and chef Elatia Harris highly recommends Vanilla, Saffron Imports in San Francisco. Sahar Saffron and Penzeys are other sources I found. Sahar Saffron carries Greek Kozani saffron which is a little more affordable and worth seeking out.
And, last but not least, here is a link to my Instagram picture of my mom’s Greek saffron honey which inspired this post. Join me there as well: