Spinach Matzo Balls in Saffron Broth

saffron fieldsLet me tell you my saffron story.  The lovely Evangeline, Adrienne’s globe-trotting daughter, was traveling in Morocco and the ONLY thing her mom requested was to bring back some Moroccan saffron.  Regaling her parents with her adventures in the saffron fields outside of Marrakesh only made the request more justified and the desire for the spice more urgent.  Some weeks later, just in time for Thanksgiving, Evangeline arrived at Dulles with Adrienne eagerly awaiting the prodigal child.  The first thing I asked of her — the very first thing, even before, “How was your flight?” — was “So, did you get the saffron?” Evangeline’s stricken look did not need underscoring with the sad retelling of why no saffron was forthcoming.

In the ensuing weeks, nearly daily references, usually accompanied by a long sigh, to the absent saffron seemed the only way to assuage my grief.  Then, on Christmas morning, Evangeline handed me a small, carefully wrapped package.  In it, I found a small bottle of precious saffron from those self-same fields of blue outside of Marrakesh.saffron sorting

Way to keep a secret!

A sophisticated, company-dinner variation on the old (one could say ancient) stand-by, these lovely matzoh balls floating in flavor-rich saffron broth can served as a starter for Passover dinner.  Expect to pay $20/gram (3 teaspoons) for the high-quality, flavor-packed saffron this recipe begs for.  We adapted this recipe from Epicurious. Read More

Potato & Watercress Cakes

1-1/4 to 1-1/2 lb. medium Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled until tender, with skin
5 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. watercress, stemmed
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 egg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Scrub the potatoes as needed to remove any dirt, cover generously in water and simmer until cooked, but not overly tender. Drain and rinse under cold water then let cool.  While the potatoes are cooling, heat 2 Tbs. of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the watercress. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, just until the watercress wilts, 1 to 2 minutes.?? Put the potatoes in a large bowl and break them into small chunks with a potato masher or large spoon, taking care not to over-mash. Add the watercress mixture, the mascarpone and the egg, mix to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  The potato mixture should hold together but not be too wet, and if necessary, add a little bit of breadcrumbs (or Panko) to attain the right consistency.  Divide and shape the potato mixture into 16 equal patties, about 2 inches in diameter and ½ inch thick. (The cakes can be made to this point up to 4 hours ahead and refrigerated.)?? Heat the oven to 200̊F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Heat the remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the potato cakes until golden on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer each batch to the baking sheet, season lightly with salt, and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8.