A year has passed since we moved to the Pacific Northwest, a region with a rich bounty of fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, flowers… I could go on – praising the product of this unmatched coast. We feel very fortunate to live here.
Ajo y Azafrán (Garlic and Saffron) are two condiments Ama (mom) always cooked with (as did my aunts). The foundation of nearly every sauce in the Basque cuisine is garlic. The smells of garlic cloves drizzled with olive oil and tinted by the hues of Saffron threads are engraved in my palate. I continue to cook with them in nearly every dish, as I’m sure many of you do in yours. Basque cuisine is simple. We use the juice of the meat or fish itself as the base of a simple sauce. Flavoring is a matter of adding a humble sprig of parsley, thyme, or one or two bay leaves. A light sprinkle of Paprika, a few threads of Saffron for color and its inimitable taste and that should do it. Garlic may be the one exception as it is added to many dishes with a very generous hand.
Saffron, also known as the ‘red gold‘ is highly precious. Arroz Negre or Paella is never complete without a few threads of Saffron. Although it seems an expensive condiment (and compared to others it certainly is), a little goes a very long way, and it is an irreplaceable flavour that I am not ready to leave behind as long as I can procure it.
The bounty the Pacific Northwest provides in young garlic, onions, peppers and much more is to me like I imagine a poet’s muse and inspiration.
I hope to continue to share with you the fruits of what this region offers, and I look forward to learning and cooking from what – the places you call home – offer to you. Will be back soon.
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