Saffron in a Pinch

Christopher Hirsheimer

At home,we're not the measuring kind of cooks, and we tend to be freewheeling in the kitchen—but because the price of saffron is so high, this is one ingredient that could have us reaching for the measuring spoons. But how do you balance all those unruly threads in the tiny bowl of a quarter teaspoon? Not very well.

That's why saffron is best measured in increments not of teaspoons, but of pinches. Now, one man's pinch is another man's pile. How do you measure a pinch? Not to be too obsessive, but we've found that a small pinch equals about 20 threads; a medium pinch equals about 35; a large pinch is about 50. (Since saffron can overpower a dish, it's better to err on the light side.)

To enhance saffron's flavor before adding it to a dish, toast it in a small skillet over medium heat for about a minute, until you begin to smell its distinctive aroma. Grind the toasted threads into a powder with a mortar and pestle, or do as we do: crumble them between your fingers right into the pot.