Rabbit with Safflower Sauce

There are so many flavors and ways to use various spices and herbs – some of them unusual, like safflower. In this weeks post Monica King shared how to make a basic white sauce or gravy and how to bump it up a few notches with some exotic safflower.

Safflower flowers ready to be dried into “threads” for cooking.

Let’s Trade!

Back in April, I (Monica King), received a call concerning bees in a rafter that the homeowner wanted safely removed. Upon arrival I found a small hive established itself in the corner of their roof.

Setting my equipment up for the live removal takes several trips to and from my truck, I always enjoy the beautiful landscaping of the places some bees choose to call home. The sweet, magnolia-like scent of chinaberry flowers filled the area, almost intoxicating. Under the tree was a unique bush-like flower with bright orange threads poking out of the centers. I had never seen such an odd, almost alien like flower, and I paused for a closer examination.

Bee removal often involves getting into some difficult places.

The daughter of the homeowner, totally enthralled by the bees, was one of my assistants. She noticed my interest in the flower. When I asked, “Is this saffron?” My assistant didn’t know bur cheerfully replied, “I will ask my Mom.” When she returned she explained that her parents are from Romania and that they grew this plant in their home country but did not know the English word for it. All she could tell me is that they used the “threads” in cooking, especially rice dishes. Her mother sent a small bag with her daughter with instructions to gift me a sample. I ran back to my truck and grabbed a small jar of honey to gift in exchange. We were all beaming in delight.

Some Investigation Required

Later I found the mystery plant to be “safflower,” a substitute for saffron. Though safflower has a relatively mild flavor, I decided to prepare a sauce from my all of my precious threads – which amounted to about 1 teaspoon. They are extremely delicate and fine, seeing them grow as they do is amazing. It makes the dish I prepared even more memorable.

Safflower is a pretty garden flower that does best with some afternoon shade n the Southwest.

Meanwhile I ordered some seeds to try next spring! Since the flowers were growing in a backyard in Tucson I suspect they will grow for me as well. I do pay attention to what other gardeners are successful with. (Seed Sources for Southwest gardens on our sister site GardeningWithSoule in the Land of El Sol.)

Saffron comes from a pretty spring flowering bulb called the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). Get the correct species. Not all crocus are safe to consume.


Rabbit with Safflower Sauce


2 pounds rabbit (I used cottontail), also works with a mild meat like chicken breast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 Tablespoon high temperature oil for frying (avocado, peanut)
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Safflower White Sauce

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 I’itoi onions or shallots, diced
1 teaspoon freeze dried garlic or 1 clove fresh (minced)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a Savignon Blanc)
1 tsp safflower threads


Prepare the Rabbit

1) Cut rabbit (or chicken) into serving pieces.
2) Mix flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl, set aside.
3) In a separate bowl beat the 2 eggs.
4) Dip the rabbit pieces into the egg and then roll in the flour until well coated.
5) Heat oil in a shallow frying pan, using just enough oil to cover the bottom. You may need to add more oil as you fry all the pieces. (I used bacon grease.)
6) Fry each rabbit piece until golden brown.
7) Keep rabbit warm while preparing the sauce.

Prepare the Sauce

8) In the same frying pan, on medium heat, saute the I’itoi onions or shallot and garlic until translucent (about 3 minutes).
9) De-glaze pan with wine, scraping up the little bits that are stuck on the pan to add to the rich flavor. Continue until almost all the wine has evaporated.
10) Turn heat to low and add the cream and crushed safflower threads.

11) Cook creamy sauce on low for 5-10 minutes until desired sauce consistency.

12) Pour safflower sauce over rabbit pieces, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve.

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What do you think?!

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honey-savor-southwestMore cooking and using Southwestern products in Using Honey in New & Savory Ways (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). Only $6!  This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies at no additional cost to you.

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