Awhile ago, a friend gave me a generous portion of her saffron stash. I have scrimped and saved every little bit of those precious strands. Have you ever wondered why saffron is so expensive? These delicate little threads are derived from the stamen of crocus flowers. To make it even worse, each crocus flower only has three stamen. Kind of makes you respects those little threads, doesn't it? I felt it was time to put those hard-earned threads to work.
Put ¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of very hot water. Set aside.
Chop ½ cup red onion.
Heat 2 tablespoon olive in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add 1 ½ cups (9 oz) orzo and toast, stirring frequently, about 3-4 minutes.
Stir in the saffron mixture.
Add 2 ½ cups water and 1 teaspoon salt.
Cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the orzo is just tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat.
From a medium bulb of fennel, chop 1 cup of the vegetable and sprinkle over the cooked orzo. Cover and let the fennel soften off the heat, about 5 minutes.
Stir the fennel into the orzo. Chop 2 tablespoon of the fennel fronds. Serve the orzo, sprinkled with the chopped fronds.