Writing is an art and a science, and so is cooking. Which is why I named some of the characters in my young adult novel after the world’s most valuable spice. In How Good It Can Be, Emma Saffron rises above expectations and finds out how good it can be to be true to herself. It’s sound advice for any teenager, especially when they’re being treated less well than they deserve. Emma is every girl realizing how valuable she is.

My own last name Zaffino, is Italian in origin, from the Old Sicilian zaffina meaning ‘precious stone’ perhaps as a nickname for a jeweler or dealer in gem stones. For us, however, Saffron has been a pseudonym for Zaffino, ever since my brother Mike discovered that Saffron is what MS Word suggests in spell check for our last name. Maybe at some point saffron spice was as valuable as jewels?

So whenever I need inspiration for writing (I’m currently revising How Good It Can Be), I bring alchemy into the kitchen and infuse some of the magical saffron spice into my cooking. This week I made Braised Halibut with Saffron & Fennel Broth, Potatoes and Mediterranean Olives. Here’s the recipe—Michelle