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Saffron — the pungent dried stigmas of the crocus flower that are harvested and separated by hand — is by no means cheap, but it lends yellow color, floral fragrance, and flavor to paellas, suquet (Catalan fish stew), and other seafood dishes. Some of the best saffron comes from La Mancha, and it's prized around the world for its high quality. Look for deep-red, full-length threads; even an ounce will last a long time.

Photo: Susannah Chen

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