WHAT IS IT?
Ground Vanilla Bean as a diet aid? Whaaaaaaat? Yes! Aside from vanilla’s use as a flavoring, the bean itself can add flavor, and help suppress your need to dress up things like yogurts or breakfast cereals with extra fats or sugars. Fiber may work as an “off switch” to keep you from eating too much, but flavor ups the tastes of sugars and fats to the point where you’re happy. Think of it as your diet dimmer!
For cooking, vanilla bean adds both flecks of visual interest and a more subtle vanilla flavor that isn’t as overwhelming. That allows you to take the flavor “out of the box” a bit. If I make a nice bourbon glaze salmon, I might sprinkle a little vanilla bean over the top of the glaze on the fish with a little crushed red pepper prior to serving for both color and flavor!
Did you know that vanilla is derived from orchids that are fussy as heck? Read the backstory, below, for that one.
Which explains why vanilla is not only the real deal, but why it can be both kind of pricy, and scarce. The great thing is that you use a little and it goes a long way, so it’s worth a splurge to have in your aromata or pantry.
The largest and plumpest of pods, Tahitian beans have a very reliable vanilla flavor and are excellent every day use beans. However, you’ll find that when fresh they possess exquisite notes of cherry, licorice, and cocoa.
The plant originally came from Mesoamerica, including parts of modern day Mexico and Guatemala. Of todays market, 75% of vanilla is derived from vanilla plants in Madagascar and Réunion.
- Used in baked goods
- Added to custards and puddings
- Common ice cream flavoring
- Add to cereals, yogurts, oatmeal, and more
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Orleans Avenue Fennilla Bean Pudding
- Sprinkle into a ramekin with honey on a charcuterie board or cheese
- Combine with crushed red pepper as a topping on Salmon with a bourbon glaze
- A sprinkle in the center of my cucumber-vanilla chilled soup
Vanilla is a form of orchid, notoriously fussy, even with years of selective breeding to toughen them up. The plants are carefully grafted with the flowers seasonally pollinated by hand on the one night of the year “when it’s time.” It then takes the seed pods six months to form and mature before they can be harvested.
They bloom once a year, have to be hand pollinated in Tahiti, because vanilla is only native to Mexico and Central America where the equally fussy bees who like it do their thing, and don’t transplant to Tahiti well.
The pods go through a complicated and extensive curing process that lasts another six months before being graded and ground down.
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