Quick Recipes and Easy

Vanilla

According to Scott Cunningham is his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, vanilla is a feminine plant, ruled by the planet Venus and capable of restoring lost energy, improving the mind and inducing lust. A vanilla bean placed in a bowl of sugar will infuse it with loving vibrations. The sugar can then be used to sweeten like infusions.
Vanilla is the only member of the orchid family used as a food. The vanilla “bean” is really the dried pod of the unripe fruit. It is native to Mexico and Central America, but today most production comes from Madagascar. The Aztec Indians of Central America loved a drink called “Xoco-Latl” made from cocoa and vanilla beans. The Spanish explorer, Cortez, learned this and brought the vanilla bean back to Europe. The word vanilla comes from the Spanish vainilla, meaning, “small pod”.
The spice is available as a dried bean, which most professional chefs prefer, and as a liquid extract. Imitation vanilla extract, a mixture of artificial color and synthetic flavors, lacks the gorgeous bouquet and full piquancy of the real vanilla.
Although there are no direct medicinal applications for vanilla, it is used in aromatherapy where it is reputed to relax, soften rage, irritability and frustration. Vanilla essential oil blends well with sandalwood, bergamot, rose, balsams and other spice oils.
Vanilla is most frequently used to flavor sweet foods such as ice cream, eggnog, cakes, cookies, custards and desserts. Following is a rough guide for suggested amounts in various dishes:
One to two teaspoons of pure extract in a two-layer cake recipe; one quarter to one half teaspoon in one cup of whipped cream; one to one-and-a-half teaspoons in two cups of custard sauce; one to one-and-a-half teaspoons in a cookie recipe for about 24 cookies; two teaspoons for about four cups of ice cream.
Try the following for an incredible dessert:

Port Poached Pears with Vanilla
· One cup of port
· Two firm, but ripe pears, cored, peeled and quartered
· One-third cup of honey
· One Tbsp. lemon zest
· One Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
· Half a vanilla bean, split (retain seeds)
· One tsp. finely grated ginger
· Two-inch cinnamon stick, broken
· Six whole black peppercorns
· Two whole cloves
· Two cups of vanilla ice cream or vanilla frozen yogurt
· Fresh lemon herbs for garnish (optional).

In a non-reactive saucepan combine all the ingredients except the pears and the ice cream or yogurt. Bring to the boil ensuring that the honey is dissolved. Add the pears and reduce to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes until the pears are soft. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon.
Continue to heat and stir the sauce until it has reduced and thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and strain. Serve the ice cream or yogurt in bowls with the pears with the sauce poured on top. Garnish with some fresh lemon herbs such as lemon balm, lemon verbena or lemon thyme. This recipe will serve four.
An unusual application for vanilla is the following creamy salad dressing. Make ahead of time and refrigerate as the flavor improves with standing. It will keep about four to five days in the refrigerator.

Creamy Vanilla Herbal Salad Dressing

· Two cloves of garlic
· One tsp. Dijon mustard
· One Tbsp. fresh tarragon
· One Tbsp. fresh basil
· One Tbsp. fresh marjoram
· One tsp. honey (optional)
· Half tsp. vanilla extract
· One Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
· Half tsp. sea salt
· Quarter tsp. of cayenne
· One cup of soy milk (buttermilk may be substituted)
· One cup of mayonnaise

Use a blender or food processor to blend all the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning – salt, herbs, lemon juice, cayenne etc. – for personal taste. Allow the dressing to sit for at least one hour in the refrigerator before serving.

Bruce Burnett, has won four Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold awards for travel journalism. Read more of Bruce Burnett’s writing on his websites:
1. globalramble.com/ globalramble.com

2. bruceburnett.ca/ bruceburnett.ca

3. herbalcuisine.com/ herbalcuisine.com

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