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Vanilla without cakes, creams, or scallops

//pickiness mode: engage!//

i have some ballin rodelle vanilla beans from costco i'd like to use up. i love real vanilla, and don't cook with it enough. i'd like to use these in something delicious and would enjoy hearing any recommendations outside of the three following camps:

-american cakes and cupcakes: i don't like the texture of our country's cakes...to me it's an unending horizon of starchy monotony with cloyingly sweet clouds of nothing-flavored frosting.

-cream-based desserts: custard is one of my favorite textures, but i am lamentably lactose intolerant. low amounts of cream can generally fly under the radar, large amounts or milk generally wake up the anti-air.

-scallops. everyone pairs vanilla with scallops, and i agree that they have interestingly similar flavor structures. that said, most preparations i find way too sweet, so i tend to avoid this preparation.

sorry to have such a large disclaimer, but if you have any other suggestions for appreciating vanilla at its most elemental, i'd love to hear them.

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  1. You should make some vanilla sugar ... I've made it before in the food processor.

    And then ... cookies, frosting, coffee, whatever with the vanilla sugar. You can use it anywhere you'd use regular sugar, but it's especially good for rolling Christmas cookies.

    1. the vanilla sugar is a good call. you can also make vanilla syrup or vanilla paste, or if you're a drinker, vanilla-infused vodka or rum.

      coconut milk-based desserts would solve the dairy problem.

      other ideas:

      1. How about a coconut milk based vanilla custard?

        1. Infused oils, salt, vinegar, alcohol, simply syrups/honey, caramel sauce/chews, milks (nut milk, coconut milk, goats milk), compound butters, compote/jam/jellies/preserves. All these can be used in other dishes, desserts, sauces and dressings, cocktails and other beverages. For example, try using vanilla bean compound butter (plus white pepper and orange zest for me) for your butter block in homemade croissants, vanilla bean infused balsamic vinegar for a glaze, vanilla bean peach preserves for bbq sauce.

          Meringues, french macarons, pavlovas, and marshmallows show off vanilla well, along with ice cream, obviously, sorbet, aioli, bernaise, and creamy dips.
          Risotto with winter squash, polenta, rice pudding or porridge, oatmeal, quinoa, couscous, and millet all benefit from a dose of vanilla bean.

          Also, there are an enormous number of options for lactose-free custardy desserts. For replacing milk alone you have so many options, from commercial soy, almond, oat, hemp, hazelnut and coconut milk, to any homemade combination of nut, seed and grain milks. Silken tofu, cornstarch, agar, arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, and water chestnut flour, meanwhile, all help to thicken, gel, and set. Do some research on vegan desserts!

          1. scrape some beans into sweet potatoes and mash. Some chopped jalapenos or chipotle for heat goes well with this too.

            1. Get rid of some of those bad boys. Make perpetual vanilla gift bottles for friends/coworkers. Put a couple of beans in a smallish bottle, fill with rum, and add a ribbon. After 6 weeks or so, the recipient can begin using the vanilla, just topping off with more rum as needed.

              I've been using the same bottle for about 6 years now.

              1. 1. Throw one of your beans into your maple syrup container.

                2. I recently read about a vanilla/lobster recipe, but am not at home and can't find it readily. However, did find this on a search--"Lobster Ravioli With Vanilla Butter Sauce"--

                3. Can't go wrong with vanilla sugar--I totally agree. :)

                2 Replies
                1. re: kattyeyes

                  One more:

                  4. Almond Vinaigrette - recipe here (among lots of EXCELLENT salad dressing suggestions):

                  Had it tonight on my salad. Yum!

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Re #2 above (Lobsteer Ravioli With Vanilla Butter Sauce"...tonight I attempted a variation of this recipe and it was so horrible, I chucked the whole thing, stick of butter and all.

                    I stand by my recommendation for maple syrup and the almond vinaigrette, but please skip this vanilla butter sauce and anything that sounds remotely like it on the Internet (including the recipe with champagne). UGH!

                  2. If you're looking for something savory that's not scallops, I've found vanilla works well in a number of applications. I've seen a lot of recipes over the years using Coca-Cola, or sometimes root beer or cream soda. I find vanilla plus molasses achieves a similar effect, but less artificial tasting. So, in baked beans, in ham glaze, in barbecue sauce (not tomatoe based, just molasses, vinegar, and spices), in a curry or hot pot type dish, or in a marinade. The sweetener isn't essential, and doesn't have to be molasses (honey, pineapple juice, and coconut milk have worked well for me). I do find molasses keeps the vanilla scent from being too overpowering, however, so something else is needed for balance the scent if molasses isn't used.
                    On the sweet end, something I saw in Spain that I have not seen in the US is to infuse olive oil with vanilla. A lot of desserts all over the Mediterranean are liberally soaked in fruity olive oil, and the vanilla makes a nice addition.

                    1. Yesterday I tested a few great ways to use vanilla - doing vanilla shrimp apps for New Year's and Rodelle has some options for you in their holiday recipe section on their website - like warm fruit salad, vanilla bean cocktails, and praline wrapped sweet potatoes. http://rodellevanilla.com/Holiday - vanilla can also be used to cut acidity in tomato based recipes....

                      The shrimp recipe that I'm using isn't too sweet - I'll be posting the recipe soon.

                      1. I make this pork recipe from Eating Well magazine. It has plums, rosemary and vanilla bean.
                        I have made it with delicata squash and other fruit when plums haven't been available. It is so good!


                        1. 4 Pears (peeled/cored, quartered) poached in a mixture of one vanilla bean split/scraped, 2 cinnamon sticks, juice of 2 oranges (+peels), 1 3/4 c sugar, water (4-5 cups?).
                          When they're done, remove from the "bath" and boil down the syrup to reduce by half.
                          That leftover syrup is heavenly, I may add it to some club soda.

                          1. Asparagus with Vanilla and Pesto
                            Trim and clean asparagus. Scrape some vanilla beans out of the pods into olive oil in a pan. Heat and saute the asparagus til crisp. Serve asparagus over spinach leaves and top with fresh pesto. Can also served with seared slice steak marinated in pesto.

                            Vanilla Pumpkin Soup with Roasted Sun Flower Seeds

                            1 l lb. 13 oz can of Pumpkin Puree
                            1 lb bacon
                            ½ chopped onion
                            1 chopped celery stalk
                            1 large shredded carrot
                            ½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
                            2 tablespoons all purpose flour
                            2 cups water
                            Juice of 1 navel orange
                            1/8 tsp fresh orange zest
                            1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                            2 tablespoons brown sugar
                            2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
                            2 cups of Half-and-Half
                            Salt and Pepper to taste

                            Preheat a deep soup pot. Cut bacon in small pieces and cook them in the pot at medium-high for about 20 minutes. Once the bacon is cooked but not crunchy, throw away the excess fat and add onion, celery, and carrot. Add the flour and stir. Add pumpkin puree, water, orange juice, vanilla extract, brown sugar, and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Season with S & P. Add zest, sunflower seeds, and half-and-half. Add more water to thin if necessary. Remove from heat and blend it with a hand blender, food processor, or regular blender.

                            Orange Vanilla Vinegarette
                            ½ cup white vinegar
                            ½ cup orange juice1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
                            1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                            ½ teaspoon orange zest (only add enough of this for the amount of dressing you plan to use... reserve the zest to add to leftover dressing, as it will turn the dressing bitter if you add it all and let it sit)

                            Butternut Sqush French Toast

                            1 small butternut squash
                            ¾ cups sugar
                            1 vanilla bean
                            1 ½ cups flour
                            1 ½ cups milk
                            ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more to taste)
                            A pinch of nutmeg
                            8 slices of sandwich bread

                            Slice butternut squash in half, and sprinkle with olive oil and salt, then bake til tender. Scoop shells and mash into puree.
                            Mix flour, sugar, beans, cinnamon, nutmeg, then stir in puree and milk. Dip bread slices in batter and fry as normal per french toast. Serve with vanilla syrup and powdered sugar if desired.