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Vanilla Paste; Beyond Dessert by Chef Jean True

As many of you know, one of my favorite food products I discovered at Marcel’s is Nielsen-Massey’s Vanilla Bean Paste.  Did you know that vanilla is the most popular flavoring in the world?  For vanilla adds a sweet, but, not too sweet and a subtle, “velvety” flavor to many a recipe.  Especially the paste, for the seeds add even more vanilla flavor. But, where does it come from?  The bean or pod, as it is sometimes called, comes from the fruit of the Vanilla Orchid, grown in warm, humid climates. Do note that this plant was originated in Mexico and is now also grown in Madagascar, Indonesia, Tahiti, Uganda, India, Jamaica, Hawaii, China, and the Philippines. The largest producer of vanilla pods is Madagascar.

Another fun piece of history is that Queen Elizabeth I, inspired by her apothecary, Hugh Morgan, in 1602, suggested that vanilla should be used as a flavoring by itself and not just in combination with the cocoa bean for hot chocolate.  Thus, was born the flavor of vanilla as the primary flavor in the world.

Now, how to use this aromatic, delectable, yet mighty, vanilla. With its many components, it lends itself to balancing sweet and acidic ingredients.  I’m now adding 1or 2 teaspoons of the vanilla paste to marinara sauce, spicy stir fry shrimp, and, of course, pastries. I do recommend adding the vanilla paste to sugar and butter as you are creaming the two ingredients. When  preparing a savory dish, add it at the end of the cooking time.

Recently, I assisted Chef Karla Lawrence at a culinary conference in Chicago.  She is the chef/owner of the Artisan Kitchen, a great restaurant in Poducah, Kentucky.  Her creativity and passion for cooking inspired her most delicious salmon recipe.

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Vanilla Glazed Pan Seared Salmon

2 8oz salmon fillets
2 tbsp. grape seed oil
3-4 tbsp. vanilla bean paste
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked pink peppercorns(if not pink, use  mixed peppercorns)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
While the skillet is preheating, rub the salmon fillets with salt and peppercorns.  Add 2 tbsp grape seed oil to the hot skillet.  Place the salmon in the skillet and pan sear them on both sides.  Remove from the heat and “smear on the paste” with a pastry brush.  Place the skillet with the salmon in the oven for 5-7 minutes to set the glaze.

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