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- Des, The Grommet

Entrees

Grilled Snapper with Tropical Fruit Salsa

 

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One of the pluses about living on the Central California coast is the fresh fish! I live down the street from a couple of fishermen and occasionally I go out on the Bay with them, though I admit, it’s more for the boat ride and being on the water than it is for the fishing. What I’ve learned as they’ve reeled the fish in, is that the markets use names like “snapper” and “cod” when the fish is actually one of the many varieties of rock fish. I mention this because it really doesn’t matter what firm-fleshed white fish you use to make this and many other fish dishes. It’s more about choosing fresh fish that ideally is also sustainable. If you are concerned about what fish to choose regarding sustainability, check fishwatch.gov.

The Rich Flavors of Tagines

Lamb Tagine

If you are unfamiliar with tagines but enjoy trying new recipes are up for exotic flavors, you are in for a treat. The richness and depth of flavor as well as the interesting pairing of ingredients are truly a sensory delight.

Tagines (also spelled tajines) are North Africa’s version of stew, the mainstay and comfort food of people everywhere. The Berbers of North Africa gave the world tagines as well as cous cous; in Morocco, the tagine is both daily food and edible art.

Spicy Stir-fried Chicken and Vegetables

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Whenever I prepare a really good stir-fry or have one at a restaurant or a friend’s home, I’m reminded of how delicious this cooking technique is. Fresh, crunchy vegetables, little bites of succulent protein, and ingredients that add brightness and pop in the mouth. That’s how I feel about this recipe. While there are several steps involved, you can easily prep the various segments while listening to music or watching a video, and you can then assemble everything right at the end and put it together quickly and easily.

Peperonata on Soft Polenta

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 With so many of us dealing with food allergies such as wheat, gluten or dairy, as well as wanting fresh entree ideas that can be made ahead of time for weeknight dinners, I’ve been rewriting some of our recipe base to brighten up our meals and make them both healthy and weeknight friendly.

Bearnaise Sauce

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 If you’re looking for an entree that pops to serve at a small dinner party or a romantic meal for two, a flavorful steak with a traditional French sauce will do the trick assuming you’re cooking for omnivores. The issue is timing. You don’t  want to spend twenty-five minutes making a sauce at the last minute while also grilling or pan-searing steaks.

Caprese Salad

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 The summer tomatoes are in – the small, intensely flavored dry-farmed ones, heirlooms of all sizes, colors and stripes and the tiny little cherry tomatoes— all soooo delicious! It’s hard to beat a combination of really ripe tomatoes, fresh, soft mozzarella, lots of basil and maybe a bed of crispy Romaine or tender butter lettuces to soak up the juices. Simple and delicious.

Ravioli with Ligurian Walnut Sauce

In 2011 I traveled with my friends to Cinque Terra, “The Five Lands,” all built on hillsides overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Basil is used throughout the region as pesto and is also blended with spinach and pecorino  as the filling for pansoti, a ravioli that is shaped like a triangle. Unless you live in an urban area or regularly make pasta, it’s nearly impossible to find pansoti. Use your favorite ravioli instead. Walnuts and almonds are also grown in this region and the Ligurian walnut sauce that I had over pansoti is seductive! When I returned home and made the sauce, I added just a little vanilla, which accented the walnuts nicely. I used artichoke and butternut squash ravioli in the picture above and served it with a roasted vegetable and white bean salad and Chardonnay. As spectacular as the view walking the ridge from Vernazza to Monterosso! (And, by the way, the sauce would be excellent served over poached chicken or fish.)

Moroccan Lamb Tajine

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As a big fan of Mediterranean food, I’m always excited when I find a new recipe or see a recipe that I usually then tweak. I found the original version of this recipe in the New York Times but have I have adapted it considerably. I have to say that it has become a signature dish to serve for friends who love lamb.

Herbed Asparagus, Spring Onions, Peas and Arugula with Penne

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 As fresh asparagus and English peas are only available for a month or so, if you enjoy them, eat them as often as possible. Here’s one delicious way to do just that. Feel free, however, to substitute fava beans, baby artichokes or any other favorite early vegetables to this fresh pasta dish. Peas are frozen as soon as they’re harvested and hold their flavor well so don’t worry if you can’t find fresh ones. Finally, baby arugula isn’t bitter like its more mature counterparts, but if you can’t find it or don’t like it, substitute baby spinach leaves or a different vegetable.

Spiced Rhubarb Sauce for Pork or Chicken

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The rich, saltiness of meats often benefit from the light, sweetness of fruits and vegetables. Although we don’t think of rhubarb as a vegetable because we nearly always serve it sweet, it’s technically a veggie. This refreshing sauce pairs especially well with pork (adds sparkle to ribs, for instance), but it will lift the flavor of a roasted chicken or poached chicken breasts and is great with all grilled meats and fish. Add some heat to it — Tabasco, pepper flakes or harissa, if you’d like.

Maple Simmered Chicken with Cranberries and Vanilla

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When I was running a special culinary program at a local natural foods store, I found the basics for this recipe in a monthly magazine, as I recall. I tried it on our customers and they loved it so I posted it. The photo was too small for our current blog format, so I made it again recently and realized how versatile this recipe is.

New York Steak with Aromatic Herbs

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A few years back I ran a special food program at a local community market. I was asked to feature steak one weekend. Although I hadn’t cooked steak in years, my grandmother ran a restaurant in the 1930s and was an expert at cooking steaks and roasts. My father learned to make perfect steaks and roasts from his mother and I learned from him.

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

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