In the world of cooking, vanilla is a synonym for enigma. We love it, but we don't quite know why. Hold a plump vanilla bean in your hand or make vanilla ice cream, and the whole room will smell of VANILLA. You instinctively know something special is going on. Your body feels it.
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For a while, your whole world is scented with one of the most seductive spices. There is something more than just sweetness, though, and that something is what keeps eluding us. Sniff it once, and you notice something burnt, almost tobacco-like. Smell it a second time, and it's musky. Once more, and you find something oily. And when you sniff your fingers a few hours later, or just rinse off the pots and pans, there will be new aromas you hadn't noticed before, ones that will disappear just as quickly as they revealed themselves.
Such complexity and multidimensionality have made VANILLA one of the most sought-after and copied spices. But its use is still fairly limited. We add it to sweet dishes to emphasize their sweetness. And that's about it. Although homemade vanilla ice cream is one of the most wonderful things I know, I don't think we should stop there.
How to Cut Open A VANILLA BEAN
Place the bean on a ceramic or wooden cutting board flat side down and curled tip pointing to the left side of your cutting board.
Place the tip of a sharp knife in the center of the bean just below the curled top of the vanilla bean.
Slowly cut into the bean holding the top of the bean down onto the cutting board with your left pointer finger and thumb, trying to only slice through the top of the bean and not puncturing through the bottom. Slice down the center until you reach the end of the bean.
Slightly pull apart the bean then hold the top of the bean down to the board and run the knife blade side down from the curled top of the bean to the bottom of the bean. Scraping the VANILLA CAVIAR as you run the knife down the bean.