You've probably been using vanilla extract to flavor all kinds of desserts, beverages and other dishes. One way to ramp up the flavor is to switch to vanilla beans instead of using the liquid extract. Simply substitute one vanilla bean for each teaspoon of extract, cooking it with the liquid used in the recipe and then removing it. Bourbon vanilla beans, the most common type of vanilla, are grown in Madagascar and are very aromatic with a full, rich taste. But to bump up the flavor, try Papua New Guinea vanilla beans, cultivated in the lowlands of the Pacific Basin. They have a fruitier taste than that of the Bourbon beans, with some notes of cherry that add a deep, long-lasting flavor to ice creams, frosting and many beverages.Nutmeg is the dried seed of the fruit of an evergreen tree, which most often comes in ground form. However, nutmeg, like many spices, loses both flavor and aroma after it is ground. Instead, buy whole nutmeg and grind it yourself using a special nutmeg grater or a fine grater, producing a more robust and fresh flavor. Warm and sweet, nutmeg adds depth to desserts, cheeses, savory dishes and a variety of vegetables. Don't forget to sprinkle it on eggnog, mulled wines and punches. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are delicious with a light dusting of nutmeg, too.
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