I had been meaning to stop by the historic farmers’ market. I told my husband that I wanted to go there for a specific reason but when I arrived that reason escaped me until I spotted a table across the way decked out in spices. Yes! Now it’s coming back to me. Costas Halavrezos, former host of Maritime Noon, sells spices at the market and recently unveiled his book, Seasoned. I wanted to drop by to say hello as Costas interviewed me years ago when I was living in Hong Kong. I also wanted to grab a copy of his new book. I introduced myself and immediately the connection was made. This time the tables were turned as I was asking him questions about his spice venture and how he started. Costas has a nurturing demeanor and I can’t imagine anyone not getting the spice bug once you speak to him. He’s so passionate about the spices he sells and it’s not a hard sell either. I always feel elevated when I speak to another enthusiastic person especially when it comes to food.
You can find vanilla beans in most grocery stores or from your favorite spice shop. Look for dark, supple, oily beans. Make sure the jar you use is super clean…you don’t want other flavors latching on. Using a sharp knife, score half-inch from the top to half-inch from the bottom of the vanilla bean but do not cut through. Place scored beans into a jar and top with vodka making sure beans are submersed. Place in a cool, dark place for one month, shaking it once a week. When you use it, just remember to top it off with more vodka.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: The extract can be stored for up to one year but replace the vanilla beans 3 to 6 months as they tend to lose their flavor. Don’t discard the old beans. Use them to flavor sugar. As the holidays are just around the corner, wrap this up and give it to your baking buddies. Enjoy!