Little known fact: before blogging, I used to be into all things Martha Stewart. I subscribed to the magazine. I made many of the recipes. I’d make compound butters and etch the glass jars I put them in, and gave them away as gifts. Even less known: Martha Stewart follows me on Twitter!
Part of it was fun. Part of it was experimental. Part of it was me training to make myself someone a good wife some day. But blogging happened and took up all of my time, and Mr. Right never showed up, so here we are.
One of my favorite ingredients was vanilla — I’d make easy things like panna cotta, vanilla sugar, vanilla butter, and more. But the beans can get expensive, especially those that are grown in Hawaii. Whenever I’d go to Paris, I’d hoard beans from the grocery store (which are a fraction of the cost of any beans I’ve found in America), but even when you refrigerate them, they don’t last forever.
So fast forward to a few months ago, when I met Saili Levi of Laie Vanilla Company at the Saturday Kakaako FarmLovers Market. He is a full-time vanilla farmer on the North Shore, and I was shocked to find that his beans are as reasonable as those I have bought in Paris … and they’re fresh and plump. And local!
At the market, they’re about $5 each. He also sells vanilla extract. But even more unique, he sells kits so you can make your own vanilla extract, or grow your own vanilla orchids! During the pandemic, cultivating the world’s second most expensive spice may be a fun project for you and your kids.
You can visit Saili at his booth every Saturday at the Kakaako market to talk to him in person and get advice on all things vanilla. In the meantime, here’s my super easy recipe for vanilla butter, which is great on warm, fresh bread. Or you can eat it straight out of the container, as Catherine Toth Fox did when I shared it with her.
1 block (8 oz.) unsalted butter
1 Laie vanilla bean (if you’re lazy, use 1 teaspoon of Laie vanilla extract instead)
1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
Split the vanilla beans lengthwise with a sharp knife, then scrape the inside of the beans into a bowl. Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer if you don’t have one), mix all together well.
Don’t throw away the used vanilla bean pods! I stick them into a container of sugar to give it vanilla aroma, or I wrap and refrigerate the used pods, and the next time I make a pot of coffee, I put a used pod into the coffee grounds before brewing.