A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Cooking with an Orchid!

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.

Prized by the Totonacs and Aztecs of ancient Mexico and craved by their Spanish conquerors, Vanilla planifolia, the star of this weekend’s cooking demonstration, is a unique flavoring. It is the only human foodstuff that comes from an orchid. Although most vanilla is now produced in Madagascar and Indonesia, it took many years to work out how to get the plant to produce pods when it was away from its natural habitat—and its natural pollinators—of Tropical America. We have one vanilla plant growing in the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory. You will find it on the left as you enter the Palm House.


Great Performances sous-chef Stephen Rosenberg, one of the two resident chefs in The Cafe at Wave Hill, will be leading the demonstration on Saturday after lunch. I especially appreciate that fact that in addition to showing us how to work with vanilla, Steve is always generous with suggestions for how we can improve our kitchen skills. In advance of the session on Saturday, here are Steve’s recipes. Enjoy!

Mixed Green Salad with Pomegranate, Goat Cheese, Pecans & Vanilla Vinaigrette
Serves four

5 ounces Mixed Greens
1 whole pomegranate, seeded
1 cup pecans, chopped
4 ounces Goat Cheese

Vanilla Vinaigrette
⅓ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon honey
½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon orange zest

Mix all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid. Put the lid on and shake well. Store in fridge until ready to use. In a bowl, combine salad ingredients. Pour dressing over salad just before serving.

Pan Seared Salmon with Vanilla Balsamic Marinade
Serves four

4, inch-thick, 4-ounce salmon fillets
Canola oil (to dress the pan)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Prepare salmon fillets by searing them on both sides on high heat for two minutes each. Place salmon in oven at 350° for four to five minutes.

Vanilla Balsamic Marinade
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean extract

Mix or whisk all ingredients together. Once complete, coat salmon with Vanilla Marinade.

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