Vanilla is one of the prime movers in fruit desserts because it heightens the natural flavors of fruits as it sweetens. This syrup has the sweet, rather floral flavor of vanilla beans that complements just about any fruit. You can add other flavors to the basic syrup, such as 1 tablespoon of an eau-de-vie such as Poire William or Calvados, strips of lemon or orange zest, spices, or herbs such as basil or rosemary.
1-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 moist vanilla bean, preferably Mexican or Bourbon (Madagascar)
1. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar. With a thin sharp paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half. Scrape out the seeds and add the seeds and bean to the pan. Simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Let cool, then discard the bean.
2. You can make the syrup up to 1 week ahead; cover and refrigerate.
Note: Even after they have been cooked, scraped vanilla bean pods have a lot of flavor. To make vanilla sugar, dry them well and place in a jar of sugar for at least 2 weeks, adding more as you have them.
In 1966 David Lett and his wife, Diana, spent their honeymoon planting the first commercial pinot noir grapes in Oregon. "I wanted to make the great American pinot noir," Lett says. That was the start of The Eyrie Vineyards, which went on to attain cult status.