Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to vanilla extract, stick with the real thing. Pure extract is made from vanilla beans steeped in alcohol and water. It has a far more complex flavor than the imitation kind and helps other ingredients reach their full, delicious potential.
Combine 4 peeled, diced Granny Smith apples with ⅓ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the water has evaporated and the apples are tender, about 10 minutes. Makes 2½ cups.
Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of chile flakes in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, halve an acorn squash, discard the seeds, and slice into 1-inch. wedges. Toss the squash with half the butter and season with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Roast at 375°F, basting twice with the remaining butter and turning the wedges each time, until the squash is tender, about 1 hour.
Coconut Cream Shake
Combine 1 pint coconut ice cream, ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk, ¼ cup toasted coconut, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon lime juice. Blend until smooth. Coat rims of 2 glasses with graham cracker crumbs. After pouring, garnish with whipped cream and additional toasted coconut.