February 10, 2008

Cucina d'amore

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and it seems like everyone in the food blogging world is writing about what to cook and eat on the holiday of love. So, here’s my two cents’ worth on how to prepare the perfect dinner for your lover...

Keep it light. Nobody feels sexy when they’re stuffed.

Keep it simple. Focus on fresh, flavorful ingredients, rather than fancy-schmancy, over-the-top foods.

Experiment. Try something new with your partner in the kitchen...a new cheese (or a few), some caviar if you’ve never had it, a different kind of wine than you normally drink.

Cook together. You don’t have to run around, frantically trying to get a meal on the table before your lover arrives. Prepare it together...or at least let your mate watch you cook. In his book Appetite, Nigel Slater says that “there is something slightly voyeuristic” about watching someone cook. He also calls cooking “one of the greatest pleasures you can have with your clothes on. [...] Feeling, sniffing, chopping, sizzling, grilling, frying, roasting, baking, tasting, licking, sucking, biting, savoring, and swallowing food are pleasures that would be a crime to miss out on.”

Eat with your fingers. There is something sensual about eating with you hands, and I’m not talking about bbq ribs, corn on the cob, or crab legs. That’s too messy. I’m talking, instead, about small bites of food that you can easily pick up (and, possibly, feed to each other). Let’s face it; there’s simply nothing sexy about a fork--a spoon, yes, but not a fork. Ever seen Nigella Lawson’s cooking shows? She’s always licking her fingers while cooking; it’s damned sexy.

Set the mood. Forget the candles, flowers, and schmoozy music. Instead, have a living room picnic in front of the fireplace, breakfast in bed (even if it’s dinner time), or dessert in the bath.

Save room for dessert. I believe that “less is more” when it comes to dessert. And you don’t always have to eat chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Try fruit (figs, raspberries, strawberries) & cheese, tangy sorbets, peaches in wine, prosecco gelatina, or--if you must--expensive chocolate truffles (better yet, make your own).

Don’t forget the wine. You don’t have to follow the “white wine with white foods, red wine with red foods” rule. Instead, serve lighter wines with light foods, and full-bodied wines with hearty foods. Or, serve wines that contrast the food you are eating. For example, foie gras goes excellently with sweet wines that cut the richness of the liver. And a lobster-stuffed avocado (recipe below) pairs well with a fruity, dry rose or even a mineraly pinot gris (again, something that contrasts the buttery texture of the dish). I also like something dry and bubbly with a sweet dessert. Oh, and, according to Eat Something Sexy, red wine will "boost your libido and that of your lover. When wine is used as an aphrodisiac the scent is key; those red wines that strike a masculine note (leather, tobacco, earth) are said to imitate the scent of male pheromones."

Enhance your performance. Serve your mate some aphrodisiac foods. You can find lists of them at Eat Something Sexy and Gourmet Sleuth. I read through these sites after I came across Mele Cotte’s Kitchen of Love event, which “celebrates Valentine’s Day and many food aphrodisiacs that offer endless possibilities to this affectionate day” by challenging cooks to “make an appetizer, dinner dish, or side item that includes at least one food considered an aphrodisiac.”

In creating a recipe for this event, I chose the following ingredients:

AVOCADO: The Aztecs called the avocado tree Ahuacuatl which translated means testicle tree . The ancients thought the fruit hanging in pairs on the tree resembled the male's testicles. This is a delicious fruit with a sensuous texture.

LOBSTER: Lobster’s history as a natural aphrodisiac deals mainly with its status as a symbol of luxury. Pamper someone you love with whole, steamed lobster or tails already lifted from the shell. It is a powerful enticement, no? Like all foods of the sea, the lobster’s aphrodisiac history can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, who believed their goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born of the sea and that all ocean creatures were her playthings in the games of love. Today we know that lobsters contain many of the nutrients necessary for peak sexual health. They are an ideal source of low-fat protein, much needed for a long night of seduction. They are also a source of zinc and B-12, both necessary nutrients for maintaining sexual desire.

PINE NUTS: Nuts are packed with protein, essential for bedroom calisthenics. Nuts are also considered a healthy source of fat and as such - listen up boys - help produce testosterone. To the Native Americans, pine nuts were the Viagra of the day. Zinc is a key mineral necessary to maintain male potency and pine nuts are rich in zinc. Pine nuts have been used to stimulate the libido as far back as Medieval times.

ARUGULA: Arugula was a popular aphrodisiac among the ancient Romans and ancient Egyptians. It was quite often associated with Priapus, a minor Roman god of fertility. Today most proponents of arugula downplay its natural aphrodisiac properties, promoting the lettuce instead as an aid for digestion. Arugula is also said to help clear the mind. And although neither of these curative properties specifically raises sexual energy, they are both attributes that promote the right mood for romance. It should be added that this peppery spring and autumn lettuce is rich in vitamins A and C and many minerals that are essential for putting the body in its sexual prime. Just taste this delicate yet spicy lettuce and there should be no question of its natural aphrodisiac abilities.(Similarly, sweet basil is said to stimulate the sex drive and boost fertility. It is also said to produce a general sense of well being for body and mind.)

GARLIC: The 'heat' in garlic is said to stir sexual desires. Unlike most aphrodisiac foods, garlic is one that both lovers must eat for its magical properties to manifest powers of romance. The powers of garlic in which lovers should take note are not those that fight sleep apnea or winter sniffles, but its purported power to inspire extraordinary stamina and unbridled energy. (The ancient Greeks fed garlic to top athletes prior to Olympic competition to encourage peak performance).Under the scrutiny of modern science, it was recently discovered that the chemical substance creating garlic's aroma, which seems to cling to fingers that slice it and tongues that caress it with unnatural tenacity is also one of the chemicals present in female sexual secretions.

MUSTARD: In European history, mustard has long been considered a potent aphrodisiac. Throughout much of recorded time, monks were not permitted to ingest mustard for it was believed to lead the men of God down the path to temptation. It is mustard’s pungency that earns the seed its aphrodisiac classification. Its intense, spicy flavor is credited with causing a rise in adrenalin. According to the research of Australia's Dr. Max Lake, mustard causes “maximal stimulation of the pain fraction of taste.” It is this balance of pain and pleasure that brings eaters to gastronomic climax.

BACON: Ok, so, bacon isn't really an aphrodisiac...but who doesn't love bacon? It's so sinful, so naughty. Whomever you cook bacon for is sure to love you.

Lobster-Stuffed Avocado


You’ll need:

2 avocados (be careful that they are not overly ripe).
1 pound cooked lobster meat (shrimp or crab would work too), coarsely chopped.
2 slices thick bacon, cooked crisp & coarsely crumbled.
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted.
1 lemon, cut in half.
1 garlic clove, crushed.
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.
handful of arugula (use basil if you prefer), roughly torn.
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
edible flowers (optional).
  • Slice the avocados in half & remove the pits. Using a spoon, hollow out of bit more of each hole left by the pit, so that you have room to add the stuffing.
  • Chop what you removed and add to a mixing bowl. Squeeze half the lemon over the avocado halves to prevent discoloring.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, including juice from other lemon half. Taste for seasoning. Fill avocado halves with lobster mixture. Garnish, if desired, with edible flowers.
For more aphrodisiac recipe ideas, take a look at the Intercourses cookbook (The avocado & pine nuts pics above are from that book!).

Got a romance quandary? Let Ms. Foodie help you solve it with food!


Unknown said...

This is a fantastic post! So muh useful information. I wil have be be sure to follow your steps Thurs. night! Thanks for participating.

Dianna! said...

Kelly -- I am loving your blog -- you are inspiring me to learn how to cook! I know I don't get to see you much in person but I feel like I visit with you for a few minutes every day or so! Your directions are fantastic but I still manage to mess things up but at least the fire alarm hasn't gone off lately! Cheers, Dianna (Shank)

Anonymous said...

Great post! Your salad looks fabulous!

T’s Treats said...

WOW! first, I love love your post, its fantastic, and says so much right to the point. Second...You have my Book!! hahah I pulled that Inter Course book out as soon as I saw this event. Great minds definitely think alike ;) And last your entry looks amazing. so succulent and yet light. Wonderful!!

Núria said...

Wow, I could eat a dozen of these! It looks great!!!! I love all ingredients, I must try it.
I posted a similar one some time ago but I like yours better, awesome!

glamah16 said...

Wow. Great food and great post. I have always loved lobster. My family has lobster baby stories of me. Little did I know it was such a aphrodisiac!