My grandmother always advised me, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I was probably a little too young for her to add that getting through to his libido wouldn't hurt. Over the years, I've had fun (and success) preparing romantic meals, so this Valentine's Day, I decided to revisit a few of my favorite aphrodisiac recipes in hopes of helping you (and me) catch Sir (or Ms.) Valentine's attention.
I can't locate my copy, but there is a fabulous book called Intercourses, which aside from having tastefully erotic photos, is full of interesting tidbits about foods classified as aphrodisiacs, and easy to prepare, delicious recipes. The recipes featured here are not in that book, but once you start to learn about the different aphrodisiac foods, you can play around and create your own tantalizing dishes. First, you have to lose the kids (or the roommate). And get to the market.
Note: The weekend during which I intended to prepare and photograph the complete menu shared here, Philadelphia was experiencing a power outage of historic proportions. All photos featured here were borrowed from the "free to share and use" Bing library.
Cocktail Hour... lemon-rosemary martini; figs with gorgonzola and pine nuts, warmed in the oven and drizzled with honey
For the martini:
- 2 oz. Lemon-Rosemary Simple Syrup (make ahead)
- 2 oz. Vodka or Gin
For the figs:
- 2 whole, ripe figs, tops cut off to expose flesh & allow for cheese & pine nuts to be stuffed inside
- small wedge of sharp gorgonzola cheese, softened
- 1.5 tbsps. lightly toasted pine nuts
- plain, lavender or orange-scented honey, for drizzling
- Press cheese and pine nuts into the top of each fig. Place in preheated oven (350°) and cook for about 10 minutes. The goal is to soften and warm the fig, and for the gorgonzola to melt inside and over the fig
- Remove from oven and drizzle with honey. Serve immediately on a small plate with a tapas size fork. Or, get a little messy and devour with your hands (finger licking up to you).
The Main Attraction... lollipop lamb chops w/vanilla-balsamic drizzle; caramelized fennel w/arugula
*Lollipop chops are simply a cut up--and cleaned up--rack of lamb. For two people, plan on 4-6 chops.
**The "drizzle" is made by steeping balsamic vinegar with an open vanilla bean. Since it's delicious on other foods as well (including vanilla ice cream) start with a ratio of one vanilla bean to 1.5 cups of balsamic. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by half. Easy. Peasy.
For the chops:
- Lightly dredge chops in a salt-pepper-flour mix. (I use Wegmans' gluten-free pan-searing flour.)
- Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high until almost smoking
- Sauté chops 1-2 minutes per side
- Either plate chops and drizzle vanilla-balsamic glaze over each, or drop about 1.5 tbsps. of glaze onto each plate and place chops on top.
- Cut the top and bottom from the fennel bulbs; remove tough or bruised outer layers
- Slice bulbs in half and remove the cores from the fennel. Cut the fennel lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices
- Heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the olive oil and fennel slices
- Spread the fennel out in the pan to encourage browning
- Cook for 10-12 minutes, flipping the fennel slices every few minutes, until golden brown
- Remove the fennel from the pan and place on paper towels to soak up any excess oil; season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice
- Place a handful of arugula on a plate and top with a generous spoonful of fennel. Pour just a touch of extra-virgin olive oil over top, along with a squeeze or two of lemon. For an over-the-top version, add a medallion of fried goat cheese and sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.
Dessert: Strawberries w/aged balsamic vinegar, black pepper & honey whipped cream
For those of you who like exact measurements, I am not always the girl to go to; I am generally an "eyeball it and taste it" cook, except when it comes to baking. For this recipe, I trust you'll do just fine playing around.
To start off, buy yourself some plump, juicy strawberries, and bring them to room temperature before you start dousing them with balsamic and pepper. Next, grab a couple of your prettiest cocktail glasses or dessert bowls and fill them with hulled, sliced strawberries. Be generous; you're going to like these.
Just before serving, cautiously pour about a tablespoonful of balsamic over the strawberries and toss to coat. Next up, grab your pepper grinder and generously shower the strawberries. (I like to do this in a separate bowl then scoop into my cocktail glasses.) Scoop the berries into your serving vessels, and top with a hearty dollop of honey whipped cream. For the ultimate dessert high, pull out a tawny port or smoky scotch. The pros might not recommend that, but it's a crazy good combination. As is this entire decadent meal...