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In the Mood For Love


Recipes To Spice Up Your Valentine’s Day


“Aphrodisiac: any of various forms of stimulation thought to arouse sexual excitement. Aphrodisiacs may be classified in two principal groups: (1) psycho-physiological (visual, tactile, olfactory, aural) and (2) internal (stemming from food, alcoholic drinks, drugs, love potions, medical preparations)”.

We’ve all heard that there are certain foods that have aphrodisiac powers, but which ones and what effect do they have on romance? There are several foods that increase the passion and mood for love – Almonds, Arugula, Asparagus, Avocado, Bananas, Basil, Chilies, Chocolate, Coffee, Figs, Garlic, Ginger, Honey, Nutmeg, Oysters, Pinenuts,  Raspberries, Strawberries, Black Truffles, Vanilla and Wine, just to name a few. Truffles are said to stimulate and sensitize the skin for touch. Vanilla’s scent and flavor is know to increase lust. Chilies increase blood flow and sex drive. The chemicals in Chocolate trigger neurochemicals in the brain that increases passion. Red Wine relaxes and stimulates the senses. For Valentine’s Day, I rounded up a few recipes featuring some of these sexy foods, guaranteed to spice up your night and make it a LOVELY one to remember!

Herbed Baked Oysters recipe

Herbed Oysters

Ingredients:

24 fresh oysters
¾ cup of breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
½ teaspoon of fresh basil, chopped
¼ teaspoon of fresh marjoram, chopped
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Shuck the oysters and set aside on the half shell. Discard the remaining shells.

In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, garlic, mustard, olive oil, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon zest and Parmesan.

 Top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon of the breadcrumb mixture and place the oysters on a baking sheet. Cook under high broiler (grill) for about 6 minutes or until the oysters are crispy and golden brown.

 Serve hot, with a wedge of lemon and your favorite hot pepper sauce on the side.

Recipe originated from www.oysterrecipes.org

Milk Soup with Truffles au Gratin

Truffle Gratin

Ingredients:

2 c. of chicken juice (gravy)
2 + 2/3 c. of milk cream
1 oz. of fresh truffle
2 lbs. of fresh bread
2/3 c. of truffle juice
1/3 c. of milk
2/3 c. of egg whites
Salt, white pepper

Preparation:

Reduce the chicken juice to half.

Add the milk, milk cream and reduce again.

Add the truffle juice and reduce until you get a nice texture.

Check on seasoning and put aside for the moment.

Preparation of the bread toasts:

Whisk 2/3 c. of cream, season with salt and pepper.

Cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices and cut them into circles (2 inch diameters)

Toast both sides of the bread pieces, dig one side on the piece and pour the wiped cream into it, bake it “au gratin”
under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Recipe originated from French-Truffles.com

Chocolate Chicken

Chocolate Chicken

2 lbs. chicken, cut up — (2 to 2 1/2)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil — (1 to 2)
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. anise seed
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
2 tsp. hot crushed red peppers
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
Sesame seeds

Brown chicken in a medium skillet in hot oil. Remove to a large (13x9x2) cake pan or baking dish. Pour oil from skillet and add the stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix cocoa with vegetable oil to form a paste. Add cloves, cinnamon, anise seed, and blend. Stir spice mixture into simmering stock and simmer 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. 
Pour mixture over the chicken parts. Cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven until chicken is tender (around 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds over a bed of rice.

Spicy Scallops with Capellini

Scallop

Ingredients:

1 pound sea scallops, quartered if large
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small dried chipotle chile with seeds, stemmed and chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 pound capellini

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, toss the scallops with the oil, wine, parsley, garlic and chipotle. Season with salt and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the oil is sizzling and the scallops are firm.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the capellini until just al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to a serving bowl. Add the scallops and their juices, toss well and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food and Wine magazine.

Coffee and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs

Chocolate-Coffee Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:

Olive oil or lard
5 lbs beef short ribs
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 cups strong coffee
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice (or one 28 oz can)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

Preparation:

Remove the short ribs from their package and rinse them under cold water. Pat them dry. Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. (Use more salt than you think you will need). Heat the olive oil or lard in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Place two or three of the short ribs in the pan. Be careful not to crowd the short ribs. You want to brown them, not steam them. Brown the short ribs well on all sides. You want the outsides of meat just a tad under burnt. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and continue to brown the rest of the meat. When done, remove all of the meat to the plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. If you used a cast iron pan for the browning, heat more oil in a large oven safe covered casserole dish. If you’re using a Dutch oven, just keep on cooking.

Add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent, approximately 5-10 minutes. Next mix in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the brown sugar and spices and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the coffee, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste and bring the whole mixture to a boil.

Return the short ribs to the pot and cover. Braise in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. Mix in the chocolate until melted. Season with the cilantro and salt and pepper.

Cook’s Notes: I cooked my ribs in a Dutch oven, but the next time I make this dish I’ll brown the ribs in the cast iron pan and then transfer them to the Dutch oven. I also think the chocolate makes a big difference. I received some Scharffenberger chocolate as part of a gift bag and I used that. However I think the Theo chocolate had a smoother taste, even though they were the same percentage cacao.

We served the short ribs over pasta, but I think rice would have been a better side kick to this dish. The sauce is very flavorful with the coffee, chocolate, and the peppers, and rice would just soak it all up. Cook the rice and plate a bed of it. Then serve the short ribs and sauce over the top. Mashed potatoes would also work well here and the addition of some sort of starch would make this a complete meal.

Recipe originated from www.cooklocal.com, adapted from the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook

Arugula and Avocado Salad With Shaved Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts

Arugula Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

2 bunches arugula, washed and dried ( about 6 cups)
1 avocados, peeled and sliced
Shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese, to taste

Lemon Dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
4 -5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and garlic. Slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Place arugula in a serving bowl and add dressing to taste. Mix well. Top with avocado slices, drizzle a bit more dressing over them and season with a pinch of salt. Using a vegetable peeler, shave slivers of Parmesan over the top.

Top off the salad with some toasted pine nuts for an extra crunch (and spice to your Valentine’s Day!)

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food.com

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Ingredients

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half 
lengthwise, then halved
¼ cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Instructions

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

Recipe originated from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

Chocolate Honey Mousse

chocolate mousse

Ingredients

12 oz of dark crispy chocolate
5-6 dessert spoons of pure honey
3 cups of fresh cream

Instructions

Mix together dark chocolate (should be crushed into pieces), 5 dessert spoons honey and ¾ cup of fresh cream. The ingredients
should be mixed over luke warm water. This mixture will need to be stirred constantly, till the dark chocolate stats to melt and combines itself with the honey and cream.

Once all three ingredients have blended into one another, keep it aside for it to cool.

While the chocolate mixture is kept aside to cool, start whipping the remaining cream (2 ¼ cups) but not very firm.

Once the cream is whipped and the chocolate mixture is cool, gradually and slowly fold the cream into it. Blend this mixture well.

Take a special serving dish and carefully pour the whole mixture into it and keep it to set in the refrigerator.

The chocolate honey mousse can also be poured into separate individual bowls as it does make a lavish amount.

If the mousse is poured into one whole serving dish, the chocolate honey mouse might take about 3 to 4 hours for it to set well.

Chocolate honey mousse can be served with creamy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with crushed nuts as a topping.

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Raspberry Tart

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup of walnuts, finely chopped
¾ cup of unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 ½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of freshly-grated orange zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups of fresh raspberries
12 oz of white chocolate, chopped
½ cup of heavy cream, warmed
½ cup of whipped cream, to garnish

Directions:

In a bowl with an electric mixer, blend walnuts, ¾ of the butter, sugar, flour, orange zest and egg until thoroughly combined, and press into an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Freeze the shell for 15 minutes.

While the shell is freezing, preheat your oven to 375°F.

 Bake the shell in middle of your oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Allow the shell to cool on a rack.

Remove the side of pan and transfer the shell to a plate.

 Fill shell with 2 ½ cups of raspberries.

In a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate. 

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the cream and the remaining butter, whisking until smooth.

 Spread the white chocolate mixture over the raspberries, smoothing top and chill, covered, for 3 hours or overnight.

Garnish the tart with whipped cream and remaining ½ cup of raspberries.

Serve at room temperature.

Recipe originated from www.raspberryrecipes.net

Read more about Aphrodisiac Foods and History

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There’s No Place Like Home


Growing up I always associated food with a sense of comfort, warmth, fulfillment and stability. This is something I attribute to my Mom’s home-cooked meals and nights around the dinner table with my family as we discussed the events of our day, bonded through sharing the heartwarming, delicious meals together and after the meal was done, cleaned the kitchen with our Mom and bonded by watching a television show together before going to bed and getting ready for school the next day. Mom would make Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans, homemade Lasagna with a salad and garlic bread, Grandma’s Beet Soup with homemade Polish potato noodles, or a yummy, savory Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy – these were all of our favorites and also heirloom recipes that were handed down from my grandparents and generations past.

That was a long time ago, or so it seems, and since those days I have lived in numerous cities and another country, and still cherish enjoying good food with good people. But nothing compares to those home cooked meals and the sense of comfort they gave me when I was young – those days gave me a solid ground to stand on for life.

One gloomy, dark day last January, I was cooped up in my tiny New York studio apartment feeling completely miserable from the freezing cold weather and had a serious case of the Winter blues. I felt an undying urge to make a home-cooked meal like Mom used to make to cheer me up and get me out of the dismal mood I couldn’t seem to shake. New York can do that to you sometimes – it is one of the greatest cities in the world, but can also take you to the depths of darkness on those dark, freezing, nasty days in the middle of Winter. That day I decided to go on a quest for Comfort. Something warm. Something cozy. Something heartwarming. Something that would fill my soul and renew my spirit.

My head started spinning, and I immediately felt energized and motivated with this new task at hand. What would cheer me up and transport me back in time? After furiously searching through all of my recipes, I found the perfect remedy to ail my blues – a big whopping batch of luscious Macaroni and Cheese. Not just an ordinary one (like the kind you get in a blue box with packets of dried chemical-laden cheese dust), but one that called for some delicious gourmet ingredients to take this kid-friendly recipe and turn it into a serious pot of adult-sized comfort.

I hopped in a cab to Zabars on the Upper West Side with thrill and anticipation. The freezing rain was coming down sideways and beat against the windows. Once I arrived, I headed straight for the Cheese department and was in my glory with their selection of international cheeses that pierce your nose as soon as you walk in the door. I picked up a creamy Italian Mascarpone, some fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano, a chunk of Gruyere and a block of Fontina. Then I found some fresh garlic, real cream, prime European butter, smoked thick cut bacon and of course, imported Italian pasta and this was a recipe for a mean Mac and Cheese.

I prepped my ingredients and carefully crafted my dish of gourmet deliciousness. The pot was brimming with a melted creamy cheese concoction and I poured the luscious ingredients into my baking dish, watching with anticipation as the warm, savory smells filled my kitchen. After an hour of waiting anxiously to savor my creation, I scooped up the bubbly goodness into a bowl and upon tasting the first bite with its brown crispy crust and tangy creamy cheese, was transported back to a time of comfort and bliss, when I didn’t have a care in the world, a simpler time and place that seemed long gone from today in my stressful, fast-paced city life.

Who cares about the weather, I thought – I had arrived. I was home.

Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese

Recipe adapted from Terrance Brennan and Andrew Friedman, “Artisanal Cooking

Ingredients

¾ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup Parmiagiano-Reggiano
5 ½ tablespoons butter
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher Salt
White pepper in a mill
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cayenne
1 ½ cups Gruyere or Comte, grated (from 5 ½ ounces)
1 cup Fontina, chopped into small pieces
½ cup mascarpone
1 ½ cups dry pasta (macaroni, penne or your choice)
4 slices of bacon or prosciutto, cooked and crumbled
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the water into a 3-quart pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cook the bacon or prosciutto, drain and crumble and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, toss well, and set aside.

Put the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt it over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes, whisking constantly, but not letting the flour burn. Pour in the milk and cook for 5 minutes, whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon. Add 4 1/2 teaspoons salt, 4 grinds of pepper, the Gruyère, Fontina and mascarpone, dashes of nutmeg and cayenne, and continue to whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Remove the pot from the heat.

Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, approximately 8 minutes. Drain the macaroni in a colander and add it to the pot with the cheese sauce. Add crumbed bacon/prosciutto and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Pour the macaroni mixture into an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 30-35 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with fresh parsley. Oh, and be prepared to swoon.

Serves 4 as a side dish. For a main course, double the recipe, serve with a green salad and a glass of wine.

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