Since my cover story, “Celebrate Your Love at Home” for the February issue of Packet Magazine, was somehow attributed to another writer (sorry Bernadette!), and also omitted the list of aphrodisiac foods referred to, I present the entire article here, with recipes at the bottom. (You’ll notice below I’d used a different title, but that is often changed, which is just fine.)
By the way, I own – and treasure – the quilt pictured here, made by my friend Lee Burnham, for a Big Birthday present. Lee, thanks again!
Up the Ante With Love Foods
By Faith Bahadurian
Even though we may roll our eyes at youthful trends towards “hooking up” and acquiring “friends with benefits,” is there is really anything new going on here? What about Erica Jong’s 1973 novel, Fear of Flying, which revealed that women’s fantasies, just like men’s, often involve spontaneous commitment-less flings. And erotic literature through the ages has often appealed to such fantasies on the part of both sexes.
But if your relationship started out as a somewhat casual thing, how do you signal that you are now hoping for more? I am convinced that not only is romance alive and well, but also that you’re never too old for romance, notwithstanding that the Roman poet Ovid, wrote, after giving a list of aphrodisiacs, “Prescribe no more my muse, nor medicines give / Beauty and youth need no provocative.”
And gentlemen, while it may be somewhat true that the way to your heart is through your stomach, the same can be said of women, who, in today’s world, like to think their guy can wrangle at least some of the household tasks.
So, if you (gent or lady) want a game changer this Valentine’s Day, consider making dinner and maybe one that incorporates some of the foods that have long been considered aphrodisiacs. But realize that the real aphrodisiac here may be the fact that you took the time to make a nice dinner for the object of your affection, not just what’s in it or perfect execution.
Check out the list below for a list of foods that have been considered aphrodisiacs through the ages. Many of them are on the list because they resemble body parts, or are rare and expensive. Some of them achieved their status just by virtue of being new foods in the culture at that time (potatoes – really?). Certain seasonings are thought to inflame desire, while the texture of other foods are tactile turn-ons. Just the way that one eats certain foods can be a tease (artichokes, strawberries), and while we know that liquor can help the mood, never forget that too much is, well, too much.
Foods For Love, a list assembled from several sources, historical and contemporary.
Potatoes (white & sweet)
Puffer fish (& piranhas)
Song bird tongues
Dinner a Deux
To launch your romantic evening, here are two cocktails from The Stork Club Bar Book, Lucius Beebe, Rinehart & Company (1946). My parents received their copy hot off the press, so maybe it’s not a coincidence that I was born before the year ended?
Insert raw peach in champagne glass. Fill with champagne. Add 1 dash peach brandy on top.
In the 1940s this was made in an old-style champagne glass, which was a coupe, not a flute. You’ll even find the official Stork Club version of this glass for sale online. The cocktail is simplicity itself to make, although I do wonder if one is meant to pit (and maybe halve) the peach before putting it in the glass? (With the “velvet” in the name, though, I’m guessing the peach was unpeeled.)
Mr. New Yorker
1 3/4 ounces French Vermouth (dry)
1/2 ounce gin
1/2 ounce dry sherry
Dash of Cointreau
Stir and strain. Serve in a 3 ounce cocktail glass
Oysters My Dear?
Adapted from Seven Centuries of English Cooking, Maxime de la Falaise, Grove Press (1994)
No, the seven centuries is not a sentence. Keep in mind that London is now one of the premier gastronomic cities in the world, and this kind of recipe is how they got there. Oddly, the original recipe was for three servings. Hmm… F.B.
4 2 1/2 inch rounds puff pastry
4 large oysters
4 teaspoons melted butter
A dash of cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 400°.
Bake the pastry rounds on a baking sheet until crisp and puffed, 15-20 minutes. Pull off the top layer of each puff and into the cavity slide 1 oyster and 1 teaspoon butter, and just a pinch of cayenne. Put the pastry lid back on and return to oven for 1-2 minutes, to heat the oysters without cooking through.
And Now For the Main Course
Pork Tenderloin with Port-Infused Fig Sauce Served over Polenta
Adapted from Booty Food, Jacqui Malouf/Liz Gumbinner, Bloomsbury (2004)
Let’s face it: you’re unlikely to find fresh figs in the market this time of year. So, here’s my suggestion: Use fig jam or puréed dried figs for the sauce, and for the garnish, plump the two whole figs in a little warm port and serve those as garnish. Wowsa! F.B.
20-ounce pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, plus a few whole leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups corn-grit polenta
5 cups water
1 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup shredded Parmesan
2 cups good-quality ruby Port
8 ounces rip black figs
Place pork, chopped sage, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a dish; cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Combine polenta, water, chicken stock, and a pinch of salt in a double boiler. Stir to incorporate. Cover and cook for 2 hours on medium heat, checking water level frequently. After 2 hours, or when liquid is absorbed and polenta is soft, add butter and cheese. Keep warm in double boiler over low heat.
Reduce port by half in medium saucepan over high heat. Peel and mash figs, saving 2 for garnish. Add mashed figs to port syrup and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. (For dried figs, scrape inside of fig off peel and stir into the syrup over low heat, just until incorporated. Steep the 2 reserved whole figs in a little warmed port for the garnish.)
Pan roast the tenderloin in a large skillet over medium to high heat. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until center is barely pink (145°). Let meat rest, then slice into medallions.
To assemble, spoon about a cup of polenta onto each plate, and top with pork and sauce. Garnish with the reserved fig halves and sage leaves.
This would be good with any green vegetable or salad.
And Now For Dessert
I recently purchased a bottle of Adam Elmegirab Aphrodite Bitters, and the ingredients will explain why they are named after the goddess of love: chocolate, cocoa nibs, ginger root, red chilli, Arabica coffee and ginseng. Sure, you could use these bitters in a cocktail (think Moscow Mule), but why not add a few dashes to the recipe below, as I do to my hot chocolate. And, for a garnish, why not make real whipped cream. Hint: Make extra.
Mexican Chocolate Pie
Adapted from Man With a Pan, Edited by John Donohue, Algonquin (2011)
The book is a series of essays and recipes by “fathers who cook for their families.” The pie is from author (and one-time professional baker) Manuel Gonzalez, and in his essay he states a simple truth: “If a man bakes a pie, or a cake, or cupcakes, or cookies, even, he becomes a curiosity to the opposite sex.”
If you can’t hack a homemade crust, buy pre-rolled (and par-bake), or you could resort to a purchased graham cracker crust. And if you don’t have a stand mixer, just make do with a hand-held, or even a balloon whisk, but be prepared to mix the eggs and sugar for at least 4 minutes, as that is a really important step.
One 9-inch pie crust, par-baked at 425° for about 20 minutes
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ancho powder
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
1 cup chocolate chips
2 sticks butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375°.
Using the whisk attachment in a stand mixer, whisk eggs and sugar for 4 minutes on medium-high, or until sugar and eggs are well whipped and fully incorporated. Meanwhile, melt butter on top of stove and keep warm.
Lower mixer speed to medium-low, add flour and spices and mix until incorporated. Turn off mixer, and add chocolate chips. Re-heat butter until it starts to bubble and while still hot pour it into the mixer and let it all stand for a minute or two. Mix on low speed until butter is incorporated, increasing speed as the butter is incorporated and the chocolate chips start to melt. The batter will become dark brown and most, if not all, chips should be melted. Pour filling into crust and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until center is set.