By Catharine L. Kaufman – a.k.a. Your Kitchen Shrink
Ladies of Venus and Martian Gents, if your hopes for this Valentine’s Day are at odds with those of your mates, focus on each other’s compatible desires, and plan the day around special meals. Food, after all, engages all the senses, and dwelling on his and her enjoyment diminishes the importance of otherwise irritating differences.
Let’s face it. Some (most?) men would rather spend V-Day hanging out with the boys, eyes glued to the plasma and whatever Sports Center has on ESPN. The joy of denting the couch with a cold one in hand, shoveling chips, till it’s time for the after-game stacks at the local IHOP, debating which servers are hot. Dateless ‘real men’ then check out the latest electronic gizmos, surround-sound systems and sports cars, before breaking for lunch—nothing fancy, just a slab of ground cow, fat-drenched fries and bottomless soda to go. Want to please such Martians? Let them return to the couch and enjoy a dinner of pepperoni pizza, right out of the box. Other men prefer a round of golf. Which also includes a round of bragging and friendly banter over drinks with fellow hackers, followed by lunch at the club. (We exaggerate, of course… maybe.)
Meanwhile, Venus is dreaming of flowers, chocolates, candle-lit dinner at a romantic restaurant, moonlight, kisses, loving words on a well-chosen Valentine’s card—accompanied by some gift-boxed bling—aromatherapy-couples-massage, a day at the spa, and being treated extra special by a well-turned out gentleman—or a husband who was willing to dress for the occasion.
It’s not too much to ask—even if fertility is not actually the purpose of this occasion nowadays. Although it was in ancient Rome, when it was celebrated on February 15th by all, as the festival of Lupercalia—dedicated to the fertility of crops, livestock and the populace.
Then, as now, food plays a central role in the seduction and pleasures of togetherness. Eating out or at home, choose “love foods”—the edible aphrodisiacs—to add fuel to the experience. The lusty food list is a long one, starting with almonds—mentioned in the Bible as a fertility symbol. The spear-shaped asparagus was thought to enhance potency, while arugula tossed with orchid bulbs and parsnips made an aphrodisiac antipasto in the first century A.D. The avocado with its smooth, sensuous texture and shape was considered an erotic fruit by the Aztecs. They also revered cocoa as “nourishment of the gods,” since it contains a substance that affects the romantic wiring in the brain. Bananas, along with their obvious seductive shape, are packed with potassium and Vitamin B to jump start sex hormone production. Mustard is thought to stimulate the sex glands and boost desire. The Romans discovered oysters in the second century A.D. as a high-octane aphrodisiac. Casanova was said to have consumed 50 raw oysters a day. Ginger, nutmeg, honey, figs, licorice, raspberries and strawberries also make the A(phrodisiac)-list.
I suggest setting some time aside during Valentine’s Day to whip up something to titillate your sweetheart’s palate. Super-dark chocolate brownies are a heart-healthy aphrodisiac, and as an added boon they don’t require any cutlery. I make mine low in sugar and fat (so they don’t put him to sleep), and very high in dark chocolate cocoa content — which tends to make us all amorous. Hugs and chocolate kisses to all . . .
Super-Dark Chocolate Love Brownies
5 oz. of dark chocolate (75% or more cocoa)
1 stick of sweet cream butter (1/2 cup)
2/3 cup of unbleached flour
½ teaspoon of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of salt
¾ cup of organic cane sugar
2 large eggs (1 if you like them really fudgy)
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of Frangelico or your favorite liqueur
¾ cup of chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter over low heat. While melting, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl, and set aside.
When the chocolate mixture is melted, remove from heat. Gradually whisk in the sugar then the eggs, and blend well. Fold in the flour mixture until smooth. Pour into a lightly greased brownie pan (8 inch), and bake for about 18 minutes or until it passes the toothpick-comes-clean- test.
Let cool. Cut into elongated pieces to resemble a remote control, score with a knife and decorate with mini M&M’s for the various buttons.
Warm Aphrodisiac Arugula Salad
1 package (7 ounces) of arugula
3 ounces of pignolia (pine nuts) or slivered almonds
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 small red onion, minced
1 Roma tomato, diced (tomatoes are a.k.a. “love apples”)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small saucepan, heat the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and mustard. Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. Pour the warm dressing over the arugula leaves and diced tomatoes. Toss well and sprinkle with pine nuts or almonds for a double dose of desire.
If you have any culinary crises, I’d love to help. Please g-mail me here at the FreeRangeClub.