Aphrodisiac Dinner for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

Aphrodisiac_notes

The aphrodisiac concept is quite ancient in its allure—a wondrous potion designed to seduce and enchant, though I confess to taking the idea with a grain of skepticism. Still, I firmly believe in the magic of food, from the visual, olfactory and gustatory standpoints. The seduction of food is in the unexpected juxtaposition of flavors and textures, in the temptation exerted upon the palate and the eye. The aphrodisiac dinner that I invite you to share captures the essence of this belief. …

Medievals texts list various aphrodisiacs: the bright verdancy of basil, the resinous smokiness of pine nuts, the plummy sweetness of rose, and the intriguing medicinal aroma of saffron, among others. Their effects vary from instilling a sense of well-being to increasing the libido. My menu was devised with attention to these flavors and their interplay with the rest of the ingredients to produce a sumptuous effect. Thus, for the first course, I offer a salad of meltingly soft avocado paired with fresh raspberries and a generous dose of basil. The spicy green richness of basil set against the bright tartness of raspberries makes for a beautiful and refreshing salad. To add a dose of savoriness, I tossed the baby lettuce with a tangy shallot vinaigrette. In order to further explore the interplay of textures, I propose to serve the salad with warm chèvre (fresh goat cheese) toasts.

The main course is a classical Italian seafood pasta, ornamented with a Middle Eastern garnish of pomegranate and pine nuts. From the standpoint of visual seduction, pomegranate stands unrivaled; however, the tartness of crunchy seeds against the velvety spaghetti makes for a wonderful sensation. Each bite of this pasta tastes slightly differently, depending on what you get on your fork—a roasted pine nut, a basil leaf, a piece of shrimp or a tangy tomato slice.

Finally, shrikhand is an Indian dessert that seduces me anytime of day or night. It is a luscious, slightly tangy mousse made from whipping drained yogurt with sugar, saffron and rosewater. Like a beautiful perfume base, yogurt mousse attains a new character, depending upon the embellishments one chooses to add. In the case of fruit shrikhand, the mango is added to both lighten the mousse and to create an interesting depth of flavor. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Every recipe serves two people, although mango shrikhand makes 4 portions (enough for a very decadent breakfast the day after). Ease of preparation was an important guiding principle for me as I created the dinner. As for a perfume to accompany the dinner, I would suggest a composition that has a low sillage, so that your dining companion would be inclined to lean in and inhale your fragrance. Applied lightly, Guerlain Mitsouko parfum, Hermès Vétiver Tonka, Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist or Caron Or et Noir would be my personal choices.

Avocado and Raspberry Salad with Chèvre Toasts

Avocado_raspberry_salad

Ingredients:

1 ripe avocado
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup fresh raspberries (feel free to use other berries)
¼ cup torn basil leaves
2 cups baby lettuce leaves

Shallot Vinaigrette:
1 shallot, minced
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon red wine vinegar (white wine, champagne, sherry or any other mild vinegar would work perfectly)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of sugar
salt, pepper to taste

Mix together and set aside for 15 minutes.

Chèvre Toasts

Chevre_toast_ready_for_baking

Spread fresh goat cheese on a crusty baguette or other bread of your choice. Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 350F (180C), or until the toasts begin to turn golden.

Dice avocado and immediately toss with lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Toss lettuce leaves with the shallot vinaigrette and basil leaves. Arrange on the plates and garnish with avocado and raspberries. Serve with fresh goal cheese toasts.

Pasta with Shrimp, Pomegranate and Pine Nuts

Shrimp_pomegranate_pasta

Ingredients:

1lb (450g) pasta (spaghetti, linguine)
2 garlic cloves, halved
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes
½ lb (225g) peeled, deveined shrimp
¼ cup torn basil leaves
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
salt, pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add garlic cloves and toss until they turn golden. Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they lose their raw flavor but still possess their bright verdancy. If you are using canned tomatoes, cook till they start to fall apart. Add salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, bring the large pot of water to boil. Add a liberal amount of salt and then your pasta of choice. Cook till it is al dente.

While your pasta is cooking, toss peeled shrimp into the tomato sauce and cook for about 5 minutes. As soon as shrimp turn pink, add the torn basil leaves and remove the pan from the heat, keeping in mind that the seafood will cook in the residual heat.

Drain pasta and toss with the sauce. I prefer a small amount of sauce, enough only to coat the pasta strands. However, feel free to adjust the quantity to your own preferences. For me, the most enjoyable part of cooking is experimentation; therefore, I tend to eschew doctrinaire instructions. Before serving, sprinkle pomegranate and pine nuts over the pasta.

Mango Shrikhand

Mango_shrikhand

Ingredients:

4 cups plain yogurt (full-fat, if possible)
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon saffron
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon foodgrade rose water + enough to cover raisins
1 ripe mango

Garnish:
3-4 tablespoon golden raisins
3-4 tablespoons shredded pistachios (unsalted)

Follow the instructions outlined in my previous article on shrikhand. Before serving, add the mango (pureed or diced) to the mousse. Alternatively, you can layer them, as I have done in the photo.

Photography © Bois de Jasmin.

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15 Comments

  • portlandia: OK, you have gone TOO far this time. You have obviously been spying, and have divined the menu for my dream dinner! And that mango shrikand? Just kill me now….. 😀 February 9, 2007 at 1:28am Reply

  • Anjali: V — Please move to California and cook for me. Please. I am drooling 🙂 February 9, 2007 at 3:08am Reply

  • Karthik: Victoria,
    I hope this post doesn’t offend you; forgive me if it does.
    I don’t know if you’re single, but write under the impression that you are.
    If your obvious intelligence and refinement haven’t already prompted atleast a few gentlemen to “summon up their courage”, this post should convince even the most wooden headed.
    That menu rates a couple of Michelin stars.
    Regards,
    Karthik. February 9, 2007 at 5:12am Reply

  • Leopoldo: I can hardly bear to look at those raspberries. Of all the food, in all the world, I find them the most sensually alluring. Your photos have ravished me…

    Happy weekend. February 9, 2007 at 7:36am Reply

  • Elle: Very happy sigh. Absolute perfection! W/out doubt, this is something I shall make (even using the shrimp since DH is not a vegetarian). Such a brilliant combination of tastes and the visuals are stunning. Thanks!! 🙂 February 9, 2007 at 7:41am Reply

  • newproducts: Even I, who hate to cook, want to go out and buy all those ingredients and make this fabulous meal! Thank you for the inspiration. February 9, 2007 at 8:50am Reply

  • ~vanilla girl~: Quel délicatesse ,V! those raspberries make it so inviting!
    I often make a similar shrimp pasta recipe but with the pomegranate seeds,now that would be the final touch!
    something to experience.
    Have a good day,V! February 9, 2007 at 8:55am Reply

  • Flor: What an amazing menu! Wow! I can’t believe where I live I can’t find fresh raspberries – it’s killing me. 🙁 The photos are beautiful. Thanks for putting so much time and care into this menu. Have a great weekend!! February 9, 2007 at 9:18am Reply

  • Marina: From reading about Magnificent Secretions on Aromascope to this feast…what a roller-coaster of a morning I am having :-)On a different note, V, will you marry me? 😀 😀 😀 February 9, 2007 at 9:29am Reply

  • Kevin at TasteTV: OK. I offically have to try these recipes before Valentine’s!
    Why don’t you grab a video camera and send us more about this topic, it’s mouthwatering (from Kevin at TasteTV.com) February 9, 2007 at 12:52pm Reply

  • evilpeony: V…. you have simply inspired the hidden cook in me! i’ve just finished lunch and find myself absolutely ravenous for mango shrikhand…. i think i will prepare this for my future mother-in-law. 😀

    if you reject marina’s offer of marriage… can you consider mine? 😉 😉 or at least consider adopting me? i’m clean and i clean the house well :-D… and i’m a chemist too…. 😀

    take care, V! February 9, 2007 at 4:00pm Reply

  • Joyti: What a delicious salad! And your photos are gorgeous. February 9, 2007 at 5:15pm Reply

  • Fleur.de.Lys: Are you going to have to issue warnings, i.e. “Surgeon General warns that recipes posted on Bois de Jasmin can lead to increased appetite, exponential joy and a rise in population?” That little blue pill has nothing on Flavor Fridays! February 9, 2007 at 7:46pm Reply

  • k-amber: Wonderful menu! I love goat cheese and avocado, must try them 🙂 I also enjoy baked avocado with bechamel sauce, covered Romano cheese.

    Have a great weekend.

    Kaori February 10, 2007 at 1:56am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria,
    I was so inspired by your beautiful menu – that I ran straight to Whole foods to buy some of the ingredients ! I really appreciate your thoughtfulness – to seek to create a sensual romantic meal – ambiance and all.
    I really admired your thoroughness: you left no stone unturned. All senses were considered, from visual, gustatory and olfactory.
    I loved that you recommended several fragrances to wear too! I appreciated your thoughts on low sillage , so your partner would lean forward and get closer. How wonderful – I will keep that in mind !
    Am going to the Guerlain event at Bergdorf’s . Maybe Monday I will try and meet Camille Goutal at Aedes – I love Passion .
    Madelyn E February 10, 2007 at 10:23am Reply

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