With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love and romance are in the air and what better way to “get in the mood” than with a wonderful meal. They always say a way to a mans heart is through his stomach. While there may not be any scientific evidence to this effect, I can say with some certainty that it is absolutely true. At least in the case of my husband. Nothing makes us feel more romantic than sharing a marvelous meal together. And as to whether specific ingredients can actually increase sexual drive?? That also is debatable. What I do know is that many of the foods that are considered to be “aphrodisiacs” are also those foods that are known to increase energy (an important element in sexuality) as well as mood. Foods like chocolate and coffee stimulate the production of endorphins, which coincindentally are also released during intercourse. So it isn’t necessarily a stretch to say that these foods make us feel frisky.
What always interested me with regards to the topic of aphrodisiacs was how no matter what culture across the globe you visit, every single one of them has various foods, herbs, spices, etc. that they recommend to increase libido, particularly in males. Often they involve the consumption of the male organ of one animal or another, which is an obvious analogy. But perhaps less conspicuous is the use of various spices and herbs, like coriander in Moroccan culture and ginseng in Asian cultures. Chilis are commonly considered to have stimulating powers as are various fruits and vegetables, like the avocado, which in Aztec culture was called the testicle tree, mostly referring to the way in which it grows in pairs on the tree. While no one particular food is universally considered to be an aphrodisiac, what intrigues me is that there is a universal instinct to find foods that may potentially benefit this aspect of life.
Another thing that I find noteworthy, particularly with regards to our “western” ideas of what a romantic meal is, has to do with ambiance and context as much as with the meal itself. We usually associate romance with French or Italian food, or the foods of the “romance languages.” Perhaps because they are exotic or perhaps because they are rich and indulgent or simply because they represent cultures that appear to be highly erotic to us in terms of all of our senses. We also tend to do things like light candles, turn on soft music, light a fire, all things that are supposed to relax us and make us forget about the daily grind for a while.
We have a general idea that at least once a year, we should establish a mood, create a romantic ambiance and eat foods that somehow represent “love.” My feeling is, why do it just once a year?? Why not try to incorporate these concepts of dining into our daily lives. Perhaps if we spent more time focusing on “eating for love” we’d find ourselves more “in love.” A novel concept to be sure. But follow the logic here. The reason Valentine’s Day is special is that we “choose” to focus on one another if for a few hours on a specific night. The key here is that we are giving one another our undivided attention, which is something we may not take the time to do on a regular basis.
So then, my challenge to all of you is to pretend it’s Valentine’s Day more regularly. Make a conscious effort to incorporate these concepts of “eating for love” on a regular basis. Not only will you notice it affect your communication positively, but who knows, you may just better your sex life and that can’t be a bad thing.
Spicy Tomato & Chocolate Soup
Yields: Approx. 6-8 Servings
2 Tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbl Unsalted Butter
1 Onion, Diced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Carrots, Peeled and Diced
2 Celery Stalks, Diced
1 Cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Sliced
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste
3 Tbl Harissa (North African Chili Paste)
2 tsps Hungarian Paprika
2 tsps ground Cumin
1 tsp ground Coriander
½-3/4 cup Dry Sherry or White Wine
1-28 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
4 Cups Chicken Broth
¼ Cup Cilantro, Chopped
¼ Cup Italian Parsley, Chopped
3-4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
2 Tbl Honey or to Taste
Queso Fresco, Goat Cheese or Crème Fraiche to Garnish
Heat oil and butter in a stock pot over medium high heat until butter melts. Add onion and sauté until translucent, approx. 5 mins. Add garlic, carrots, celery and sun dried tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, harissa, paprika, cumin and coriander. Saute for a couple of minute to toast spices and soften vegetables. Add wine and continue cooking on high until all of the liquid has evaporated. Add tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 mins or until the vegetables are tender. Pass soup through a food mill to puree and remove any large particles. Return soup to pot and place over low heat. Add parsley and cilantro. Add chocolate and enough honey to balance acidity. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve hot, garnished with queso fresco, fresh goat cheese or crème fraiche.
Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup
3 English Cucumbers, Peeled, Seeded and Chopped
1 Spanish or Vidalia Onion, Diced
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 Avocado, Chopped
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste
¼ Cup Mint, Chopped
¼ Cup Chives, Snipped
2 tsps dried Dillweed
½ Cup Feta, Crumbled
1 Tbl Harissa
16 oz Plain Yogurt
½-3/4 cup Sour Cream
¾ Cup Lemon Juice
½ Cup Heavy Cream
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Blend using an immersion blender until creamy and well combined. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with crumbled Feta and Cilantro Oil.