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Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012 06:16 am

Food for love 2012


The association of food with love and making love is as old as, well, food and love themselves. From Marc Anthony feeding grapes to Cleopatra, to the Aztec Emperor Montezuma drinking 50 cups of chile-spiked chocolate each day to keep his 200 wives satisfied, to the 18th century Italian, Casanova, who consumed 50-plus oysters daily to both quench his desire for bivalves and fire up his love-making, the sensuous pleasures of loving and eating have always been entwined. After all, as grandmotherly chef and PBS cooking show host Lidia Bastianich says, “What else do you do with your mouth?”

Certain foods have long been famed as aphrodisiacs, including those above. Though some scientific evidence substantiates their love-enhancing reputations (oysters are laden with zinc, essential for testosterone production; chocolate contains stimulating caffeine and cannabis-like fatty acids, etc.), some consumables were initially considered aphrodisiacs because they resembled a sexual organ. Known as the Doctrine of Signatures or Law of Similarities, the theory, dating back to medieval times, says that eating something that looks like a human body part will aid or improve that part (think asparagus or fresh figs). Though science has proven the doctrine false, some foods can provide visual cues/stimulations. And, as Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge say in Intercourses, an Aphrodisiac Cookbook, “Explanation or no explanation, anyone who has ever fed a lover grapes knows that aphrodisiacs do exist. Anyone who has served an elaborate candlelit meal, painstakingly prepared with love, knows the potential power of food. We don’t need scientific proof to know that aphrodisiacs exist; we need only experience them for ourselves to know that they are, in fact, a very potent force at our disposal.”

College buddies Hopkins and Lockridge wrote Intercourses on a whim in 1996. “We were 25 and had nothing to lose,” Hopkins told me. The book became an unexpected, runaway success, selling over 225,000 copies. It’s more than just a cookbook: The gorgeous photographs are sensuous but not seamy. There are recipes utilizing both obscure and well-known aphrodisiacs and massage oils, as well as resources and a usage guide. In 2007, the now-business partners revised Intercourses, retesting recipes, taking some out, and adding 70 more; the resultant book contains 50 percent new material.

But the most unique and enjoyable aspect of Intercourses – what makes it a fun and stimulating read for one-cook couples as well as those who cook together – are the testers’ testimonials. Hopkins’ and Lockridge’s brilliant idea was to give their recipes to couples across America not just to test their recipes, but also to record their romantic/aphrodisiacal experiences with them.

“This is a formula for sensuality as much as it is for dessert,” according to Bostonians Christa and Edwin about chocolate-dipped meringues with espresso cream.

A tomato-basil soup brought this response from John: “This luscious soup offered us everything we could ever want in a tasteful prelude to an amorous evening encounter: the wonderful smell of onions, garlic and basil wafting through our home as they simmered; the smooth, rich texture and warm layers of flavor cascading from lips to tongue to throats, then bellies. Finally the surprising effect of good French bread soaked through with velvety, herb-laden liquid, giving nourishing sustenance to a light, energizing meal. Afterward: untold delights.”

Foods’ aphrodisiac properties may be more legend than science. But who cares? As NYC couple Karen and Rick report in Intercourses, “It seems…that the anticipation of an aphrodisiac meal is oftentimes aphrodisiac enough. My significant other and I couldn’t stop smiling and casting knowing glances at each other the whole time we were preparing the meal.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

Black bean salsa

Much as I love them, I’d never thought of black beans as aphrodisiacal. But as long ago as circa 400 A.D., St. Jerome instructed his nuns to eschew black beans, because he believed black beans would seduce them to break their celibacy vows. Black beans are associated with fertility, a cycle that begins with the fresh bean nestling in its pod like a child in the womb and continues to the plump yet firm cooked bean as a symbol of a woman with child.

The Black Bean Salsa testers’ testimonial is perhaps less sensuous than some of the others; nonetheless it’s heartwarmingly romantic.

Martha Hopkins’ parents, Carlene and Turner, together 60 years as of March 2007 describe this salsa as “a very satisfying dish with an exotic flavor.”

Hopkins says, “I never like to hear of my parents’ love life. (Parents, as we all know, do not have sex. Especially ones who were missionaries for 10 years. No gratuitous sexual puns, please.) But the following description was tame enough to keep me from wincing.”

“Says Carlene, ‘It brought to mind Caribbean beaches and a romantic dinner for two under the swaying palm trees. This added romantic excitement to the evening.’ My [Hopkins’] father reinforced her quote with a grin and a wink.”

At 81 and 82 respectively, Carlene and Turner’s romance still lives. They breakfast together in bed or on their deck each morning. Though Carlene used to prepare it, Turner has recently taken over – his specialty is omelettes.

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 c. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 c. pineapple juice
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 T. minced green chile pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Chill, covered for up to 2 days. Serve with tortilla or plantain chips.

Adapted from Intercourses. Used with permission.



Spicy gingered shrimp

The following recipe contains a trifecta of aphrodisiac ingredients: shrimp, honey, and ginger. And if those aren’t enough to get you in the mood, the recipe testers’ testimonial should do the trick.

“I’ll remember feeding him the spicy flavored shrimp – his tongue trailing my saucy fingers so slowly that I’m positive time stopped. I’ll remember him rubbing the spices along my mouth, only to lick them off seconds later. I’ll remember lips on fingers, tongues on mouths, heat and honey. And I will never think of grilled shrimp the same way again.”

Anne and Eric, Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Juice and zest of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for garnish
  • 3 hot chile peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves discarded and interior stalk thinly sliced
  • 1 two-inch piece ginger (about 2 T.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 T. chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1 lb. jumbo shrimp (16-20 count) deveined and shelled if desired
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from catching fire while grilling. Combine the first 8 ingredients in a casserole dish large enough to accommodate the skewers; mix well.

Thread 4 shrimp on 2 parallel skewers to keep them from spinning. Repeat with the remaining shrimp. Add to the marinade, turning several times to coat well. (Alternatively, marinate the loose shrimp in a large resealable plastic bag. Grill in a grill pan.)

Refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour at the most, turning once or twice while marinating.
Prepare a grill with a medium hot fire or preheat the broiler. Remove the shrimp from the marinade. Season with salt and pepper. Grill or broil for 2-3 minutes per side, or until just cooked through. Garnish with additional cilantro and lime wedges.

Adapted from Intercourses. Used with permission.



Sausages with grape sauce

This recipe is wonderful for an intimate dinner deux, but it’s equally appropriate for parties – just cut the cooked sausages into bite-sized pieces. It’s much more sophisticated – and much more delicious – than that tired old party standby of mini-wieners in grape jelly. The Intercourses recipe calls for Italian sausages; I prefer good bratwurst-type sausages.

“Once David quit making jokes about the sausage links and started tasting them instead, the evening turned around in my favor. I was at the stove and had just finished adding the grapes to the sauce. I dipped my finger in it for a taste test to adjust the seasonings, but he stopped my hand mid-route to my mouth. When he took it on a detour to his mouth, I knew it was going to be a good evening.” Susan and David, Anaheim, CA

  • 4 links Italian sausage or other good-quality, freshly made sausage (about 3/4 lb.)
  • 1 T. olive oil if needed
  • 1 shallot, minced (2 – 3 T.)
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c. seedless grapes, halved
  • 1 1/2 T. minced fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 200. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage links, browning on all sides. Pour a cup of water into the skillet, scraping the bottom to release any browned bits. Cover and cook until the water has evaporated and the sausages are cooked through.

Place the sausages in the oven to keep warm, reserving up to 1 T. oil from the sausages in the skillet. If no oil remains, add the olive oil and sauté the shallot over medium heat until translucent and soft. Stir in the wine, bring to a boil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low, whisk in the mustard, and stir in the grapes. To serve, spoon the sauce over the links and garnish with parsley.
Adapted from Intercourses. Used with permission.

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