How To Feed Your Lover

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Valentine's Day is upon us.  Do you know what you're feeding your lover?  

Much has been written about aphrodisiac ingredients, but if your love target doesn't like them--skip 'em.  The key to a romantic dinner is making food that is attractive to the object of your desire, and doesn't weigh either of you down too much.  Definitely choose dishes that inspire the senses through fragrant herbs and spices, exciting textures, beautiful shapes, and addicting flavors, but steer clear of things you know are on their Do Not Eat list. I will never attempt to seduce my partner in crime with lamb, for example, no matter how irresistible and succulent it may sound to me.  Stick to things they like.  With this in mind, here are some tasty ideas for a happy Valentine's Day.
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1. Oysters. Kick things off with the traditional and well-known aphrodisiac bivalve.  Raw, oysters' luscious texture and flavors set the dirty mind in motion.  Smoked or cooked, the provocative effect remains, and allows room for other aphrodisiac ingredients (like fennel, citrus, cilantro, and/or avocado) to spark additional interest.

2. Fatty Fish.  As M.F.K. Fisher knew so well, romantic dinners should not be gut-busting affairs. "Food babies" and other after-effects of unbridled gluttony tend to distract rather than enhance that loving feeling, so save the marbled steak for another night.  The omega acids in fatty seafood supposedly improve certain desirable functions in both men and women, and make a far better choice.  To avoid boring your partner with just another piece of grilled fish, though, go for punchy preparations that involve other aphrodisiac seasonings like ginger, chilies, truffles, arugula, wine, mustard, or caviar.  Tsar Nicoulai's truffle infused caviar makes a great compound butter for fish--just fold the eggs into softened butter and freeze the mixture until you need a pat to finish your hot piece of bass.

3. Sweets.  Chocolate is one of the best-known aphrodisiacs out there.  Almonds and pine nuts also have long and glorious traditions of seduction, and oh-so-conveniently, go fantastically with chocolate.  Berries and coffee are also potent chocolate-friendly inspiration, for those who aren't into nuts.  Fresh figs give raw oysters a run for their money in sex appeal, but unfortunately are out of season in February.  Still, non-chocoholics can try figs poached in red wine with spices like anise or nutmeg, topped with a dollop of crème fraiche and a drizzle of honey.

If all of this sounds a bit unsatisfying, just remember that the Valentine's Day dinner should be the tease, not the main event.  Have fun with your food and the rest will follow.

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