What, pray tell, turns you on?
“Oh, life is a
glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.”
~ Dorothy Parker, in
‘Not So Deep
as a Well’ 1937
Passion. The magic word. THE turn-on. What would life be
would even want to live without it? Certainly not I.
what point could there possibly be in a loveless life?
You probably think I am going to write about sex. Well, not
I do hope your sex life is passionate. Why else bother?
Be that as it may, what is on my mind
is more accurately categorized
as Love than sex. I confess
that I am of the old school
therefore, that the one greatly enhances the other. No apologies.
And if I had
to choose? Three guesses.
My point here is to get your attention. Please give some serious thought
those things – be they animal, vegetable or mineral – that make your
faster, make you gasp, turn you on. Things that make your
a beat, your blood pressure rise, or give you
Might be sex, might be
love, might be your granddaughter. Could
painting, a dog
my darling MissSophieDog), or lines from your favorite poem or novel.
(Read any Pat Conroy lately?)
The very mention of the word Europe is mood altering for me, whereas thoughts of
the Allgaeu region in southwestern Germany trigger acute hyperventilation. Maybe for
you it's Hawaii, Tahiti, Bora Bora...
Travel is not your bag?
How about music then? Beethoven’s 5th, the 5th Brandenburg, Carmina
Burana, or anything at all by Brahms or Mozart...
How about Sting,
U2? Ray Charles, Diana Krall,
Connick, Jr., Dr. John, Norah Jones, Willie. The list goes
on and on…
the sound of
your cat purring in
your ear is
sweeter than the
most divine music yet
to be composed.
For some of us the more arousing sound would be that of a different sort
of purring: an engine! Your
new BMW 645Ci coupe? Mercy, mercy,
mercy! The mere sound of
it raises my blood pressure, but the sight of
this paragon of fine
Teutonic engineering throws me into paroxysms of
delight. Sound and sight
together? How does ecstasy grab you? I'll
have what she's having...
not what gets
your attention, as long as something does.
the picture, no? We are talking about things that keep you awake
night. Things that make you drool, ring your bell, float your boat, push
buttons. You know. Turn you on!
When, you may well be wondering, are we going to talk about FOOD, glorious FOOD?
Hot sausage and mustard...
Okay. Fine. What do you LOVE? Are you passionate about cooking in general, or
just about baking, or grilling? (Or maybe just eating???)
Here is my short list:
(Forget love - I'd rather
fall in chocolate!!!)
followed closely by
Red Beans and Rice
St. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which spawns
hearts and flowers, romance and sex. Not necessarily in that order. This
celebration of Love may have led you to wonder if there really is such a
thing as an aphrodisiac. You have at least heard rumors of such delectable
tidbits, right? Things like artichokes and asparagus. Champagne, caviar,
oysters, truffles. And I have always thought there was a certain je ne sais
a ripe fig…
Seems to me that if you are about to spend hundreds of dollars enter-
sweet object of your affections, you may as well spend it
which end, LBC offers you:
Caviar, Beyond the Spoon
Chef Philippe Conticini
Petrossian Boutique and Café, New York
(with Amanda Hesser)
from Chefs of the Times:
More than 200 Recipes and Reflections
from Some of America's Most Creative
Chefs Based on the Popular Column
in the New York Times
Copyright © 2001 by The New York Times (St. Martin’s Press)
“Caviar has a kind of season, and it usually falls around the holidays when
people are feeling festive, social, and generous.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Caviar makes one of the easiest hors d’oeuvres
ever (open a tin, grab a spoon), and it rarely disappoints. While I use caviar
in a number of appetizers and entrees, I don’t sprinkle it around like salt.
Caviar is a
rare commodity and a delicacy, and I treat it as one. What I don’t do is treat
with fear, which I think many cooks do. To them it is precious and untouchable.
They serve it with that fancy little spoon and such reverence that it threatens
let them down. With caviar like sevruga, there are wonderful ways you can use
its bitterness and salinity to flavor dishes. It is not a matter of aggressively
seasoning with caviar but of accenting foods with its subtle touch. When you use
caviar this way, you will be surprised at how little you need and how much is
left for you to savor on your own afterward.
For parties we make countless tiny canapés with caviar. They accentuate rich,
flavorful ingredients like smoked salmon, steak tartare and eggs. Canapés are
not meant to fill you up but to give you a quick, sharp burst of flavor that
excites your palate. Good canapés are often salty to exaggerate the intensity of
and create a thirst – for more champagne, more punch, or more wine. When I
make canapés, what I often do is simply adapt dishes that I would normally
serve as a full course. That way you get the complexity of a dish distilled into
a single bite.
Begin with steak tartare, a dish that is usually plated as a first course, and
on Asian soup spoons. The tartare is dressed with hazelnut oil, balsamic
vinegar, sesame seeds, and fleur de sel. I sprinkle a small mound with crushed
and a curry caviar vinaigrette. I top each spoon with a cluster of
and a chip of a buckwheat tuile. I use servuga because the beef
and the curry
vinaigrette are robust on their own. A more subtle caviar would
be lost, as it
would be in my other canapés. The sevruga adds a slight touch of
salt and ocean
but it is not fishy tasting, so it can marry with something
Eggs, chicken and quail are also easy to adapt as a canapé. I soft-boil them
until they are intact but soft like a water balloon. Then I dip them gently in
blini batter and fry them. The batter puffs and crisps so that they look like
large beignets. I
cut them in half and sprinkle each side with sevruga caviar, fleur de sel,
oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, crushed hazelnuts, and a few sprigs of herb
Call them gentrified eggs if you like.
Another favorite of mine is something I call friantine, or little fried puffs of
potato stuffed with caviar. This dish was actually inspired by one of my
I make little balls of chocolate ganache and roll them in bread crumbs
them. When you bite into one, you get a flood of warm chocolate. I
could do the same thing with potatoes as long as the potatoes had the
of creamy liquid texture as the chocolate, so I made a potato purée
that way. I fill a tray
of small circular molds with the purée, add a pocket of
sevruga in the center,
and freeze it. When the balls are hard, I take them out,
roll them in egg and
bread crumbs, and fry them until they’re crisp and brown
like Tater Tots. They
can be made in a large batch and kept warm in the oven,
and then just before
them around, I put a little bit of sevruga on top of
each. When you bite into a friantine, it is at first crispy like a potato chip, then
the potato purée flows
like cream, ending with a flash of salt and sea from
I also make a salmon tartare dressed with caviar, pepper, shallots, lime juice,
and olive oil. I layer it in spoons or on pieces of toasted baguette with slices
smoked salmon and whipped cream seasoned with dill and more caviar. [Mercy,
mercy, mercy… Are you drooling yet?]
I use sevruga in all these canapés. It is the least expensive caviar because its
is less delicate than the others. But I use it – particularly when it is ‘in
with prudence, not caution, and a liberal dose of creativity.”
Time: 1 hour, plus 30 minutes of resting
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon fresh yeast
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 large egg whites, beaten until
stiff but not dry
Peanut oil for frying
6 large eggs
1/2 cup mixed parsley,
chives, and chervil
Finely crushed hazelnuts
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons sevruga caviar
1. In a
medium bowl, combine flours, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and sugar.
small bowl, whisk together yeast and 1/4 cup milk; let rest
for 10 minutes.
Whisk in egg yolk, add flour mixture, and whisk
until smooth. Gradually whisk in
remaining 1/2 cup milk.
2. In a small bowl, whisk cream until stiff enough to hold soft peaks.
beaten egg whites into the batter. Add cream and fold until
smooth. Allow to
rest for 30 minutes.
3. Fill a deep, heavy pan with 3 inches of peanut oil and heat to 375
[F]. Fill medium pan with 3 inches of water and bring to
an active simmer. Add
eggs and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to
a bowl of ice water to cool, then peel.
4. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower egg into batter. Coat well, then
spoon and let as much batter fall off as possible. Lower egg into
and cook just until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Repeat with remaining
5. In a small bowl, combine herbs with a sprinkling of hazelnut oil and a
few drops of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt to taste and toss.
6. Slice eggs I half and place on a platter; yolks should be almost liquid.
Sprinkle with a little hazelnut oil, a pinch of crushed hazelnuts, fleur
sel, and pepper. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon caviar. Place a pinch
herb salad on each egg and serve.
Beef Tartare with Curry Caviar Vinaigrette
Yield: 24 hors d’oeuvres
Time: 30 minutes
1 pound beef fillet, finely chopped
5 tablespoons sesame seed
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup hazelnut oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons fleur de sel
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sevruga caviar
Finely crushed hazelnuts
1. In a small bowl, combine beef, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 2
tablespoons hazelnut oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, and mix
2. Whisk together curry powder, honey, lemon juice, remaining 3 tablespoons
sesame seeds, remaining 1/2 cup hazelnut oil, and 1 tablespoon caviar.
3. Fill 24 tablespoons halfway with beef tartare. Sprinkle with the curry
vinaigrette, remaining 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, and crushed hazelnuts.
with remaining caviar. Arrange on a platter.
But wait! There's more...
Aphrodisiacs? You decide:
Coriander (cilantro seed)
"In the nineteenth century, it
was traditional to serve three courses of
asparagus--thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac--to a French groom
on the night before the wedding. The modern French gentleman has
discarded the noble asparagus for the more romantic passion
prompter - Champagne."
~ Sharon Tyler Herbst
Be well, stay safe, enjoy yourselves. I wish for you, most
of all, love.
And the ability to express and receive love. Makes the world go 'round,
does it not? Live with passion! Give a flip!
And until next time, remember,
"Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion,~ Honoré de Balzac
history, romance and art would be useless."
seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without
the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about
love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
of it and the hunger for it…
and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it
is all one."
~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating
Index - The Spice Cabinet
Valentine's Day Recipes
Index - Food Features
Daily Recipe Index
Recipe Archives Index