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Shades of Love: Cherry
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Aphrodite: A Memoir
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La Belle Cuisine
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.
After all, 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 sevruga
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 like beef.
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
desserts. I make little balls of chocolate ganache and roll them in bread crumbs
and fry them. When you bite into one, you get a flood of warm chocolate. I
thought I could do the same thing with potatoes as long as the potatoes had the
same kind of creamy liquid texture as the chocolate, so I made a potato purée
that’s just 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 the caviar.
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
of 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.”
(Fried Potato Purses Filled with Caviar)
Yield: 24 hors
Time: 1 hour, plus 1 hour of chilling
1 medium (6 ounces) Idaho potato, peeled
and cut into 2-inch
1 medium (2 ounces) fingerling potato, peeled
and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/3 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sevruga or osetra caviar
Peanut oil for frying
8 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
Fleur de sel
1. In a saucepan filled with water just to cover, place Idaho and
fingerling potatoes and boil until very tender, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, in
small pan, heat milk until steaming; remove from heat and keep warm.
2. Drain potatoes and press through a ricer or food mill into a bowl. Whisk half
of milk into potatoes, reserving half. Gradually whisk butter into
potatoes; mixture should be quite liquid. Season to taste with salt.
3. Transfer potatoes to a mixer fitted with a paddle. Start mixing on low
speed and over a minute gradually increase to medium-high. Mixture will thicken
and rise as air is incorporated. Add remaining milk and adjust
salt. Continue mixing on high for 3 minutes, then let cool.
4. Using ice trays with round indentations or mini-muffin tins, spread a
layer of potato purée in each of 24 indentations. Drop 1/2 teaspoon
in center, then top with a layer of potato purée, making sure to
caviar. Repeat with remaining potatoes and caviar. Chill until
firm, about 1 hour.
5. Place 2 inches of oil in a deep, heavy pot. Heat to 375 degrees [F].
Preheat oven to 350 degrees [F]. Place egg yolks in a bowl and bread
crumbs in another bowl. Remove potatoes from molds; if they are
hard, allow to sit for a few minutes.
6. Roll potato balls, a few at a time, first in egg yolks and then in bread
crumbs. Roll again in egg and crumbs. Carefully drop breaded potatoes
into hot oil and fry until crisp and quite brown. Drain on paper towels,
then transfer to a baking pan placed in oven. Heat for 5 minutes to
warming in center/ Place on a plate lined with a napkin. Sprinkle
fleur de sel and serve immediately.
Salmon and Caviar Quenelles
Yield: 24 hors
Time: 30 minutes plus 6 hours of refrigeration
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup Riesling wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or more as needed
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons green peppercorns in brine,
drained and chopped
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sevruga caviar
12 ounces sushi-quality salmon, finely chopped
7 tablespoons heavy cream, whisked until stiff
2 teaspoons chopped dill, plus sprigs for garnish
1 baguette, ends trimmed and cut diagonally into
twenty-four 1/2-inch-thick slices
Fleur de sel
(available at igourmet.com)
4 ounces sliced white or red smoked salmon
SeaBear.com - Northwest Smoked Salmon
1. In a
small pan over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon sugar until light golden brown. Add
wine, another tablespoon sugar, and 1 tablespoon lemon
juice. Bring to a boil and stir in gelatin. Let cool, then refrigerate until
jelled, about 6 hours or overnight.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together peppercorns, shallots, lime juice, the
remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and 3 tablespoons oil. Season with salt
taste and stir in 2 tablespoons caviar. Place salmon in a medium bowl
mix in caviar mixture.
3. In a small bowl, fold together whipped cream, remaining 1 tablespoon lemon
juice, and chopped dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
more lemon juice if desired.
4. Lightly toast baguette slices. Sprinkle with oil and fleur de sel. Using 2
teaspoons, shape a quenelle of salmon tartare on each slice. Top with
dollop of caviar. Lay small, neat slices of smoked salmon on top of
a little wine jelly on some, and whipped cream on others.
a sprig of dill.
What turns you on, page 1
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
And while we're at it,
Cremini Mushroom Pasta with Wilted Arugula...
Farfalle with Asparagus, Roasted Shallots and Blue Cheese
Pappardelle in Lemon Cream Sauce with
Asparagus and Smoked Salmon
Pasta Czarina (with salmon, vodka and caviar)
Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Lemon Crème Fraîche
Salmon and Asparagus Fettuccine
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
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