Romancing your loved one with food


    Last week, The Malibu Times ran a column by Jody Stump on aphrodisiacs (“turn-on foods” for the syllabically challenged). This week, we add to the list of “turn-on foods,” among them figs (the Italian word for fig, fico, is also slang for a certain part of the female anatomy). Strawberries, which contain no romance chemicals (unlike chocolate, which contains a mood enhancer), are popular as heck as part of a romantic meal. Maybe it’s because strawberries are plentiful this time of the year, at least in Southern California, and just about everyone loves them. That combination can beat chemistry any time!

    Strawberries are especially wonderful when paired with cheese as in a French springtime dessert called Coeur la Crme. I’ve modified it with the addition of ricotta cheese for a more interesting texture so, perhaps Cuore alla Crema would be more accurate. It can’t fail to be a hit with your special person or, if you’re beyond that stage, your family. Normally, the cheese is formed in a heart-shaped basket, but there is no reason you can’t have some fun by whipping out a spatula and sculpting a heart for yourself. Serves 6.

    Coeur la Crme

    2-8 oz. packages cream cheese (you can use fat-reduced cream cheese but not fat free).

    1 pound ricotta cheese (again, low-fat is OK, but not nonfat)

    1/2 cup sugar

    Cream or milk as needed to achieve proper texture (see directions)

    Whip cream cheese, ricotta and sugar in a bowl until well mixed, adding only enough cream or milk to achieve a texture you can shape (think of modeling clay). Turn out on foil or parchment paper on a chopping block or some flat surface. Now, the fun part begins … with a spatula or knife, mold the whole thing into a heart about 1 1/2 inches high. Slide the finished heart onto a serving platter and trim off the excess foil or paper. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Then pour the strawberry sauce over it, decorate with mint leaves and enjoy. (Champagne is really terrific with this).

    Strawberry sauce

    2 pints strawberries, hulled

    1/2 cup sugar

    3 Tbs. Grand Marnier or Cointreau

    Roughly mash 1/2 pint of strawberries with the liqueur and sugar. Slice the rest of the strawberries in half and stir in. Chill and pour around the cheese heart. After your guests ooh and aah over this, you can serve with a large spoon, giving all of them a nice portion of cheese (remember, it’s richer than it looks) and some sauce.

    But let’s not forget the all-time, sure fire, most popular “turn-on” food of all, -chocolate.

    Low fat Chocolate Mousse

    I know, I know, the eggs aren’t cooked in this recipe. Rarely are they cooked in real Italian gelato either, and I suspect the number of salmonella infections caught from eating Italian ice cream over the last hundred years or so number fewer than the nuts in one biscotti. So buy the freshest eggs you can find, and rejoice all the fat calories you’re saving (by eliminating cream) while indulging yourself and your romantic other’s chocolate passion. And this version is so good, no one will suspect how easy it is to make. Serves 6.

    1 6-oz. package semisweet chocolate bits (real chocolate, of course, not chocolate-flavored).

    6 Tbs. boiling water.

    4 eggs, separated.

    2 Tbs. rum (dark rum preferably)

    1/4 cup finely chopped toasted almonds

    Mint leaves

    Put chocolate pieces in a food processor (metal blade) and blend until powdery (10 seconds or so). Scrape chocolate from sides of container, replace top and add water through tube. Blend for 10-15 seconds. Add egg yolks and rum and blend until smooth (5-10 seconds).

    Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in the chocolate mixture. Spoon into individual serving cups (martini glasses make a great presentation) and chill for 1-2 hours. Top with a dab of whipped cream (if desired) and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Garnish with mint leaves.