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Fine Cuisine with Art Infusion

"To cook is to create. And to create well...
is an act of integrity, and faith."


What, pray tell, turns you on?



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"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. 
Dance like nobody's watching. Sing like nobody's listening.
Live like it's Heaven on Earth."

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 Shades of Love: Cherry
Shades of Love: Cherry
Gockel, Alfred
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Shades of Red
Shades of Red
Kostolny, K.
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Aphrodite: A Memoir
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Secret Story
Secret Story
Carney, Dennis
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Leila, 1892
Leila, 1892
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Dicksee, Frank...
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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 without
it? Who 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 really,
although 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 and believe,
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
to those things – be they animal, vegetable or mineral – that make your
heart beat faster, make you gasp, turn you on. Things that make your
heart skip a beat, your blood pressure rise, or give you “goose bumps.”
Might be sex, might be love, might be your granddaughter. Could be a
painting, a dog (such as 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...
No? How about Sting, then, or U2?  Ray Charles, Diana Krall, Harry
Connick, Jr., Dr. John, Norah Jones, Willie. The list goes on and on…
Or perhaps 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...
It matters not what gets your attention, as long as something does. You
get the picture, no? We are talking about things that keep you awake at
night. Things that make you drool, ring your bell, float your boat, push
your 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!!!)
Foie Gras
followed closely by
Mexican food, guacamole, salsa...
Mocha anything
Pound Cake
Red Beans and Rice
Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte
Smoked salmon

 St. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which spawns visions of
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
quoi about a ripe fig…
Seems to me that if you are about to spend hundreds of dollars enter-
taining the sweet object of your affections, you may as well spend it
well. To 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 it
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 to
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 flavor
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
serve it 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
hazelnuts and a curry caviar vinaigrette. I top each spoon with a cluster of
sevruga caviar 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 flavor 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, hazelnut
oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, crushed hazelnuts, and a few sprigs of herb salad.
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 passing 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 out 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
flavor is less delicate than the others. But I use it – particularly when it is ‘in
season’ – with prudence, not caution, and a liberal dose of creativity.”


Petrossian Eggs

Yield: 6 servings
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
Hazelnut oil
Balsamic vinegar
Finely crushed hazelnuts
Fleur de sel
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Freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons sevruga caviar

1. In a medium bowl, combine flours, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and sugar.
In a 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.
Fold 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
degrees [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
lift spoon and let as much batter fall off as possible. Lower egg into
hot oil and cook just until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Repeat with remaining eggs.
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
de sel, and pepper. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon caviar. Place a pinch
of 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 well.
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.
Dab 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,
history, romance and art would be useless."

~ Honoré de Balzac


"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so 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
love 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 icon icon



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