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What, pray tell, turns you on? (Part 2)



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 Shades of Love: Cherry
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Gockel, Alfred
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Kostolny, K.
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Roberta Ricchini
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Ludwig Hohlwein
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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.”


(Fried Potato Purses Filled with Caviar)

Yield: 24 hors d’oeuvres
Time: 1 hour, plus 1 hour of chilling

1 medium (6 ounces) Idaho potato, peeled
and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium (2 ounces) fingerling potato, peeled
and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/3 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter at room temperature
Sea salt
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 a
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
thin layer of potato purée in each of 24 indentations. Drop 1/2 teaspoon
caviar in center, then top with a layer of potato purée, making sure to
cover all caviar. Repeat with remaining potatoes and caviar. Chill until
potatoes are 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
very 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
finish warming in center/ Place on a plate lined with a napkin. Sprinkle
with fleur de sel and serve immediately.


Salmon and Caviar Quenelles

Yield: 24 hors d’oeuvres
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
to taste and stir in 2 tablespoons caviar. Place salmon in a medium bowl
and 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.
Add 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
a dollop of caviar. Lay small, neat slices of smoked salmon on top of
caviar. Dab a little wine jelly on some, and whipped cream on others.
Finish with 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, how about:

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,
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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