My 5 Elixirs of Love for Valentines Day

  • So as promised here are 5 aphrodisiac food recipes to help make your Valentine’s Day romantic, tasty, and always musical. 

1. Cinnamon Raisin French Toast with Caramelized Bananas

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2. Cream of Asparagus soup with Roasted Red Pepper Puree

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3. Baguette topped with Roasted Figs, Caramelized shallots and Brie Cheese

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4. Sautéed Mussels with White Wine, Thyme and Tomatoes

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5. Sinful Chocolate Brownie Pie

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As some of you know the inspiration behind each of these dishes came from one of my favorite operas, L’esir D’amore. This opera has a special place in my heart because it was the first opera I ever performed in. If you have never experienced opera before this is the perfect beginner opera to go see. L’elisir D’amore is a wonderful light, comedic,  Bel canto opera. This opera is full of beautiful music, a fun humerious plot, entertaining characters and a happy ending( which is rare in opera, someone usually always dies dramatically). 

Here is a brief summary of the story followed by some excerpts from The Metropolitan Opera 2012-2013 season production featuring, Anna Netrebko( one of the most famous opera Divas of our time) as Adina and Mathew Pollenzani as Nemorino( fun fact Mathew Polenzani lives in my town and my mother is the art teacher to his children, see you never know where a diva/divo may be).

Summary:

Nemorino, a peasant, is in love with the wealthy landowner Adina, but she has eyes only for dashing Sergeant Belcore. Dr Dulcamara, a quack doctor, sells Nemorino a love potion (actually, cheap wine) that will cause Adina to fall in love with him within a day. When Adina announces that she is to marry Belcore in six days, Nemorino is confident the elixir will work in time. But Belcore’s regiment is called away and the wedding brought forward to that very afternoon. Desperate for money to buy more of the potion, Nemorino enlists and takes the king’s shilling, unaware that his uncle has died, leaving him a fortune. The village girls are immediately attracted to Nemorino, though he believes it is the potion rather than the money that has attracted them. But Nemorino has spied a tell-tale tear in Adina’s eye – she has been touched by his devotion. Adina buys Nemorino’s discharge from the army, rejects Belcore, and the couple are united. Dr Dulcamara’s elixir has worked!

Hopefully those clips have inspired you to go out and see this wonderful production, and I hope they helped get  you in the mood to get cooking. So with out any more hesitation lets talk FOOD!

The first recipe I will share with you today is my Cinnamon Raisin French Toast with Honey Caramolized Bananas.

IMG_1950 Gentlemen, if you want to score some points with your lady I have 3 words… Breakfast in Bed. Start celebrating Valentines Day the moment your loved one opens her eyes. Breakfast in bed is the perfect way to pamper  her and treat your lady like the diva she is. 

Ingredients:

8 thick slices of Challa Bread( Brioche works well too, just make sure it is a nice sturdy bread)

3 eggs

1 c whole milk( any milk will really do in this recipe, I just prefer whole, I also use Almond Milk sometimes)

1 tbs ground cinnamonIMG_1944

2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

2 Tbs Honey

1/4 tsp salt

4 tbs butter

Ingredients for Caramelized Bananas:

2 under ripe Bananas ( pick Bananas that still are partially green)

3 tbs butter

2 tbs honey

1 tbs real maple syrup

1 tbs light brown sugar

1 tbs orange juice

1 tbs dark rum (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350º

2. Beat together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, and honey. You can do this the night before and let it set in the refrigerator.  Pour the custard mixture into a shallow bowl, a pie dish or baking dish works great.

3. Cut the Challa bread into nice thick slices and let sit on the counter for a little while. It sounds strange but french toast comes out the best when you use slightly stale bread. You can even leave the bread out on the counter over night. Prepping the night before is a great idea, you will have less to think about the next morning, which is good because, if you are like me, the mornings can be a little foggy.

IMG_19484. Dip each piece of bread into the egg mixture long enough so it soaks up all that delicious creamy,cinnamon egg mixture.  While the Challa soaks in its bath, melt some butter in a large skillet set over medium high heat. Add as many slices as you can into the pan without crowding it and cook until golden brown on both sides. About 3 minuets per side but make sure to keep an eye on it and flip as necessary.

5. Place the bread on a rimmed baking sheet, transfer to the oven and bake until the center of the bread is heated through but still moist, about 6-8 minutes.

6. In the mean time, peel the bananas and slice diagonally. Toss the slices in the orange juice so they don’t brown. In a  pan melt the   of butter, then add the sugar, honey,and maple syrup. Cook until it starts to bubble, then add the bananas and carefully add the rum. Cook about 3 minuets until it has a nice thick consistency. 

7. Pile the gooey banana deliciousness high on top of the hot french toast, pour a tall glass of O.J and  bring it upstairs to your loved one waiting unexpectedly in bed, and most importantly DIG IN!

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 Cream of Asparagus Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Puree.

IngredientsIMG_1879

  • 2 bunches of trimmed asparagus
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • ½ of a medium sized onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 whole cloves garlic
  • 1 bulb of fennel chopped
  • 4 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 c white wine
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs fresh tarragon
  • ¼ c light cream or whole milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

 Directions

  • Cut off the asparagus tips and set aside for latter. Trim the tough ends off the asparagus stalks and discard. Using a food processor fitted with a slicer blade, cut the asparagus stems into small pieces. This will help break up the fibrous threads that could make the soup stringy. Don’t try to use a knife-if won’t be effective for the job.IMG_1874

  • In a large stock pot set over medium high heat add the butter and olive oil. When butter is melted add the chopped onion, chopped fennel, and garlic. Sauteè for about 7 minuets until the onions are translucent and tender. 

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  • Next add the asparagus and potatoes and cook for another 4 to 5 minuets. Add the 2 tbs of mustard and 1 tsp salt and 1/4tsp pepper and stir.
  • Deglaze the pot by adding the wine and make sure you stir the ingredients around to get off any flavorful bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Next add the 5 cups of stock. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a medium low simmer until the potatoes are fork tender about 30 mins.
  • Once potatoes are tender remove pot from the heat. Add your tarragon, cream, and more salt and pepper if needed. Puree the soup either with an immersion blender, if you are lucky enough to own one, and if you are like me and are not one of the lucky ones a blender or food processor will work just as well. Just make sure that you work in small batches. Puree until nice a smooth.
  • Sauteè the reserved asparagus tips in olive oil until tender. 

Roasted Red Pepper Puree

  • 1 12 oz jar roasted red peppers( make sure you buy them jarred in water NOT oil
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2 gloves garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

 Directions

  • Crush the garlic clove with the back of a chopping knife and add to a small sauce pot with the 1/4c of olive oil.  Before adding the red pepper flakes rub them in between your palms. This allows the flavorful oils to release from the pepper flacks. Then add to the olive oil. Heat the olive oil of medium high heat until it is well perfumed and infused with the garlic and red pepper. When oil is done discard the garlic gloves and red pepper flakes.
  • Place the roasted red peppers into a food processor. While the blade is running, pour a steady stream of the flavored olive oil through the feeding tube. Puree until smooth. It should have the consistency of thin pesto.
  • Pour yourself a big bowl of this delicious cream soup and garnish the top with the sauteed asparagus tips and the red pepper puree. Dig in and Enjoy.

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Roasted Figs with Brie Cheese and Caramelized Shallots

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This next dish is a delicious pairing of sweet and savory. It is a simply yet elegant treat that is not only delicious to eat but pretty to look at which is always important. Serve this as an appetizer at your next dinner party and your guests are sure to fall in love with you. They may even ask you to be their Valentine.

IngredientsIMG_1904

12 figs

1 tbs sugar

1 tbs honey

24 oz brie cheese

1 french baguette, sliced into

3 tbs olive oil

1 tbs butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 c shallots thinly sliced

Pre heat the oven to 400°.

Cut the figs in half and toss them in the sugar and honey( it helps to heat the honey up in the microwave to it pours easier). Then place the figs cut side up onto a baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 mins until soft.

In the mean time place a medium sized pan over medium high heat. Add the butter and 2 tbs of olive oil. When the butter is melted add the sliced shallots into the pan, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the shallots are a deep golden brown, About 15 minuets

Slice the baguette on a diagonal about 1/2 inch thick slices. Coat one side of each slice with olive oil using a pastry brush. Place on a cooking sheet, olive oil side down  and put them into the oven, which should still be set to 400º from the figs. Toast the slices until they just start to turn golden brown.IMG_1901

Top each baguette with a thick slice of brie cheese, and place it back into the oven under the broiler for 1-2 until the cheese starts to melt. Take out of oven and top with the caramelized shallots and one of the fig halves.

Enjoy

Yeilds 24 servings.IMG_1906

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