What better time of year is there to talk about aphrodisiacs than at Valentine’s Day?
Aphrodisiacs can be foods that psychologically and/or scientifically help us feel… well “in the mood” for lack of better words.
The search of the perfect combination is the desire for many on the 14th of February.
Although each person’s own food preferences play the biggest influence on this romantic journey of cuisine, we will focus on some classic ingredients that fall into this category.
The first ingredient that comes to mind is chocolate, and I am certain that many will agree. With its velvety smooth melting texture, this sweet addition to dessert choices will usually win over any other.
Chocolate has been scientifically proven to contain ingredients such asphenylethylamine and serotonin: two chemicals that stimulate pleasure senses in the brain.
This, plus the natural stimulant effect from the caffeine, makes for a wonderfully seductive and addictive ingredient. Fresh imported strawberries are usually available this time of year and having them dipped in chocolate makes for the perfect finish to a romantic meal.
Oysters and caviar have also been considered aphrodisiacs for many years, and some argue it is because they are a good source of zinc, which contributes to maintaining male potency and fertility.
However, there are many other foods high in zinc that are not considered aphrodisiacs such as lima beans, lentils, and spinach; and I don’t believe making your sweetheart a stirfry of these ingredients will give a romantic impression.
Cayenne pepper and spicy foods also play a large role as aphrodisiacs because they increase heart rates, blood flow, and perspiration.
Some say endorphins are also released during this process and thus give one a natural high and pleasurable feeling.
Champagne or sparkling wine is considered the drink of lovers, but one can also use non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice as an alternative.
Alcohol can lower one’s inhibitions and thus be regarded as an aphrodisiac, but the tiny bubbles, even in non-alcoholic alternatives, are said to be very seductive.
Regardless of what you choose to serve, staying in for a romantic dinner can be accomplished with little effort and some creative planning. The menu you decide upon does not have to be complicated, however it should be meaningful. Your effort should reflect the compassion you have for this person, and your thoughtfulness will be the most important ingredient.
There is one last ingredient I should mention that is believed to be an aphrodisiac: garlic… when eaten by both people. It is, however, considered a prophylactic when eaten by just one.
Dear Chef Dez:
I want to make chocolate covered strawberries for dessert for a Valentine’s dinner, but the last time I tried making them it was a disaster. Even though I took them out of the refrigerator ahead of time, the chocolate was still too hard and it broke off the berries with the first bite and fell onto the plate. What am I doing wrong?
Chris D, Abbotsford
When melting your chocolate for dipping, melt butter in with the chocolate as well. Room temperature butter is much softer than room temperature chocolate, and thus will create a more palatable bite and will adhere to the berries. I normally add 50 per cent of the weight of chocolate being used with butter. For example, if you are melting four ounces of chocolate, then also melt in two ounces of butter.– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4