Throughout history, philosophers have pontificated on the various forms of "love," compiling several categories with Latin labels and distinct attributes. I've paired these many types with special foods to help celebrate Valentine's Day.
Eros, or romantic love, is the one we instantly associate with Feb. 14 as Cupid slings his arrow into unwitting hearts so they fall gaga in love. For these sweeties, prepare high-octane aphrodisiac foods to relish an amorous breakfast in bed, seductive afternoon delight, or intimate dinner for two that'll ignite the sparks of the heart and jump-start the libido.
Almond's sex appeal stems from its seductive shape, heady aroma, and load of heart-protective, fertility enhancing Vitamin E and zinc. Awaken with a frothy almond butter and banana smoothie, or crème brûlée French toast dunked in amaretto syrup. Plan a cozy dinner with almond-crusted baked salmon, and a Marcona almond quinoa tabouli. For just desserts, a chocolate almond cheesecake with one spoon for sharing.
Asparagus, renowned for centuries for its aphrodisiac properties including its erotic spear-shape was fed to bridegrooms as a natural Viagra. Even a man-with-a-can mentality can concoct an asparagus antipasto salad with vine-ripened "love apples" aka tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and artichoke hearts drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.
Seafood rich in zinc — especially Alaskan king crab, wild-caught lobster and caviar — stimulate testosterone production, which can lead to romantic possibilities. Make a passionate pizza with dollops of red and black caviar, a seafood martini or spicy crab quesadilla.
Finally, chocolate has been found to contain a magical substance that affects the romantic wiring in the brain, so potent it was banned in medieval monasteries to prevent monks from succumbing to temptation. Bittersweet is best, along with high cocoa content. Chocolate is divine, whether whipped into a soufflé (see recipe), or melted in a fondue accompanied by long-stemmed strawberries.
Philia, "brotherly (or sisterly) love" (named by the Greeks) is an affectionate friendship based on kindness, loyalty and mutual respect. Celebrate this special bond with a healthy, hearty brunch, including organic berries, a wild mushroom frittata and home-baked muffins and quick breads. Or serve afternoon tea with finger sandwiches of smoked salmon, goat cheese and capers, along with assorted scones and biscotti.
Familial love, called storge, is that unconditional love of a googly-eyed parent for their child. For younger kids, create a whimsical lunch with heart-shaped sandwiches, or mac and cheese with Technicolor pasta and rainbow veggies. Whip up some vegan cookie dough, so they can create their own concoctions with fun cutters and healthy toppings. A nostalgic dinner served family-style might include some faves like seafood paella, or turkey meatloaf with mashed Yukons. A home-baked carrot cake or rustic apple tart is a labor of love for sweet endings.
Agape love, passion for humanity, the environment and acts of altruism, requires assembling some cheery "care packages" with bags of homemade granola, whole fruits, or cheese and crackers. Deliver these to shut-ins, shelters or hospital wards as a gesture of universal love. Pet owners can pamper their beloved four-legged friends with kibbles from salmon, whitefish, and sardine cakes blended with choice greens for fussy felines to bacon and liver chews for darling dogs.
For those with flirty love interests called ludus, concoct fun and funky delights, such as a chocolate dessert pizza, confectionary sushi or fresh fruit "bouquets."
Recipe: Share the Love Chocolate Soufflé
• Ingredients: 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened; 8 teaspoons granulated sugar; 10 ounces chopped, dark chocolate, 72 percent cocoa; 3 tablespoons unsalted butter; 6 large egg yolks; 6 large egg whites; 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar; pinch sea salt; 1/4 cup granulated sugar; 4 ounces dark chocolate, 72 percent cocoa, cut into 8 pieces.
• Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter eight 6-ounce soufflé dishes with the softened butter. Coat each dish with 1 teaspoon sugar. Place on baking sheet. Set aside. Add chocolate and remaining butter to mixing bowl set over pot of simmering water. Stir until melted. Remove from heat. Whisk in egg yolks, one at a time. In separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt to soft peaks. Add remaining sugar. Beat to stiff peaks. Whisk quarter of egg whites into chocolate. Gently fold in remaining egg whites, using rubber spatula. Spoon mixture into prepared soufflé dishes. Insert one piece chocolate into center. Bake 12 minutes or until nicely puffed. Dust soufflé with powdered sugar, and serve with vanilla bean ice cream. (Serves 8)
Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Bernard Guillas, The Marine Room in La Jolla
— Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com