Curried Shrimp with Cucumber Sauce Fragrant shrimp on a pale green bed of cucumber sauce make a just-for-two appetizer.
Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms Prepare the artichokes ahead, and let them sit at room temperature to allow their robust flavor to develop while you enjoy the first course. Then serve the artichokes as your second course.
Pan-Roasted Quail These small, succulent birds are perfect for a festive dinner.
Polenta with Mushroom Ragu Mushrooms, green onions, and sweet pepper make a colorful topper for slices of polenta.
Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding Chocolate and true love. That's an irresistible combination. Go ahead and dip into this light but luxurious finale.
Through the centuries, certain foods have been linked to love. Kissing a passion fruit was once believed to ensure a romantic dream would come true. An ancient recipe for ensuring sexual prowess called for placing a May apple, two acorns, and a jasmine flower under your bed. Here's more lore on foods with a reputation for spurring romance.
- Chocolate. The Aztec ruler Montezuma II was reputed to consume 50 cups of chocolate per day to aid his love life. Chocolate bonbons continue to be a prized Valentine's Day gift. Chocolate may not really produce that falling-in-love sensation, but this sensuous food can't be left out of any romantic celebration.
- Hazelnuts. Valentine's Day has been observed in England since the 1400s. It was long believed in that country that one way to identify your true love was to write the names of romantic prospects on hazelnuts, roast them, and see which one popped up first.
- Honey. The word honeymoon, which refers to a period of harmony following a marriage, may have originated from the tradition of having newlyweds drink a honey-sweetened beverage. Hindu brides offer honey to their new husbands, and English-speaking sweethearts everywhere call each other "honey."
- Tomatoes. After journeying from the New World to the Old, tomatoes, or love apples, were given the Latin name pomum amoris, leading some people to conclude that tomatoes were an aphrodisiac. Although that's doubtful, one Renaissance commentator rightly described tomatoes as "luscious red orbs beautiful enough to command love."
- Oysters. Casanova, the famous 18th-century lover, surmised that oysters stimulate the libido, and in Consider the Oyster, M.F.K. Fisher mused on the mysterious powers of the bivalve mollusk, calling it "a lusty bit of nourishment."
1. Chocolate won't cause or aggravate acne.
2. Chocolate isn't bad for your teeth like many candies. Chocolate contains tannins, astringent substances from the cocoa bean that actually block plaque formation. Of course, the sugar content means you can't toss out your toothbrush.
3. Although high in fat, chocolate can be eaten in moderation because 75 percent of its fat content is vegetable fat. Most is either oleic acid, a healthful monounsaturated fatty acid, or a type of saturated fat that actually lowers blood cholesterol levels.
4. Chocolate isn't addictive. Chocolate cravings aren't satisfied by any special ingredient in chocolate itself -- it's just those sweet flavors and calories we love.
5. Chocolate doesn't keep you awake. A 1-ounce serving actually contains only 6 milligrams of caffeine, about the amount in a cup of decaffeinated coffee.
6. Chocolate might offer healthful benefits. A 1-ounce bar has the same antioxidant protection against cancers as a 5-ounce glass of red wine.
7. It won't make you fall in love, but chocolate is often linked with passion. Coincidentally, chocolate contains a natural chemical that mimics the brain chemistry of people in love.