Seduction Meals is about food + romance and the premise that everyone should learn to master one dish that is their signature dish—a Seduction Meal, to enchant and captivate that special someone in your life...
Walk into any artisanal cheese shop and I am sure you've been tempted to try, and of course buy, each perfectly presented morsel that appeals to your senses. There is a beauty and alchemy in how cheese is paired, presented, and consumed. Sweet, salty, tart, creamy, hard, spicy -- you name it, there are choices to satisfy all desires.
Creating you Platter: Cheese platters can be served as a main course with your favorite wine, champagne or beer, or as a interlude between the main course and dessert. In creating a cheese platter think texture, color, aroma and taste. You can go with a themed approach such as French, Italian, or Spanish selections, or you can mix it up. It's best to select cheese varieties that are different in texture and taste to keep things interesting. Pair your cheese platter with fresh fruit, warmed nuts, dried berries, sweet jams, drizzled honey, and specialty breads such as Crostini, Panzanella flat bread, or my all time favorite, fresh baguette. You can also serve cheese with grilled vegetables, such as artichoke, asparagus, or peppers. And, a mixed green salad with a simple dressing such a good quality olive oil and a bit of fresh lemon juice, is always refreshing.
Cheese & Wine Pairings: There are many books and online resources for suggestions on cheese and wine pairings. Check out Gourmet Slueth where you can look up a specific cheese and review their wine, champagne and/or beer suggestions. Arisanal Cheese lets you type in the wine you are serving and they suggest the perfect cheese pairing.
Mix it Up. Below is a list of themed cheese platters with suggested pairings. Have fun experimenting with your creations. Some fascinating
combination include: Fresh figs with Manchego or goat cheese.
Apricots with Camembert. Floral honey drizzled over brie or goat cheese, and one of my all time favorites; Manchego with Membrillo or quince paste. .
Online Resources: And for those that do not have access to local cheese shops, I have provided links to online resources where you can purchase specialty cheese platters. I also found an online resource that offers a glossary of cheese terms.
French Cheese Platter Gruyere de Comte, Boucheron, Roquefort, Fromage d'affinois. Camembert, Comte, Brie, and Brillat Saverin to name a few. Serve with sun-dried cranberries or cherries, pears, saucisson (naturally dried pork sausage), pâté de foie gras or country pate, cornichon, and french baguette. Click on the image below for more details on Dean & DeLuca's French cheese platter.
English Cheese Platter Cotswald, Farm House Cheddar, Morangie Brie, Blue Shropshire, Lincolnshire Poacher, Winterdale Shaw, and English Blue Stilton. Serve with pears, dried cranberries, warm hazelnuts, English butter crackers, cornichons, and lavender honey.
Spanish Cheese Platter
Manchego, Drunken Goat, Valdeon, Campo de Montalban, Mahon, Nevat, Roncal and Mirableu. Nevat:Serve with quince paste (pairs perfectly with the manchego), figs, royal Medjool dates, Marcona Almonds, Jamon Serrano, and Catalan Olives. Dean & Deluca has a wonderful manchego cheese and quince paste platter.
American Cheese Platter
Smoked Gouda, Monterey Jack, Carmody, Buttermilk Blue, and Cheddar. Pair your platter with grapes, sliced apples or pears, walnuts, and sliced sausage, smoked ham, or Proscuitto. Dean and DeLuca offers An American cheese platter.
Italian Cheese Platter
Taleggio, Fresh Mozzarella di Buffala, Grana Pardano, Sharp Provolone, Asagio, fresh Parmigianno-Regianno, Gorgonzola. Pair well with olives, Proscuitto de Parma, caramelized pecans, roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and pignoli notes. Dean & DeLuca's Italian Cheese Plate can be purchased online.
Moule Frite--mussels and French fries, often served with an aioli sauce for your fries, is quintessential bistro fare.
Mussels in curry cream sauce is the perfect seduction meal when you need to prepare a simple, luscious meal in 30 minutes. The recipe below is for a basic curry cream sauce. For a bit more flavor I like adding a pinch or two of saffron for a curry saffron cream sauce. Or, there are many Thai variations that include the added richness of coconut milk, spices, and ginger. Either way, this is a meal that easily falls under the "quickie" category and will have you in and out of the kitchen in no time, unless you choose to also make home-made fries to accompany this dish. If I am in a rush, I go to my corner bistro and order fries to go.
mussels in curry cream sauce for two
2 Tb butter 2 shallots, minced 2 cloves of garlic, smashed 1 pinch of cayenne pepper 2 Tb lemon grass, finely chopped 2 Tb curry powder 1 cup of white wine 1 cup of cream 2 lbs mussels, cleaned 1 loaf French bread
to clean the mussels I think its best to use a pot with a colander or a salad spinner, so you can easily lift the colander leaving any sand or grit behind.Run mussels under cold water in the colander. Place the colander in a pot, fill with cold water and let soak for 15 minutes. Lift the colander out of the pot and rinse again. Next be sure to remove the beards--you do this by pulling out the hair-like strands between the shells of a mussel. If you find any shells that are open, discard them.
Add butter to a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Saute shallots for 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium. Add garlic, pepper, curry and lemon grass. Stir until curry is blended in and cook for about 5 minutes. Add wine and cream. Turn heat up and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium high and add mussels. Cover and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until all shells open up. Stir mussels in the sauce. Discard any mussels that did not open.
plating the dish
Divide the mussels among two bowls. Spoon the luscious curry sauce over the mussels. Serve with warm crusty bread to soak up this delicious sauce. White wine or beer go well with this dish. Tip: One of the easiest ways to eat the mussels is to take a shell and use it as "pinchers" to remove the mussel from another shell and bring it to your mouth.
The first time I ever tried a soft-shell crab po' boy I was in New Orleans eating at a place, that in my opinion, served up the best--Ugeslich's. Not much for a hero sandwiches (give or take a few), this sandwich blew me away. So much so, that every trip to New Orleans started with a meal of this splendid treat, plus some oysters and a cold beer or two served by the owners, Anthony and Gail Uglesich. On my last trip to NO, I was saddened to hear the restaurant closed. It was a conversation before Hurricane Katrina, so it wasn't a complete surprise.
So, in this glorious soft shell crab season, I tip my hat to Anthony and Gail for the many years of culinary seduction they gave us all, while I prepare one of the few sandwiches I would consider serving as a Seduction Meal.
panko crusted soft shell crab po' boy
2 cleaned soft-shell crabs flour 2 eggs, beaten 1 cup Japanese Panko breadcrumbs Peanut or Vegetable oil Crusty Italian or French bread mayonnaise (you can use plain, garlic aioli, a basil or cilantro mayonnaise) mixed green lettuce sliced cherry tomatoes fresh squeezed lemon garnish: sliced scallions
In a deep heavy-bottom pan, heat 1 inch of peanut oil over high heat. You want the oil to cover the crab 1/2 way
Dredge cleaned soft-shell crab in flour, coating all side
Dip floured crabs into beaten eggs and then dredge into panko breadcrumbs, coating well
Reduce heat to medium and place the soft shell crabs into the pan
Fry crabs until golden brown and cooked through, turning a few times so as not to burn
Drain the crabs on paper towels using a rack
Warm the bread for the sandwich in the oven for about 3 minutes
Remove the bread from the oven. Slather mayonniase on both sides
Lay a small hand-ful of greens on the bottom of the sandwich and top with one of the crabs
the legs will hang over the sandwich--this is a good effect and allows you to nibble on the legs first
Next add sliced cherry tomatoes, sqeeze fresh lemon juice over sandwich, and garnish with scallions
Salt and Pepper to taste, and dig in. I like a nice chilled glass of beer with my sandwich
Kudos for your spontaneity. Two hours ago you made plans with dream-girl / dream-guy...dinner at our place and then some. The very thought of your bold move causes your right eyebrow to raise as a
lascivious grin spreads across your face.
Suddenly your mind races. Hmmm, what will I wear? I need wine.... and flowers. And dinner...what to do about dinner!
Let's face it, for most of us 2 hours is not enough time to show off our culinary prowess in the kitchen and get ready for this special tryst. Don't let that get in your way. You can still share a great savory Seduction Meal before your evening workout. Remember: great food, creative presentation, sultry music, good drinks, a warm, welcoming set-up, and you are golden.
Enter Risotteria Restaurant. With no time to cook this gem of a place serves up food so good you'll keep this filed in your little black book for emergency moments just like this. Order your meal and have it delivered while you set the table, put out fresh flowers, light the candles, get your music play list going, and spray a little perfume on your pillows.
I will start by saying the food is addictive. I innocently ordered in one night-- risotto and salad, and was blown away by the amazing taste. Risotteria offers three different risottos: Arborio, Vialone Nano and Carnaroli "the caviar of rice". Select the risotto of your choice and top it with any of their 35 unique combos. Whatever you choose will easily set the tone for a Seduction Meal extraordinaire.
Here are a few of there tantalizing selections- my all time favorite is listed first and presented in the photo above:
Arborio risotto with porcini mushrooms, sweet corn & white truffle oil
Arborio risotto with shrimp, garlic, hot peppers and arugula
Vialone nana risotto with fontina, zucchini, tomato and parsley
Vialone nana risotto with gorgonozola cheese and walnuts
Carnaroli risotto with roasted chicken, kalmata olives and peppers
Carnaroli risotto with roasted pork shoulder, garlic and Italian parsley
Carnaroli risotto with Parma ham, fontina and arugula
Prices for risotto range from $10 to $16. One order of risotto is plenty for two--it is so rich, and when complemented with one of their salads, you will more than satisfy your partner. My favorite salad, photographed below, is so good! Mixed Greens with mozzarella, asparagus, and oven-roasted tomatoes. They deliver it dry with the dressing of your choice on the side. Pass on the dressing and use your own extra-virgin olive oil with a little balsamic vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Uncork a good bottle of wine, dim the lights, and you are good to go.
The New York Times review says it all "... Risotteria has boiled it down to a science, using just the right ratio of butter and oil to flavorful chicken stock, producing risotto that stays creamy not only over hours but overnight, and also reheats well".
Good to know should you wake up ravished the next day wanting more....and then some!
270 Bleecker Street, NYC
On a last note. I learned of Risotto Restaurant from my friend who wanted to try the extensive gluten-free menu offered here. I shared a pizza meal with her and it was really good! So if you need to eat gluten-free go online and check out their menu for award-winning gluten free breads, pizza, paninis, beer and more. Or just stop by when you are in the West Village. The restaurant itself is small, very noisy and cramped--it's no wonder they have such a big take out business. Thankfully risotto travels well.
Who can resist hot and spicy? This is a guaranteed hit and very easy to prepare. You can serve this as an appetizer with French bread to soak up the garlic flavored olive oil, or you can toss in some of your favorite cooked pasta and serve as a main coarse.
Spicy Garlic Shrimp
1 lb of medium size shrimp, peel and devein (I leave the tails on, but that's up to you) 1/2 cup of olive oil 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 3 medium cloves of crushed garlic A dash or two of sea salt
To infuse the flavor of garlic and pepper, pour 1/2 cup of olive oil
in a large skillet, add pepper flakes and crushed garlic and let stand
for 1/2 hour. When you are ready to cook, turn up the heat high to get
the oil nice and hot. Turn heat down to med-high and add 1/2 of the
shrimp. Cook shrimp until they turn pink on edges (about 2 minutes per
side), turn each shrimp and cook until the entire shrimp is pink (2
minutes). Remove immediately, do not overcook. Place shrimp in a plate
and cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining shrimp (there should be
plenty of oil left). Place shrimp on a serving dish, pouring some of
the oil over the shrimp. Serve with crusty french bread to soak
up the flavored spicy olive oil.
I used to take this great photography class at Cooper Union whereby the instructor, Eric Feinblatt, would throw out a word a week and our challenge was to go out and shoot our interpretation of that word. The work presented by the students was extraordinary; filled with creativity, thought-provoking approaches and enough conversation and critique to fill each class. You were inspired to push yourself beyond the expected.
I took this approach when I stumbled upon this image. I loved the way the food was styled, shot and presented; so I decided to reverse engineer this process by concocting a recipe to go with the photo. While I am not a food photographer, and this photo is definitely better than mine, I have to say this dish tasted as good as the original shot looked.
Salmon Tobiko Rolls
4 oz - 8 oz of smoked Scottish Salmon*
4 tablespoons of creme fraiche
2tablespoons of whipped cream cheese
2 tablespoons of tobiko caviar (fish roe)
1teaspoon of fresh, finely chopped chives
fresh cracked pepper
1/2 cup of mixed greens
2-4 tablespoons of fresh Malossol American Keta Salmon Caviar
*Note: This recipe provides enough of the creme fresh mixture for 8 rolls. 4 oz of smoked salmon makes 4 rolls, 8 oz = 8 rolls.