Love on the Menu: Planning a Plant-Based Valentine’s Day
- a food, drink, or drug that stimulates sexual desire.
Does get-in-the-mood food really exist? Is it true that certain ingredients actually stimulate blood flow or juice your hormones at all — let alone enough to make you feel a little tingly? Yes! Yes! Yes! (See what we did there?)
A wide assortment of foods and medicinal plants have been studied for their abilities to enhance sexual health and vitality, with positive results. From the way berries enhance feel-good chemicals like dopamine to the study of asparagus as a treatment for sexual dysfunction, the plant kingdom is rich with ingredients that act as true aphrodisiacs, and in manners as varied as plants themselves!
Our Valentine’s Day menu won’t just woo your love with sumptuous textures and delectable flavors; each course is also centered around ingredients with recognized aphrodisiac effects. Whether you serve this menu start-to-finish or just pick a course or two to cook, you’ll be upping your chance for a night of romance.
Berry Smash Cocktail
While too much alcohol can kill the evening, a responsible amount can do everything from increase libido to enhance sexual pleasure. The color of this cocktail depends on which antioxidant-rich, dopamine-promoting, berry or berries you choose: strawberries and/or raspberries will yield a vibrant ruby red; blueberries and/or blackberries will create an indigo drink; a mix of red and blue berries will give you a purple drink.
If using frozen berries, which work just as well as fresh in this drink, thaw before serving. So don’t feel the need to bust your February budget on hard-to-find fresh ones!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
- 1 cup berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or a mix
- 4 oz vodka or other spirit of choice
- 2 oz Cointreau or other orange liqueur
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Ice as needed
1. Muddle berries in a shaker until completely mushy.
2. Add remaining ingredients and a handful of ice; shake well.
3. Strain into two glasses. This can be served up in a coupe glass, or in a rocks glass with ice.
A gratin is a creamy vegetable dish with a crunchy topping, and it’s the perfect intro course to a sexy meal— especially when it has those two ingredients as its stars! This serves four, making for a delightful day-after lunch leftover.
Prep Time: 15 minutes active, 1 hour inactive
- 3 cups thinly sliced celery
- 3 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
- 1/2 cup vegan creamer
- ¼ cup vegan cream cheese
- 3 tbsp vegan butter, melted
- 1 tsp seasoned salt
- 1 tbsp dried herb blend such as Herbes de Provence
- 3 tbsp bread crumbs (plain or panko)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a 9-inch baking dish, arrange sliced fennel and celery in rows. Sprinkle with salt and dried herbs.
3. Mix melted butter, creamer, and cream cheese together, then pour over vegetables. (Bits of cream cheese are fine.)
4. Cover with foil and bake until soft, about 35 minutes.
5. Remove from oven. Remove foil, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and return to oven for bread crumbs to crisp, an additional 15 minutes.
Legend has it that the classic pasta dish puttanesca (the name “puttana” means “whorish” in Italian) was cooked up by courtesans as a quick meal between clients. It’s also been said that a prostitute once made it for a client, who loved it so much it carried forward to become a regional Italian dish. Whatever the origin, you won’t miss the traditional anchovies in this spicy tomato-based pasta sauce. The chile flakes help increase blood flow, so push your heat tolerance a pinch past your norm.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
- ½ lb pasta of choice
- 2 cups diced tomatoes (jarred or canned)
- ½ cup kalamata olives
- 2 tbsp capers
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large pinch red pepper flakes
1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over med-high heat.
2. Add garlic, tomatoes, olives, capers, and pepper flakes; sauté for five minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook an additional 15 minutes until sauce has darkened.
4. While sauce simmers, cook pasta according to package directions.
5. Drain pasta into cooked sauce and toss well.
Nutty Seed-Breaded Asparagus
A mellow accompaniment to punchy puttanesca, asparagus is another surprise aphrodisiac that holds up well to study. So do nuts and seeds, and individual nuts and seeds have their own specific benefits (pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc, for example, which boosts virility). Feel free to swap out the ones chosen here for any you prefer—just chop them finely, to make sure they stick to the asparagus.
Prep Time: 10 minutes active, 20 minutes inactive
- 3 cups asparagus spears
- ¼ cup almond meal or flour
- 2 tbsp flour (white, wheat, or all purpose gluten-free)
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- ¾ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- 1 vegan egg
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. If desired, trim bottoms off asparagus. Pour the vegan egg onto one plate, and mix seeds, almond meal, flour, salt and pepper on another plate.
3. Run each asparagus spear through the egg, then the dry mix, and place on a lined baking sheet.
4. Baked until tender and golden, about 20 minutes.
Chai-Chocolate Bananas & Figs
The fact that chocolate is full of feel-good chemicals is well established. It contains phenylethylamine, or PEA, which triggers that “in love” feeling — one reason a box of chocolates is such a good gift for your sweetheart. Figs, one of humanity’s oldest cultivated fruits, have long been regarded as a fertility symbol. The spices in chai stimulate the nervous system, and each have their own benefit in relation to sexual health. Lastly, bananas contain bromelain (a libido booster that fights impotence) as well as potassium, which can boost testosterone levels.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp neutral oil (such as grape seed or avocado)
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- 1 small pinch black or white pepper
- 1 cup banana, sliced
- 1 cup dried figs
1. Melt chocolate, seasonings and butter over low heat in a pan or double boiler.
2. Dip slices of banana and figs into chocolate; once dipped, place fruit on a lined cookie sheet or drying tray to firm up.
Food styling by Ariane Resnick, C.N.C.