Shopping for a dinner calculated to inspire passion is an adventure. In fact, it appears that Washington's food and wine merchants could have taught Aphrodite an erotic tip or two.
"Eat oysters and you'll love longer," insisted Moe Cheramie while shucking plump Louisiana oysters at his Old New Orleans Seafood Market. "It's the iron that gives men that extra energy."
"Persil, pas de fromage," whispered Patrick Noel over his cheese counter at Giant's Someplace Special, pointing his finger at the fresh parsley. (Clearly his brie, however tasty, would not be included in this dinner). "I don't know why...," he mused. "That's what my father always said."
The dinner drink for Aphrodite? Champagne, of course. "That turns me on," said Sidney Moore of Mayflower Liquor. "Wine is a good way to get rid of your inhibitions, which is really what you're talking about."
But alcoholic beverages aren't the only ones that promote love. "Ginseng and damiana are our most popular herb teas," revealed Gwynn Zan Seenus of Hugo's Natural Foods. Damiana, well known throughout South America, is an herb similar to oregano. It's also sold at local health stores in capsule form. A teaspoon of damiana steeped in tea at bedtime should do the trick ... and you can add a little whiskey if you want.
So it went through Washington's merry-go-round of marketplaces. "Every new bridegroom eats olives for dinner, zabaglione for breakfast," said a Sicilian. "It's the egg yolks and the wine." An Arab suggested, "Cardamom in your coffee." Within minutes my shopping basket could have overflowed: garlic, the oldes aphrodisiac of them all, plus all the members of the onion family, pomegranates, tahini, every kind of pepper, coriander, nutmeg, ginger, caviar, shell-fish, chicken, eggs, elephant tusks, chocolate and ground rhinoceros horns.
Generally speaking, the favored aphrodisiacs are delicate, exotic, light.Our favorite fettucine alfredo, tournedos rossini, baked stuffed potatoes, cheese, French bread and a rich chocolate torte, however mouthwatering, just won't do.
So for my passion-inducing menu, I tried champagne with a dinner of stuffed oysters with onion, shrimp, scallions, garlic and parsley, followed by pheasant with imported olives garnished with kiwis and pomegranates ending with a white chocolate truffle and a cup of damiana tea. Did that work? Ask my lover. Alex Patout's Oysters a Deux Serves 2 as an appetizer, double for a main course 2 tablespoons diced medium onion 2 tablespoons diced green pepper 1 tablespoon diced rib celery 1 chopped small clove garlic 2 tablespoons butter 1/4 pound cooked and chopped medium shrimp 1/2 pint oysters, chopping all but 6, saving 6 shells 1 slice French bread, soaked in oyster wter 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 1 tablespoon chopped scallion 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon thyme Drop Tabasco Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese 3/4 teaspoon paprika
Saute the onion, pepper, celery and garlic in the butter until soft. Add shrimp, chopped oysters and water and cook 4 minutes. Add soaked bread, parsley, scallions, lemon juice, thyme, Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste. Cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. This can be done ahead. Stuffing should be stiff.
Just before serving, place the whole oysters on the shells. Spoon about 2 tablespoons stuffing over each, or enough to cover completely.
Place shells on baking sheet. Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and the paprika. Sprinkle lightly over the shells. Place in a 450-degree oven for about 15 minutes or until bread crumbs are brown. Serve immediately. Pheasant With Olives Serves 2 to 4 4 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled 1 2 1/2-pound pheasant, cut into 8 pieces Freshly ground pepper to tt aste 3/4 cup white wine 3 tablespoons marsala wine About 20 chopped and pitted black Greek olives 1 bay leaf 1/4 cup water
In a heavy frying pan, cook the garlic in the oil until tarlic is blondish. Remove, squeeze juice from the husk and add pheasant pieces, which have been sprinkled with pepper. Brown on both sides. Remove meat and add the wine, marsala, olives and the bay leaf. When the wine has slightly evaporated, add water. Return to a boil, lower the flame, add the pheasant, cover and simmer about 50 minutes more or until pheasant is cooked, adding more water if necessary and adjusting seasoning. Serve on individual plates sprinkled with olives and sauce, accompanied by wild rice and garnished with circles of kiwi splashed with pomegranate for color.