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Even if Valentine's Day is often regarded as a creation of the greeting-card industry, I do think it's a good excuse to celebrate relationships. This Italian-themed menu, which is packed with "aphrodisiacs," offers the perfect opportunity to indulge in a little hedonism. In general, libido-enhancing ingredients include chocolate, chilies, ginger, honey, pine nuts, figs, garlic, rosemary and others. I have incorporated some of these into this dinner, which is easy to make and takes no time to prepare.

For the starter, I have chosen buffalo mozzarella, a rich, soft cheese from Italy's Campania region, where the buffalos eat grass that gives a special flavour to their milk. Look for DOC Campania status on the container for authenticity.

Red meat is not necessarily an aphrodisiac, but my husband thinks it's the perfect choice for a main course, which makes him feel good about me! I have loaded the dessert with sexy ingredients, but don't eat too much - that has its issues, too.

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Locanda Verde is a dynamic New York restaurant where executive chef Andrew Carmellini produces stylish, simple Italian food with heart. The restaurant is very hard to get into unless you stay at the Greenwich Hotel, which reserves certain tables for guests. This starter is inspired by one I had there. At LV, Carmellini used burrata, a creamy Puglian mozzarella that is available in stores from time to time. If you can't get it, buffalo mozzarella is a great substitute.


1/2 cup roasted chili peppers from a jar, diced

1/2 cup roasted red pepper, diced

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper

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2 slices ciabatta bread, cut on the bias into long, thin slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, cut in half

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

6 leaves escarole

1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

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1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 ball buffalo mozzarella or burrata


Combine roasted chili peppers, red pepper and parsley for a kind of peperonata. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat a barbecue or broiler to high heat. Brush both sides of bread lightly with 1 tablespoon oil. Grill or broil for 30 seconds per side or until golden and crisp. Rub one side of each slice of bread with cut side of garlic clove. Reserve.

Heat remaining tablespoon olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add rosemary and fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until lightly crisp. Scrape out of pan and set aside.

To serve, place escarole on a plate and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Place a mound of peperonata next to escarole and add the ball of mozzarella to plate. Scatter with fried rosemary and serve with grilled garlic bread. Serves 2.


Make sure you bring the steak to room temperature before searing. Serve with fingerling potatoes and a simple arugula salad.


1 2-to-21/2-inch (5-to-6-cm) thick Porterhouse steak

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Maldon salt


Brush steak with olive oil. Pat on rosemary and garlic. Let sit for one hour or up to 12 hours refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Season steak with salt and pepper. In an ovenproof (preferably cast-iron) skillet, sear steak over high heat for 2 minutes a side. Pop into the oven and roast for 12 to 20 minutes, turning once depending on how rare you want it and how thick it is. It should read 125 F (52 Celsius) on an instant-read thermometer for rare.

Let sit for 5 minutes on cutting board. Cut off sirloin and fillet and slice into pieces. Serve a little fillet and a little sirloin for each portion. Sprinkle with Maldon salt. Serves 2 with leftovers for sandwiches.


If figs aren't available, use plump dried apricots and cook them in the port and orange juice mixture until they are glazed.


4 figs

1/4 cup port

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon grated ginger

2 ounces (125 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 cup mascarpone at room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream (low-fat is fine) at room temperature


Preheat oven to 350 F. Trim stem ends of figs, then cut down through stem end in the shape of an X to the base but not through it. The figs should sit open like a flower. Place in small oven-proof baking dish.

Combine port, orange juice and ginger and pour over figs. Bake until sauce is caramelized and figs are soft (about 25 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Place chocolate in a small, heavy pot over low heat. Stir occasionally until melted.

Combine mascarpone and sour cream in a bowl. Stir in melted chocolate.

Place ΒΌ chocolate mixture in a wine or parfait glass. Add a fig, some glaze (if any), more chocolate and finish with a fig. Repeat with second glass. Serves 2.

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