By Debra Simon


Can you fire up passion over char-grilled oysters? Get whipped into a frenzy about beef bourguignon? Sweeten your love's life with red velvet whoopie pies?


Sure thing — if you have a taste for pleasure!


From the Triangle with love comes Carolina Woman's multicourse dinner for Valentine's Day. We've included dishes that feature such traditional aphrodisiacs as oysters as well as those that just seem sexy, such as French onion soup.


So, get in the mood for these romantic recipes from recent cookbooks. Who loves ya, baby?


— Starters —


Home Made Winter

Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang










Watercress With Smoked Almond Goat Cheese Scoops & Red Wine Syrup
1/2 of a 750-ml bottle red wine
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons turbinado or Demerara sugar (natural brown sugar)
3 star anise
8 cardamom pods
5 ounces seedless red grapes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 ounces soft goat cheese
1/2 cup smoked almonds
1 bunch fresh watercress, stems removed

Heat the wine in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve, then add the anise and cardamom and bring to a boil. Boil the syrup for about 25 minutes, until it's slightly thicker. Reduce the heat to low and add the grapes. Warm the grapes in the syrup for about 7 minutes.


Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.


Divide the goat cheese into 12 equal portions. With clean hands, roll the portions into small balls.


Pulse the almonds in a food processor until coarsely ground. Roll the goat cheese balls in the almonds to coat them.


Place the cheese balls on a tray or baking sheet, cover them, and place them in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.


To serve, wash and dry the watercress. Arrange some nice leaves over 4 plates. Arrange the goat cheese balls on top and spoon grapes in syrup around the cheese.


Makes 4 servings




Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook

200 Delicious Recipes

Published by Robert Rose









Classic French Onion Soup
6 large onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 cups beef broth
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry or brandy (optional)
12 slices baguette, about 1/2-inch thick
2 cups shredded Swiss or cheddar cheese (approximately)


In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine onions and butter, stirring well. Cover and cook on high for 45 to 90 minutes, stirring twice, until onions are softened. Add brown sugar, salt, pepper and soy sauce. Place two clean tea towels, each folded in half (so you have four layers), over top of insert. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours, stirring three or four times to prevent onions from sticking and burning on edges of insert, until onions are very soft and deep brown. Stir in beef broth, chicken broth and sherry (if using). Leave tea towels off. Cover and cook on high for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until very hot.


Preheat broiler. Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and toast on both sides. Sprinkle cheese on one side of each slice and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with cheesy bread.


Makes 6 servings



— Mains —

Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook
Bridal Edition

Published by Wiley











Beef Bourguignon
1 pound boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onion (3 medium)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups Pinot Noir or Burgundy wine
3/4 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
3 cups whole fresh mushrooms
2 cups 3/4-inch pieces carrot (4 medium)
1 cup pearl onions, peeled, or frozen small whole onions
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
2 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, and crumbled
3 cups hot cooked noodles


In a 4-quart Dutch oven, brown half of the meat in hot oil; remove meat from Dutch oven. Add remaining meat, chopped onion and garlic. Cook and stir until meat is brown and onion is tender. Return all meat to Dutch oven.


Stir in wine, broth, thyme, marjoram, salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and bay leaves. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered for 45 minutes. Add mushrooms, carrots, and pearl onions. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes more or until meat and vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaves.


In a small bowl stir together flour and butter to make a smooth paste; stir into meat mixture. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Stir in crumbled bacon. Serve with hot noodles.


Makes 6 servings




Cooking Confidence

Dinner Made Simple

Published by The Taunton Press







Baked Crepes With Creamy Mushrooms & Prosciutto
1/2 ounce dried wild mushrooms
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1/2 pound fresh button mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe crepes (below)
2 tablespoons dry homemade breadcrumbs


Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the dried mushrooms and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the water. Chop the mushrooms coarsely and set aside. If the mushroom water is sandy, filter it through a paper-towel-lined strainer; set aside.


Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have evaporated their liquid, 10 minutes. Add the chopped wild mushrooms and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the reserved mushroom water, turn the heat to high, and simmer, stirring constantly, until almost dry, 10 minutes. Turn the heat to medium, add the prosciutto and continue to cook for 2 minutes.


Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the milk, stirring constantly, and cook until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushroom-prosciutto mixture and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and season with salt and pepper.


Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9- x 12-inch baking dish.


Place a crepe flat on the work surface. Spread half of it with a few tablespoons of filling. Fold in half, then quarters, forming a triangle. Stand the triangles in the baking dish so the curved side is up and the crepes are overlapping one another. Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and brush on the tops of the crepes. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the top. Bake the crepes until golden on top, about 20 minutes.


Makes 12 crepes; 6 servings


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
1-3/4 cups milk
4 eggs
4 to 5 tablespoons unsalted butter


Put the flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl and add the milk slowly, a little at a time, mixing vigorously with a fork to avoid lumps. Add 1 egg at a time, beating rapidly with a fork after each addition. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.


Grease the bottom of an 8-inch crepe pan with 1 teaspoon of butter. Place the pan over medium heat. Stir the batter, pour 1/3 cup into the pan, and rotate the pan to completely cover the bottom. As soon as the batter has set (45 to 60 seconds), loosen the crepe with a spatula and flip the crepe. When the other side is firm, remove the crepe from the pan and place it on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the batter, stirring the batter occasionally and adding batter to the pan if the crepes begin to stick. The crepes can be stacked on top of one another until ready to use.



Taste of Treme
Creole, Cajun and Soul Food From New Orleans's Famous Neighborhood of Jazz

Published by Ulysses Press









Xavier Char-Grilled Oysters
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
32 oysters, shucked, liqueur reserved on the half shell
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley


Fire up your grill to medium-high heat. Melt the butter with the garlic and pepper in a large skillet over medium heat. Combine the Parmesan and Romano cheeses in a small bowl. Spoon some of the melted butter sauce onto each oyster. Add a pinch of the cheese mixture and a pinch of parsley to each oyster, then place on the grill. Grill the oysters until they are hot, bubbly and puffed up, about 8 minutes.


Makes 3 to 4 servings







— Side —

Come In, We're Closed
An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World's Best Restaurants

Published by Running Press








Olive Oil Smashed Potatoes and Arugula
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil,
plus additional to serve
2 large white onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sea salt
1-1/2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 cups arugula, packed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


In a large skillet, heat half of the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and caramelize until deep golden brown in color, about 55 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.


Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil; add the whole, skin-on potatoes. Boil until a paring knife pierces cleanly through without resistance, about 40 minutes.


Drain the potatoes and cut each in half. (This is a hot job; use an oven mitt.) Immediately return the potatoes to the pot along with the onions in their oil. Using a potato masher, smash quickly – they should be more lumpy than smooth – then stir in the remaining oil and arugula until wilted with a heavy spoon. Add more olive oil to taste, and season generously with salt and pepper. Serve immediately straight from the pot.


Makes 4 servings




— Desserts —

Simply Sensational Cookies
Bright Fresh Flavors, Natural Colors and Easy, Streamlined Techniques

Published by John Wiley and Sons








Nutellos Three Ways
1 cup Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread, at room temperature
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
3 tablespoons unsweetened natural (non-alkalized) cocoa powder or Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
About 1/3 cup clear crystal sugar, turbinado sugar, or other coarse granulated sugar for garnish


Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 325 degrees. Set out two large baking sheets.


In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat the Nutella, butter, cocoa powder, baking powder and 3 tablespoons water until well blended. On low speed, beat in about half the flour. Beat or stir in the remaining flour just until smoothly incorporated. If the dough is too dry and crumbly to hold together, beat or stir in a little more water. Pull off scant 1-inch dough portions and shape into balls. Roll them in a saucer of the crystal sugar until coated. Space them about 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press down into 2-inch, evenly thick rounds with a palm.


Bake one pan at a time for 12 to 16 minutes or until the cookies are barely firm when pressed in the center top.


Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Let the cookies stand until cooled completely. For sandwiches, spread nutella between cookie pairs.


Variation: Nutellos Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
Make the dough, then shape into balls and roll in sugar as directed. Press a deep indentation into the center top of each ball with your thumb or knuckle. Put 1/2 teaspoon seedless raspberry jam or preserves in each cookie. (Don't use jelly, which tends to run.) Bake as directed, except increase the baking time by 1 to 2 minutes. Let the cookies cool until the filling sets, at least 1 hour, before packing for storage.


Makes thirty-five to forty 2-1/2-inch cookies




Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets
100 Delicious Desserts to Pick Up and Eat

Published by The Taunton Press








Mini Red Velvet Whoopie Pies With Marshmallow Filling
For the whoopies
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring paste (or 1 tablespoon liquid food coloring)
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature


For the filling
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 jar Marshmallow Fluff
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla paste or seeds scraped from 1 large vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Colored sprinkles, for garnish (optional)


Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick liners.


Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl until well blended and no lumps remain. Put the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well blended and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended between additions. Add the vanilla and food coloring with the last egg. Stop to scrape down the bowl and the beater as needed. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended. Add the sour cream and mix just until blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.


Using a 1-tablespoon mini scoop, shape the dough into balls and arrange about 1-1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one whoopie comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes. Move the sheet to a wire rack, let the whoopies sit for 10 minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.


Make the filling
Put the butter and Fluff in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until well blended and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt. Continue beating until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.


Assemble the whoopie pies
Turn over half of the cooled whoopies so they are flat side up. Spoon a slightly rounded 1 tablespoon of the filling onto the center of each whoopie. Top with the remaining whoopies, flat side down. Press gently on each top to spread the filling almost to the edge. Roll the edges in the sprinkles, if using, to coat the frosting. Serve immediately or chill for 30 minutes. Whoopie pies are best when served at room temperature.


Makes 28 filled whoopie pies