Spice Up Your Valentine's Menu

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Aphrodisiacs are simply foods, herbs and spices thought to inspire desire. As Valentine’s Day reminds us of some of our favorite aphrodisiacs, we think of the typical temptations: oysters, champagne, caviar, chocolate, figs and lobster. But I like to discover new ways to tempt my love's tastebuds. I have a romantic picnic basket for two and a plan to wander through the park for a special day of celebrating our love. Picnics mean lazy afternoons on a blanket with my lover, eating slowly together, enjoying flirtatious conversation, and lots of kissing (of course).

Cooking at home or preparing a picnic is a refreshing change from the usual (stressful, crowded and overrated) dinner for two at some fancy restaurant. In the spirit of romance, love and all things Aphrodite, I was searching for a way to delight my darling during our picnic and park adventure. I had thought that a few well made sandwiches and some other portable side dishes would be perfect (let's not forget the bottle of champagne).

If you aren't up for a romp in the meadow with a basketful of sexy edibles and a blanket like I am, the patio or your dining room is the next best thing. That's when I realized that lunch is sexier than dinner. What could we eat that would give us a little zing? Let's see, there's ginger. That's my favorite aphrodisiac. But what about something for sandwiches? Pasta? Mustard... yes.

Celebrated for its aphrodisiac properties by many cultures, mustard’s zing will warm the body and boost the romantic temperature with every taste. Dijon mustard pairs perfectly with other ‘love foods’ such as crunchy pine nuts, delicate asparagus spears, and fragrant basil.

I do love basil. I was surprised that mustard paired with it so well. Basil is a wonderful euphoric and aromatic, lifting your mood and inspiring love. If you have any doubts on the effects of basil, or pine nuts for that matter, read my post on basil and its magical pesto infused powers.

For Valentine's Day, I'll be making sandwiches using fresh baked ciabatta, basil, avocado, tomatoes, arugula and Dijon mustard. Because I love to use more of something when I'm passionate about it, I found a simple yet lively pasta dish by Maille, and added my own sensual twist. I'm putting this into a container for a side dish to share on our picnic blanket. Can you imagine feeding each other this sensual dish spear by asparagus spear... a bite of a toasted pine nut, a sunny burst of lemon zest and basil... love is in this recipe.

Dijon Basil Pesto Pasta with Asparagus, Lemon & Pine Nuts

To please your vegetarian Valentine, combine the aphrodisiac properties of basil, mustard, garlic and asparagus into a deliciously seductive pasta. (For a gluten-free version, try some brown rice or quinoa pasta.) This recipe is simple to follow. Maille Dijon mustard can awaken a traditional basil pesto with a whole new flavor dimension just like a lover's kiss on a beautiful afternoon. It will make your lover say "Be Maille Valentine" with passion.

You can make this gluten-free by substituting your pasta with brown rice or quinoa pasta. It's a vegetarian dish, however, adding chicken breast would be perfect with the hint of Dijon mustard.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large handfuls of basil

  • 2 large leaves of kale, remove stems

  • 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts

  • ¼ cup of pistachios

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled

  • Juice of one large lemon

  • Zest of one large lemon

  • 1/3 cup of grated parmesan (light and fluffy, unpacked)

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons of Maille Dijon Originale mustard

  • Salt and pepper

  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1⁄2 pound of dry pasta (farfalla or penne) *(substitute gluten-free brown rice or quinoa pasta)

  • One bunch (approximately 1 pound) of fresh, thin asparagus spears, washed, 2 bottom inches trimmed off and discarded

  • Olive oil for grilling

Into a food processor or Vitamix, add the garlic and process until chopped very finely. Then add the basil, kale, pine nuts, pistachios, lemon juice, zest and grated parmesan cheese. Blend well. Through the opening spout, while the machine is running, add the olive oil. The addition of the olive oil will change the texture of the mixture, although it will remain mildly coarse. Add Maille Dijon Originale mustard and blend again. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a bit of heat, if desired.

Cook your favorite pasta according to package directions. I recommend farfalla or penne.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a grill pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Slice each trimmed asparagus spear in half on the diagonal, or chop the spear tips off then the stem.

Add the asparagus spears to the hot grill pan and sear for 2-3 minutes. Do not overcook. This method will cook the asparagus just enough to remove the raw flavor and give the spears nice grill marks and infuse them with a grilled flavor.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, return the pasta back to the cooking pot and add a 1-2 tablespoons of the pesto to the pasta. Taste and add more pesto until you reach the desired flavor. Serve the pasta in bowls and top with grilled asparagus spears, pine nuts and a little lemon zest.

Serve warm immediately --or-- serve as a cold side dish for a picnic. Yields two servings.

Wine Pairing: Chardonnay or Reisling

For more recipes using Maille mustards and products, follow this recipe link to discover delicious and delightful ways to use more mustard in your kitchen creations.


About Maille Dijon mustard and its history:

Created in 1747 by Antoine Maille, La Maison Maille stepped into history when the refined recipes first caught the attention of King Louis XV of France, becoming his official supplier of vinegar and mustard. Soon other European Royal Courts, including those of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Hungary, followed suit and granted Maille this significant honor.

Over the centuries, Maille has become the standard for high-quality condiments, continuously putting creativity, tradition, and know-how in the service of culinary excellence.

La Maison Maille has always been the choice of discerning food lovers who consider eating one of life’s great pleasures. The bold coat-of-arms, the black and gold color theme, and the iconic glass and sandstone jars symbolize the loyalty evoked in the signature “Il n’y a que Maille qui m’aille”.  Translated as “Only Maille can make me smile”, this famous French advertising slogan is still heard today, more than 80 years after its creation.

With inspired savoir-faire, a quest for perfection and dedication to refinement, Maille has continued to uphold and reinvent traditions by exploring, selecting and combining only the finest ingredients. 265 years of heritage can be experienced by tasting Maille’s products, sold today in more than 80 countries around the world.

Today, La Maison Maille remains the ambassador of French culinary refinement.