Flowers, candy, romantic dinners, moonlight strolls, kisses under the stars, dancing till dawn ... hand written love letters equals Valentine’s Day. Love in any language is many things and of course it goes hand in hand with the food we love, desire and crave! Cupid must have struck us with one of his “love of food” arrows.
I really wanted to know about Cupid and his arrows. I had questions unanswered. Did Valentine’s Day traditions really come from the Roman’s Cupid? Personally, and being a proud Greek American, I was convinced it had to come from the Greeks, so I began researching. And to my disappointment, this “day of love” comes directly from the Romans, or does it? For the love of Valentine’s Day, I looked further for more concrete proof.
We think of Valentine's Day as a Christian holiday, but many of the symbols for this holiday came from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, seduction, etc. Her son, Eros, is the Greek god of love. Knowing that I searched on. I wanted to know what mythical God is really represented on Valentine's Day? Cupid (Roman) or Eros and Aphrodite (Greek)?
Valentine's Day symbols started not with the Roman’s Cupid, but with his ancient Greek mythology predecessor Eros, yes, the son of Aphrodite. So, I’m going with Eros. Now Eros originally was shown in classical Greek art as a slender, winged young boy; it was during the Hellenistic period that he must have eaten too much baklava because by then he was portrayed as a chubby young boy with wings and arrows. Either way, Cupid or Eros, we all desire a little love in our life. So, “please join our table” as we are struck with the arrows of the “love of food,” be it Roman or Greek or any food we love.
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
A few years ago, while celebrating Valentine’s Day by dining out at a fabulous country club, I indulged in a chocolate brownie bread pudding for dessert. It was, by far, the best bread pudding I have ever tasted, even better than my previous favorite at Brennan's. Unfortunately, the chef at this country club would not share his recipe. However, I recently came across a recipe that I edited (of course) that I think comes close.
5 1/2 cups 2 day-old *brownies (they must be stale) with or without nuts, your choice, cut into 1/2-inch cubes/pieces
3 large eggs, beaten
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar mixed with 1/4 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 ounces dark chocolate chips (the best you can find), reserve 1/4 cup
Cinnamon flavored ice cream or whipped cream
*Chocolate syrup infused with amaretto, rum, Kahlua or cinnamon flavored liquor
Fresh raspberries (optional)
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Place the brownie cubes in the skillet and set aside. Place the skillet on a baking sheet. In a large bowl combine egg yolks, eggs and vanilla. Whisk until well blended. Whisk in the cream, milk, cocoa sugar, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the milk/pudding over the brownie cubes in the prepared cast iron skillet, gently pressing down on the brownie cubes until all are covered by the milk/pudding. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips over the bread pudding. Place skillet (still on the baking sheet) in the center of the oven and bake for about 50-60 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Remove from the oven and place skillet on a wire rack on the counter for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with chocolate syrup infused with rum and then topped with whipped cream or ice cream and raspberries.
*I sometimes use a chocolate cinnamon syrup called Nestle Abuelita.
*If you want to use bread instead of brownies, I suggest stale brioche bread.
My Chocolate Valentine BBQ sauce
Here is a unique but delicious way to enjoy a savory chocolate sauce on Valentine’s Day. I first had a version of this on beef ribs at a restaurant called One Hot Mama’s - one taste and I was hooked. Try my chocolate BBQ sauce on your favorite ribs or even chicken or pork. FireCraft BBQ, Texas Q and even H-E-B’s True Texas BBQ have great ribs (be advised, the dinosaur ribs at H-E-B are only available only on Friday evenings.) I hope you enjoy my finger-licking Chocolate Valentine BBQ sauce. The chocolate in this sauce enhances the spiciness with a touch of sweetness that adds richness and body to the flavor.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 shallots, minced
1 ounce extra dark semisweet chocolate, chopped or use chocolate chips
1 1⁄2 cups chili sauce
1⁄3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules (I like to use Starbucks VIA Ready Brew instant coffee packets.)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (ACV)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1-2 tamarind pods, chopped, skin and seeds removed (Dates can be substituted if you can’t find tamarind.)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
DIRECTIONS: Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots; cook 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more or until soft. Stir in chocolate, ketchup, sugar, coffee, honey, vinegar, cocoa, Worcestershire, mustard, chili powder, salt, pepper, coriander, tamarind and cayenne; cook 2 -3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until desired thickness is reached. This sauce can be kept in the fridge, covered, up to five days or freeze up to one month.
*Tamarind is a sweet and sour fruit with large seeds and a sticky pulp.