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Cooking For Success On V-Day

Written by's Cecilia Lima.

Cooking to impress doesn't have to be complicated or difficult. You just have to make it fun and do it from the heart. found a chef who swears that by preparing a simple meal you can enchant that special someone — or at least enjoy the experience that many consider nothing but a chore.

Self-described "sensual cooking diva," Shani Castri has been giving group and individual cooking lessons in New York for two years. During the classes, she makes her students aware of foods that are sensual, romantic and have aphrodisiac qualities.

Her motto is use appetite for seduction. Here, she reveals two quick and easy aphrodisiac recipes, as well as the top five steps to be successful in your love life through everybody's love of food.

For a special touch at the end of the meal, Tina Casaceli, director of pastry arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York, advises you to have something rich and decadent for dessert — like her exclusive recipe for chocolate fondant cake with raspberry swirl ice cream.

Cooking for success, by Shani Castri

1. Dating and getting involved with people can be very intimidating these days. But if you say, "Let's go eat," hopefully nobody is going to say, "I'm sorry, I don't eat." You can still bring some romance into it. Cooking is very intimate but it's not intimidating.

2. Make cooking fun. Drink some wine or enjoy a cocktail. Listen to your favorite CD. Dress up or wear something sexy so you'll feel good about yourself. If you are married and avant-garde, keep only your underwear on.

3. Step outside your comfort zone. Do something different. If you've never tried sea urchin or oysters, give them a try. Who knows what you might try later, when the lights are off.

4. Use your five senses: smell, see, taste, hear, and touch. For instance, try eating with your fingers. Be a little more carefree — and have fun.

5. If you don't want to cook dinner, order it out and make dessert, even if it's just whipped cream over strawberries. Make things simple and enjoy.


Fettuccine with pancetta, peas and truffle butter
By Shani Castri,

120 grams of fettuccine
1 slice of pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons shallot, minced
1 heaping tablespoon black truffle butter
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup white wine
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Grated parmesan cheese

1. Fill large stock pot with cold water. Add salt, then the pasta.

2. Warm olive oil and pancetta over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Cook until tender. Add shallot, then sauté a few seconds until transparent. Turn heat to high, add white wine and simmer until the alcohol burns off. Add cream and reduce 1/4 of the sauce. Add salt and pepper to sauce.

3. Add frozen peas to pasta water a few minutes before pasta is al dente. When pasta is one minute from ready, strain and add it to cream sauce. Finish cooking together and add truffle butter. Toss pasta and divide into two low bowls. Garnish each dish with parsley and a fine grating of Parmigiano.

Fonduta di cioccolato piccante
By Shani Castri,

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 bar good dark chocolate (2 oz or 50 grams)
1 stick cinnamon
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
3 cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 tablespoon coffee (optional)

1. In a small bowl, combine all items but chocolate. Microwave for 2-3 minutes.

2. Chop the chocolate, place in serving bowl and pour hot cream over chocolate about 3/4 way up. Mix until melted and thick.

3. Use chocolate sauce for dipping or drizzling, and save some for later in the evening.

Suggestions for dipping: sliced banana, simple biscotti, dates, walnuts, sliced pear, macaroons, marshmallows, graham crackers, and anything that you like.

Chocolate fondant cake with raspberry swirl ice cream
By Tina Casaceli, French Culinary Institute (New York)

135 grams butter
250 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped
25 grams cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
150 grams egg whites
50 grams powdered sugar

1. Melt the butter in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the chopped chocolate to the melted butter and mix until smooth. Use an immersion blender if necessary. Add the cocoa and the salt. Mix to blend.

2. Using the KitchenAid fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg whites to stiff peak, while slowly adding the powdered sugar. Carefully fold the hot chocolate mixture into the meringue.

3. If baking the fondant immediately, brush three-ounce molds with soft butter and coat with sugar. Otherwise, use clean molds.

4. Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1½-inch diameter tip, fill the molds three-quarters full. At this point, the fondant can be stored in the freezer for later use or baked if being served immediately.

5. Bake at 390°F for approximately seven minutes, until the top is nicely risen. Unmold immediately and serve hot with chocolate sauce, crème chantilly and ice cream.

6. For the ice cream, combine vanilla ice cream with raspberry sorbet. Serve with the warm chocolate fondant cake.


  • The unbaked mixture should be light and airy.
  • The baked fondant should be well risen.
  • The center of the fondant should be warm and liquid.
  • The outside of the fondant should be almost cake-like.