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When Gods & Goddesses Dine — The Ultimate V-Day Dinner

When Valentine’s Day rolls around, some quality chocolates and a bottle of bubbly are nice, but, really, we need a bit more to whet our appetites and stoke the flames of love. We’ve all turned to the trusty web to inspire creating a seductive atmosphere or cooking a swanky meal with aphrodisiac ingredients, but it can all be a tad intimidating — not to mention cheesy.

So, we decided to scratch all that, go back to the very beginning, and wonder about food and Valentine’s Day from perhaps the most divine vantage point of all. Imagine for a moment that every year on this day, mythological gods and goddesses of love gather for a gabfest over a simple but satisfying potluck meal. 

Consider these deities live for (and even embody) pleasure, their offerings would surely be indulgent, including everything from sweet wine to cakes that come from the moon. (Yes, cakes from the MOON! Why not?) While you might think that whipping up food fit for the gods is too hard to achieve at home, we assure you these recipes are doable and only a smidgen involved. Love gods are all about living it up, after all, not busting their butts in the kitchen all day. Read on for all the recipes you’ll need to have your own god-like Valentine’s Day dinner, and prepare to blow some minds (and maybe break some hearts). For more Imagined Dinner Parties, including A Witch's Halloween Feast and Santa's Staff Meal, check out Impatient Foodie
Photographed by Davide Luciano.
Aphrodite (Venus), Goddess Of Love & Beauty: Ambrosia & Aperitivo
No Valentine’s Day dinner would be complete without Aphrodite (AKA Venus), Goddess of Love and Beauty. While her son Eros (you know him as Cupid) is working his big night, Aphrodite gets to kick back and share a special wine that is normally reserved exclusively for the Gods on Mount Olympus, called Ambrosia. Mortals can get a taste by way of supermodel and actress Carole Bouquet’s absolutely delectable and sweet passito wine, Sangue D’Oro. We also imagined that Aphrodite would have brought a platter of traditional Greek finger foods, including herbed olives, spiced honey nuts, and pomegranate. These hand-delivered bites have a way of drawing attention to your mouth. Just sayin'…

Venus' Honey Spiced Nuts
Adapted from a James Beard recipe.

2 cups halved walnuts
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
1. Heat oven to 400°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper, pour in your walnuts and allow them to toast in the oven for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a pan, heat the honey, cumin, and coriander over high heat. Stir frequently and do not allow the honey to start boiling. Once it’s melted, turn the heat off.

3. Once walnuts are toasted, pull them out of the oven, pour on the honey mixture, and stir well to cover all the nuts. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and cayenne pepper.

4. Put the walnuts in the oven for 3 minutes. Once the time is up, remove and stir frequently while the nuts cool.

5. Add in salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Add more cayenne if you like more spice. Serve. If stored in a cool, dry space, these will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Rati, Hindu Goddess Of Love: Curry

As Rati is a Hindu goddess, her offering is a completely vegetarian option for the dinner party. Garlic and onion are usually at the base of curry recipes, but foods offered to (and, in our imaginations, made by) Hindu gods go without because, apparently, alliums act as sexual stimulants and mental suppressants, according to Vedic scriptures and Ayurvedic medicine. Unless you are a Hindu god or close observer of the Hindu faith, a couple of cloves of garlic and a yellow onion can (and should) be added to Rati’s curry recipe. And, um, isn’t the whole point of Valentine’s Day to “sexually stimulate,” anyway?

Rati's Curry
Serves 4 to 5

1 cup basmati rice
3 tbsp ghee
1 1/2 tbsp whole cumin seeds
1 tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp ground coriander
3/4 tbsp tumeric
3/4 tbsp chili powder (This makes the dish very mildly spicy, so add more if you like heat.)
1 tsp white sugar
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups light coconut milk
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bunch broccolini, cut into florets
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 handfuls of baby spinach
2 tbsp lime juice
Lime zest
Chopped cilantro, to garnish
Greek yogurt, to garnish

1. Be sure to prep and chop all your vegetables first. This will make life a lot easier and the cooking go a lot smoother.

2. Combine 1 cup of rice with 2 1/4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow to cook for about 40 minutes.

3. In a separate pot, melt ghee and add in the cumin seeds, cook until fragrant. Add the chopped eggplant and cook for about 2 minutes. 

4. Add in grated ginger and coarsely chopped tomatoes. Cook for about 1 minute. 

5. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in all your powdered spices (curry powder, tumeric, coriander, and chili powder). Heat for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Powdered spices can burn easily, so be careful.

6. Stir in sugar and tomato paste; blend together well for about 1 minute.

7. Add in the broth, coconut milk, and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Then, add in the carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccolini.

8. Allow the pot to boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Cover and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until vegetables are tender.

9. Discard the cinnamon and stir in the chickpeas, spinach, and lime juice and cook until spinach has just wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

10. Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice with a dollop of Greek yogurt and lime zest.

Yue Lao, Chinese God Of Marriage & Love: Mooncakes
Yue Lao, Chinese God of Marriage and Love (AKA The Old Man Under The Moon), ties destined couples together with his red silk cord. Once he connects a couple, legend has it, nothing can sever their union. He is said to live on the moon, so, naturally, we couldn’t resist the idea that he would bring Chinese mooncakes to this imaginary dinner party, even if these delicacies are traditionally enjoyed during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. 

We asked Yasmina Jacobs of EatMakeCelebrate to reimagine the mooncakes with red bean paste filling. These snowskin mooncakes are a lighter version of the traditional Chinese dessert. They are beautiful and not too sweet. If you are in NYC and making mooncakes feels a little out of your comfort zone, they are available at several bakeries in Chinatown; they're also available online here
Snowskin Mooncakes
If you live near an Asian grocery store you can buy all sorts of delightful pastes to use as fillings. Lotus paste is traditional, and green tea and black sesame are two of Yasmina’s favorites. If you don't have that luxury, you can easily make your own red bean paste. It’s painless, and so delicious we could eat this stuff by the spoonful!

For The Red Bean Filling 
1 cup red beans (Ideally adzuki beans if you can find them.)
1/2 to 1 cup sugar (Adjust the sweetness to your liking.)
1/3 cup solid coconut oil
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)

For The Mooncake Dough
1 cup glutinous rice flour (If you can find pre-cooked glutinous rice flour use that and skip steps 1 and 2.)
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup cold water
2-4 drops rose water (or other flavor/extract) 
2 drops red food coloring 

For The Red Bean Filling 
1. Rinse the beans and cover them in cold water. Soak them overnight (or at least 4 hours). Drain the beans and put them in a pot. Add enough water to cover the beans by 3 inches or so.  

2. Bring to a boil and then drop down to a simmer. Simmer the beans for an hour, adding about 1/2 cup of water every 20 minutes to prevent drying out. 

3. After an hour, the beans should be mushy. If they still feel firm, cook for another 20 minutes. Drain the beans. 

4. In a food processor or blender, combine the beans, 1/2 cup sugar, and the seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or vanilla extract). Pulse to combine. Taste the mixture and add more sugar if you'd like it sweeter.

5. Add in the coconut oil and blend to combine. Once the mixture has a paste-like consistency, place it in a sealable container. If you used a vanilla bean, add the empty pod to the paste so it can continue to give off flavor. 

6. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to a week. Discard the vanilla bean when you are ready to make your mooncakes.

For The Mooncake Dough
1.  Glutinous or sweet rice flour needs to be cooked for this recipe, so spread out the flour on a baking sheet. Use a bit more than a cup so you have extra. Bake the flour at 325°F for about 45 minutes. Check on it midway through and stir. The flour will get fragrant and become slightly darker, going from white to a light beige color. 

2. If it doesn’t appear to have changed at all, bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. It’s helpful to keep a pinch or two of the uncooked flour near the oven so you can compare the color. Once the flour is cooked through, take it out of the oven and let it come to room temperature. 

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the rice flour and sugar. Add in the coconut oil, working it into the dry ingredients with your fingers. 

4. In a small bowl or glass, add 2 drops of red food coloring and 3 drops of rose water to very cold water. Feel free to play around with flavors and colors to create a variety of mooncakes! You may not need all the water, so add it one spoonful at a time to the flour, sugar, coconut mixture. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until the dough begins to come together. 

5. Knead the dough for a minute or two. If it feels dry add water as needed, aiming for a soft, malleable consistency — almost like Play-Doh. If the dough feels sticky, cover it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

6. Roll the dough into 10 equal-sized rounds (you may have to adjust the number to accommodate the size of your mooncake press).

7. In between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, roll out one of the rounds into a disc. Place some red bean paste in the center of the dough, which is called snowskin; you want to have roughly matching amounts of filling and exterior. 

8. Fold the snowskin over the filling and roll it between your hands to smooth out any edges. Place into a floured mooncake press to shape it. If you don't have a press, take your mooncake ball and gently press down to flatten the top and bottom, then use a toothpick, fork, or mold to create a pattern or shape. Refrigerate your completed mooncakes for at least one day to set them before you eat them.      
Freya, Icelandic Goddess Of Love, Magic, & Divination: Apple Tarts
You may be thinking “Um, hello, apples are so not Valentine’s Day,” and we would agree. But, unlike many other deities, Norse gods are subject to aging and can only retain their youth by eating magic apples from the Goddess Idun. So, we imagined that Freya rode her chariot of cats over to Idun’s, picked up some of the magic fruits, and baked these gorgeous apple rose tartlets. Again, we asked Yasmina of EatMakeCelebrate to imagine what these magic apples would be, and, yes, they are surprisingly easy to make at home.

Freya's Rose Apple Tarts
Makes 1 large tart or 4 individual tartlets.

For The Pie Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 stick of butter (cut into cubes)
1/3 to 1/4 cup apple cider or juice

For The Pie Filling
2 apples 
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp sugar
Juice and zest of 1 blood orange
Juice of half a lemon

For The Pie Dough
1. In a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and pulse a few times until incorporated.  

2. Slowly add in the juice. You may not need all of it so start with half and drizzle in a bit more if needed. The dough should come together but it will still be crumbly.

3. Place the dough onto plastic wrap and form it into a disc. Wrap it well and refrigerate overnight.

For The Pie Filling

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Roll out the chilled dough and place it into the pie pans. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. You want to make sure the bottom is set but that the dough is not yet browned.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and blood orange juice.
4. Peel 1 apple. You will be using the peel, so peel carefully. Thinly slice both apples.

5. Place the peel and apple slices in the sugar and juice mixture. The blood orange will add flavor, color, and make the apples more vibrant.

6. Assemble the pie by rolling 1/4 of the apple peel into a bud, then add in the apple slices around it, building a rose as you work your way to the exterior of the pie crust.

7. Pour any leftover sugar-juice mixture over the pies before baking them. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Erzulie-Freda, Voodoo Spirit Of Love: Coconut Rice Pudding
Erzulie-Freda is so gorgeous and bewitching that she has three husbands, which is why she wears three beautiful rings. She is also known as one of the most generous goddesses and loves everything luxurious and decadent. As she adores sweet rice (Who doesn’t?) and has Haitian roots, we imagined she would bring a luscious coconut pudding, complimented with aphrodisiac vanilla to really get those sparks flying.

Coconut Rice Pudding

1 cup arborio rice
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
1 16 oz bottle of raw coconut water (We like Harmless Harvest brand.)
1/4 cup sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
Tiny pinch of salt
1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon (+ some for dusting)
1 tsp of ground ginger

1. Slice open your vanilla bean and use the pointy edge of your knife to scrape out the seeds in the pod. Set aside.

2. Put canned coconut milk, coconut water, and sugar in a pot over heat, stir, and let sugar dissolve.

3. Add and stir in the vanilla seeds, 1 cup Arborio rice, and a pinch of salt.

4. Bring the heat down to simmer, cover, and allow to cook for about 20 to 25 minutes until rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed.

5. Once rice is cooked, add in the ground cinnamon and ground ginger and stir well to mix. Serve warm or cold, dusted with a tiny sprinkle of cinnamon.

Qetesh, Ancient Egypitan Goddess Of Sacred Ecstacy & Sexual Pleasure: Kebabs
While civilians in ancient Egypt subsisted on a mostly vegetarian diet, Egyptian gods were offered hearty meals rich with beef, goose, duck, and pork three times a day. In fact (a little forensic history for ya!) carbon dating shows that many ancient Egyptian priests died from coronary heart disease, likely due to the fact that they ate these rich foods after ritual offerings…often.

Because she clearly has enough to go around, we imagined that Qetesh would bring a beef kebab covered in traditional dukkah spices for the Gods' Valentine’s Dinner. And, while dukkah might sound super-fancy and exotic, fear not — the spices in dukkah can be easily found at any grocery store. Throw ‘em together and the results are divine.

Qetesh's Kebab
Makes 2 

0.85 lbs of sirloin tips (cut into about 1 to 1 1/2-inch cubes)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
Bamboo (or metal) skewers

1. If you are using bamboo skewers, the very first step is to be sure that you soak them in a glass of water for a few hours, so that they don’t burn when you cook the beef.

2. Combine olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, and a pinch of salt; let beef marinate in the fridge in this mixture for an hour or up to 5 hours.

3. Remove the beef from the marinade and grill over a BBQ, or you can also cook them in a 375°F oven for 20 minutes, rotating once at the 10-minute mark. 20 minutes will produce a rare steak, so increase time if you prefer yours more thoroughly cooked. Don’t forget to turn them every 10 minutes!
4. While beef is cooking, gently toast the sesame seeds until they are golden brown. When beef is done, sprinkle seeds over entire kebab and serve immediately.
Special thanks to: Carole Bouquet, Yasmina Jacobs, Autumn Adeigbo, Jenel Stevens, and Sujata Thomas.

Recipes by ; Photographed by ; Props Styling by ; Styling by ; Food Styling by


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