Forget what your mother told you about eating with your fingers. If romance is your intent, this is the only way to go. In the best of all possible worlds, you'll prime all your senses from the first moment the two of you come together. Which is why you should cook supper together, then linger over the meal, savoring each and every taste and touch for as long as you feel like it.
If you think feeding your partner that nubbin of shrimp or choice stalk of asparagus is hokey, get over it. One of two things usually happens: either you're reduced to giggles by the silliness, or stirred on to bigger and better things. With any luck, both will occur. This brings us to the perennial aphrodisiac question: What is and what isn't?
I have no doubt cave folk swapped aphrodisiac theories as they roasted mastodon around the fire. Aphrodisiacs usually come down to the big three: how a food looks, how it feels in the mouth and dubious theories about the magical performance it might instigate. My own theory is fire the imagination and the senses will follow.
So here's a menu to get things started. Much of it is finger food; all of it is delicious and light.
1. Make panna cotta and chill at least 6 hours ahead.
2. Steam asparagus.
3. Rinse and dry salad.
4. Make dressing.
5. Marinate shrimp.
6. Cut up mango.
7. Steam rice — keep warm covered.
8. Assemble salad and serve.
9. Stir fry shrimp and serve with rice.
10. Serve dessert.
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Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.