Spicy Moroccan soup, South African bobotie, lentil curry from Nepal, even Mexican burritos.
When you're looking to cook up some vegetarian romance, the world's cuisines offer plenty of ways to stimulate the senses.
"It's a lovely way to do it, especially if you've been somewhere and you want to recreate a magical moment," says Troth Wells, author of "One World Vegetarian Cookbook" (Interlink, 2011). "Think of Turkey and Istanbul and the mosques and extraordinary churches. I get excited just thinking about it."
Oysters and steak with bearnaise have long been the standard for "romantic" meals, but Wells says the inherent sensuality of vegetables will tickle the senses without leaving you too full to frolic after.
"There's such an array of colors and shapes that you can put on your plate," she says. For Valentine's Day, try an orange vegetable bake, full of sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, and red peppers. "Anything you want to put in there that's red and orange sends out a warming message."
And then there are the spices. Considered aphrodisiacs by many ancient cultures, spices such as nutmeg are said to increase amorous function. Chili releases endorphins, while cinnamon, cardamom and cloves have historically been considered erotic scents.
"Like diamonds and perfume today, anything that's expensive and requires some dangerous exploits to get it has some sexual excitement to it," she says.
Start the evening with Moroccan olives infused with nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and chili, then move to a main dish of Nepalese lentils spiked with ginger and turmeric. For dessert, Colombian hot chocolate infused with fresh ginger and green chilies combines the sensuality of chocolate with the fire of spices.
"There are a lot of things about these that stimulate not only the palate, but the appetite in general," Wells says.
This stroganoff is great served over brown or red rice, as well as mashed potatoes or the more traditional noodles.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound button or mixed mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
6 tablespoons creme fraiche
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.
Increase the heat to high and add the mushrooms, paprika and nutmeg. Saute for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and brown.
Add the white wine and balsamic vinegar, then stir well. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, then the creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes or noodles.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 142 calories; 72 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 2 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber; 66 mg sodium.
(Recipe adapted from Troth Wells' "One World Vegetarian Cookbook," Interlink, 2011)