This is a deceptively simple pasta dish that relies on some unusual ingredients: Fermented black garlic, black sesame seeds, squid ink pasta and black trumpet mushrooms. Before you even start, no, there is no substitute for them. That said, You can buy dried black trumpet mushrooms and black garlic from Earthy Delights, here’s where you can buy Black Sesame Seed, and here is where you can buy Squid-Ink Spaghetti from Sardinia.
Why a black meal? I am fascinated by color, or in this case the absence of it. I wanted to do a black meal for a while, then I thought making it in honor of the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, would be fitting. I’d been thinking about this dish a while, and in my head it got more and more complicated. Until I just figured to make it a simple pasta dish.
Or seemingly so. You need to follow the directions to get the full effect of the flavors. Why bother? It is a striking presentation, alarming and attractive at the same time – plus it is delicious. The squid ink pasta is a bit briny, the trumpet mushrooms have their usual umami punch, bolstered by the black garlic, which is a star of this show: mellow, aromatic (like roasted garlic) and pervasive, nothing comes close to it.
As for the black cumin and black sesame seeds, they add texture and nuttiness. Want to go one further? Use some Hawaiian black salt right at the end…
- 1 pound squid ink pasta
- 1 head black garlic
- Double handful of dried black trumpet mushrooms, or ½ pound fresh
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large minced shallot
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon black cumin seeds (optional)
- Kosher salt
- Juice of a lemon
- Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 1-2 cups of water hot from the tap. Cover and let soak for 1-4 hours.
- Toast the black sesame and cumin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until you can smell them and the first few seeds begin to pop. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Get a large pot of salty water hot.
- When the mushrooms are ready, strain them off and reserve the liquid. Pour the liquid through cheesecloth to remove any grit and then pour it into the pan you toasted the sesame and cumin in (without the seeds!) and set it to a boil. You want to reduce it by half.
- Pick over the mushrooms and rinse if needed. Black trumpet mushrooms are notoriously gritty, and you want them as clean as possible. Pat dry and set on paper towels.
- When the mushroom water has boiled down by half, take it off the heat.
- Start boiling your pasta.
- In a food processor, put the peeled cloves from the head of black garlic, a pinch of salt, about 1 teaspoon of shallot, half the cumin and sesame seeds, and a splash of the mushroom water. Buzz to combine. Add about a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add more mushroom water as needed to make a sauce with the consistency of cream, only black. Taste for salt and lemon juice and add if needed.
- Get a large sauté pan hot over medium-high heat. Pat the mushrooms dry again and add them to the pan. Shake it and toss constantly as the mushrooms lose their water. They should squeak a little. When they begin to lose their water, add the olive oil and the shallots and sauté until the shallots just begin to brown.
- Add the garlic sauce, bring it to a simmer and turn off the heat.
- When the pasta is cooked, add it to the sauce and turn on the heat to medium. Toss to combine. Taste and add more lemon juice if needed.
- Serve at once, with the remaining cumin and sesame seeds on top.