I’ve had a request for a dish using squid ink linguini, so this morning I was on a mission as I browsed my local farmers’ market. This one’s for you, Todd.
Jalapeno pesto was one of Mario’s innovations when I worked at Po Restaurant in the 1990s. We used a dollop of it in a spicy mussel dish with couscous. It’s a very versatile condiment that adds a kick of heat to just about any dish in which you might otherwise use whole chili peppers or chili flakes. The oil seems to mellow the peppers a bit and the result is a nice floral note of spiciness added to your finished dish.
These jalapenos were grown by the vendor I bought them from, so he could attest to their heat.
The black ink linguini were also bought from a local vendor who sells all manner of flavored and colored pastas.
Although I must admit that the flavor of this particular black linguini isn’t markedly different from simple white pasta, it does have a certain distinctive gumminess, and makes for an impressive and festive presentation.
This dish would work using any of a number shellfish or mollusks (mussels, scallops, shrimp or crab). My seafood vendor had the most beautiful cooked, shelled Maine lobster meat this morning, and I am partial to lobster over those other shellfish. I asked to smell it and taste it, and it tasted as good as it looked.
The other ingredients in this dish are a combination of aromatics I’ve used in many other recipes in the past–garlic, shallots, scallions (always good with seafood), basil, mint, chopped fresh tomatoes, white wine, and of course, jalapenos.
Having the lobster pre-cooked makes this dish quick enough to make from start to finish in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. The jalapeno peppers are coarsely diced, placed in the food processor with salt and oil, then pulsed into a coarse paste, then set aside. The aromatics are sauteed, wine is added then reduced a bit, tomatoes and herbs are added, then the lobster meat. The hot pasta is added to the skillet and tossed with a touch of pasta cooking liquid. The pesto is placed on top of each individual portion for that fresh and spicy kick in every bite.
The heat of various “hot” peppers can vary widely. My vendor told me that the red peppers were significantly hotter than the green ones, but I tried a sliver of each one before determining in what ratio to combine them. It turned out that although the red ones were indeed stronger than the green ones, neither were too hot. Therefore, I used an equal amount of red and green to make the paste without the worry of scorching anyone’s palettes.
Although this dish is substantial enough to serve as a main course, today, I couldn’t resist the local hog snapper, so I made a main course of hog snapper (see my mother’s pesce in umido, substituting scallions for onions). Alongside the fish, I served a salad of local dandelion greens and Florida tangerines, dressed with red wine vinegar, agave and olive oil.
Spicy Squid Ink Linguini with Lobster and Jalapeno Pesto
1 lb black linguini
1 lb cooked lobster (or crab) meat
4 jalapeno (or other hot) chilis
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bunch scallions, whites and light green parts only, chopped into 1/4″ rounds
1 shallot, finely diced
1/4 c + 2 tbls olive oil
1/2 c white wine
1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and diced into 1/2″ chunks (about 1/2 cup of chunks)
12 mint leaves
6 basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
To make pesto, slice chili peppers into strips, discarding the seeds and slicing off any white ribs.
Dice into 1″ pieces and place in the food processor with 2 tablespoons oil and 1 pinch of salt.
Process into a paste, pulsing and stopping to check on consistency–not too finely. Set aside.
While pasta water is coming to a boil, in a skillet, saute shallots, garlic, scallions in olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes.
Turn up heat and add wine. Cook for a minute to reduce. Add chopped tomatoes and continue cooking on low until pasta is almost cooked.
When pasta is a minute shy of done, add basil and mint leaves to skillet, as well as lobster meat. Toss in pasta, along with a half-cup of cooking liquid.
Turn heat to high and toss to combine. Taste for salt and serve immediately. Top each serving with a dollop of pesto.