Of course, cooking is a matter of taste and color. This phrase from Latin (of gustibus and coloribus non disputandum) says all the subjectivity of our taste buds and our pupils. However, it is the same with the color of food as that of feelings, they are essential to us, as underlined by Claudette Berset, professor of industrial biochemistry, in the preface of Food color, from theory to practice (1): “The association of color and food is part of the intimate relationship we have with our environment, it partly governs the choice of our food and the sensation we experience of it. We eat in colors as much as in flavors. In all the markets of the world, whatever the culinary traditions or the climatic conditions, the greens, the reds, the yellows, the purples, the oranges or the whites rub shoulders, call out and enhance each other, forming palettes of tones vivid which inspired the greatest painters. “
She emphasizes that this proximity between color and food is revealed through many words borrowed from fruits and vegetables to name the colors: “The terms eggplant, plum, peach, fig, orange, tangerine, honey, saffron, paprika, chocolate, brown, salmon, pepper, cherry red, raspberry red, apricot, mango, spinach, wine lees, apple green, lemon yellow … Have been recovered in the fields of textiles, furniture, fashion, design or the automobile. ”
Asparagus and dandelions
The color in the markets and on our plates refers to our psychic and culinary seasons. This is how we rejoice at the return of sunny days with the shades of green of spring shoots such as peas, beans, young salads, asparagus, dandelions while the pastels of early vegetables bring a feeling of lightness. Summer is undeniably associated with the warmth of reds and yellows with tomatoes, peaches, apricots, while autumn brings us back to the tawny nuances of the undergrowth with mushrooms, medlars and nuts. In winter, everything is allowed on the palette to warm up the gray days: is this why mulled wine is very often red infused with slices of orange and lemons when, frankly, a heated Alsace white is much more delectable at the foot of Strasbourg Cathedral or elsewhere? It is an understatement to say that we dread the pale in the plate because it refers to the tasteless, even to the bad. It took us the time of the dictatorship of nitrite salts which turn industrial sausages pink to regret the gray but famous artisan ham of childhood.
Of all the colors, black (but is it really a color? Big question…) is the most intriguing on the palate. Certainly, “The light comes from the dark” As the painter Pierre Soulages said, but the dark side of food is not generally the most coveted, except for the truffle, this often elusive nugget which is as much black magic as it is gastronomy. In the kitchen, black is the prerogative of tools: the good old cast iron casserole dish and calaminated sheet pans. But when it obscures the frichti, there is often a suspicion of burning in the air.
However, there are magnificent dishes that draw their strength from their very dark color. We are of course thinking of beef bourguignon, hare à la royale but also mloukhiya, this Maghreb specialty revealed to us by our friend Nordine Labiadh, the chef of the restaurant “A mi-chemin” in Paris. Today, we invite you to cook with squid ink to which Zeina Abirached and Karim Haïdar have just devoted a delicious pamphlet to the editions of the Epure (2). The first draws, illustrates, is the author of several graphic novels “Written in French and drawn in Arabic”. The second is a cook, author and chair of the Arab World Cooking Academy.
Here is their recipe for “squid ink spaghetti”. Clean a large 600 gram cuttlefish. Reserve the ink bag. Rinse the tentacles, fins and belly pocket. Cut everything into 1 cm pieces. Put in a saucepan. Add the ink contained in the pocket or a tablespoon of ink, a teaspoon of dry white wine, a tablespoon of olive oil, a clove of degermed and chopped garlic, a little bit salt (be careful, the ink is salty) and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for twenty-five minutes. In a large Dutch oven, bring three liters of water to a boil with a tablespoon of coarse salt. Dip in 350 g of spaghetti. Simmer two minutes less than the time indicated on the package. Pour a ladle of the cooking water into the cuttlefish preparation. Drain the spaghetti, add them to the cuttlefish. Cook for about two minutes. Serve and enjoy. When the season is right, brown small diced pumpkin in a little olive oil with a little nutmeg. Add them directly to the plate.
(1) Tec and Doc Editions
(2) Cuttlefish ink, ten ways to prepare it, by Zeina Abirached and Karim Haïdar, ed. de l’Epure, 2021, 8 euros.