Noir-hued menu

Wicked: This year, do Halloween in a more elegant way. Make a meal starring foods that are as black as they can possibly be to create a noir-hued menu designed to raise eyebrows -- deliciously. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

Toast 1 cup black sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, 3-5 minutes. (You may need to toast them in batches.) Put seeds in a blender with 2 cups soy creamer or heavy cream, 1 cup vanilla soy milk, 1 cup creamed hazelnut honey or regular honey. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker. Freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Serve garnished with fresh mint leaves. 

Makes: 6 servings  

Fried black rice
In "Sylvia's Table" (Knopf, $35), author Liz Neumark calls for a 50-50 mix of two types of rice: black and either Carolina Gold or brown rice. Our Halloween adaptation uses all black rice. The dish originated with chef Bill Telepan of Telepan restaurant in Manhattan.

Steam 1 bunch asparagus over simmering water in a covered saucepan until just tender, 5-7 minutes. Remove asparagus from the steamer so that it doesn't overcook; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add 2 beaten eggs; scramble until cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Chop the eggs up with a spatula; set the pan aside. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced; cook, 1 minute. Add 2 cups cold, cooked black rice and 1/2 cup cooked peas; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup vegetable stock (homemade or good-quality store-bought); cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste; stir in the cooked eggs.

Divide the rice among four warm bowls or plates; top with the asparagus.

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

Black beans
Canned lower-sodium black beans speed up this recipe from Cooking Light's "Lighten Up, America!" (Oxmoor, $29.95) by Allison Fishman Task. For better flavor and texture, you can use dried beans that you've soaked and cooked in place of the canned product. Serve the beans as is, topped with a dollop of sour cream and minced cilantro, or roll up in warm black tortillas with some grated Monterey Jack cheese and tomatillo salsa.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion and 3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup water and 2 cans (15 ounces each) 50 percent-less-sodium black beans, undrained (or use 2 cups cooked beans; if using beans you have cooked yourself, you may need to add more water or use some of the bean cooking water). Heat to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring frequently, until slightly thick, 30 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar.

Makes: 6 servings