Halloween menus, if there are such things beyond raiding the kids' plastic jack-o'-lanterns, tend to get all cutesy with the likes of boo-berry cupcakes, wormy pasta dishes and, inevitably, quasi-bloodshot eyeballs made from deviled eggs.

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.

What's interesting about these inky ingredients is that they make any color -- the coral pink of a baby octopus in a tangle of squid ink pasta, or the green tip of an asparagus spear amid the grains of forbidden rice -- stand out dramatically against the black.

Foods with deep black hues set the stage for Halloween dinners: Black rice, squid ink pasta, blackberries. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
Foods with deep black hues set the stage for Halloween dinners: Black rice, squid ink pasta, blackberries. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT) ( Bill Hogan )

There's much to discover in those noir-hued foods, once you get past the innate fear of mortality that color has long symbolized -- or embrace its spookiness. Savor the slipperiness of squid ink linguine or the sturdy nuttiness of black rice. Relish the electric tartness of fresh blackberries and the visual shock of ice cream made from black sesame seeds, an idea that hails from Lafayette food writer Ying Chang Compestine, whose newest cookbook, "Cooking With an Asian Accent" is due out from Knopf in January.

Here are some ideas (and a couple of recipes) to bring the darkness of the night indoors.

Black rice: Make a pilaf, cooking the rice with dried cherries, currants and chopped mango; stir-fry with bits of fried egg, green onions and tiny shrimp; wrap black rice tortillas around chicken in a molé sauce; or toss cooked black rice in a sesame oil vinaigrette, topped with slivers of toasted nori and black radish rounds

Squid ink pasta: Garnish with chopped tomatoes and sautéed squid or octopus (see recipe); sauce the pasta in a mustard cream, garnished with a spoonful or two of black caviar; or pair black farfalle with poached lobster.

Black olives: Stuff hard-cooked eggs with tapenade; make flatbread pizza topped with slivered Nicoise olives, sprigs of fresh rosemary and a grating or two of Parmesan cheese; or serve olives seasoned with orange, garlic and fennel (see recipe).

Blackberries: Mortar the layers of a devil's food chocolate cake with a blackberry jam, either your own or store bought; top an espresso-stained custard or chocolate pudding tart with rows of fresh blackberries.

Black lentils: Serve straight up to showcase these glistening beauties, or as a bed for a roast meat entree or vegetable sauté. Or pair with black rice and sautéed mushrooms.

Black beans: Slow-simmer and serve over rice, the classic Moors and Christians of Cuba; puree and thin with a bit of chicken stock, an elegant soup topped with chopped hard-cooked egg white and some minced lemon rind; cook, coarsely mash and shape into cumin-scented burgers, a la Berkeley food writer and chef Mollie Katzen.

Black sesame seeds: Use as a flavor and color base for ice cream; make stuffed Chinese-style dessert buns; press sesame seeds atop sugar cookies and bake.