Nerdy Lasagna: Super Lemon Haze, Watchmen and Squid Ink Spaghetti with Calamari
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Nerdy Lasagna: Super Lemon Haze, Watchmen and Squid Ink Spaghetti with Calamari

Cole Rispin

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Welcome back to Nerdy Lasagna, the food blog that pairs my favorite nerdy things with Cannabis and pasta. This week I was in a slippery situation. The same question plagues me every night, as I’m sure it does you. What am I going to cook for dinner? The dreadful question is the bain to all of our existence. But recently a new question has presented itself to me, one that is similar to the dinner question but slightly different…slightly worse…slightly more terrifying. What am I going to cook for my blog?

Watchmen

What to make to match this incredible show?

I’ve wanted to do something with HBO’s new series Watchmen, a sequel of sorts to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Hugo award-winning and New York Times Best Selling graphic novel. But what do I make? Eggs seemed like a good choice with the number of egg references the show has had. Dr. Manhattan was seen making waffles. Do I make waffle pasta? After a week of pondering, I finally came to my frustrating conclusion. Skip this week and work on my Christmas ideas while wallowing in a twisted combination of self-doubt and sadness.

Suddenly, I get a phone call from my brother Ben asking if I had any plans for the Watchmen series. “No, I’m not doing one,” I replied, having already accepted my defeat. “You should do a Calamari pasta,” he states with the confidence you can only get when you know you have an incredible idea. I paused. “I hate Calamari…but that is a brilliant idea”. So my dish is chosen, but now a new challenge arises. Can I make a Calamari pasta that I, myself enjoy? Let’s spark one up, because I can’t turn down a brilliant idea or a challenge.

And so, another food adventure begins.

Eataly

Eataly has opened up in Toronto and it is the market of my dreams.

The adventure began in Toronto’s new hippest spot, Eataly. Only 7 locations in the world. This Toronto location is Canada’s first. As soon as I entered the doors and the smell of deli meat and cheese, fish pastries, Italian coffee, and cooking pizzas and pasta hit me, my senses were quickly overwhelmed. There was so much to see and explore. The chef in me was in absolute bliss. I wandered about the massive market, taking the sights, sounds and smells all in. I sampled fresh prosciutto and ate handmade mozzarella from a little old man who has been making the cheese for 52 years.

The place was incredible and inspiring. After eating lunch and exploring I quickly realized I had spent the whole day there. I walked around thinking about all the different pasta dishes I could make. Unfortunately, nothing popped out in mind for my Watchmen Calamari dish until I passed the fresh pasta section and noticed the fresh Squid Ink Spaghetti. The inspiration hit me like a ton of bricks. I have been wanting to use the black colored pasta in a dish for some time and this is clearly the perfect opportunity to do so. My dish idea is picked and yes, I am doing a double dose of Squid.

Italy is eataly

Eataly was incredible and I cannot wait to go back, even if it’s just to have Mozzarella again.

We know what Squids are. The man-eating monsters that lurk in the ocean depths which grow to be giant real-life kaiju and terrorized sailors including the great Captain Nemo and Kirk Douglas. They have 2 tentacles and EIGHT arms to tear you apart for its beaked mouth to devour your bits. Listen to this description from the always trustworthy and never wrong Wikipedia: “The suckers may lie directly on the arm or be stalked. Their rims are stiffened with chitin – a glucose derivative also found in the walls of fungi – and may contain minute toothlike denticles.” Mmmm, sounds delicious right? Ok, I may be having a harder time with this dish than originally thought.

Giant squid

Shown here, actual footage of how I caught tonight’s dinner.

To put the whole Calamari thing into context, at the end of the celebrated graphic novel Watchmen, a giant mutated squid is teleported into New York then quickly dies, creating a psychic blast that kills half the population of New York. Although the reader knows this was the actions of the world’s smartest man, Adrian Veidt – also known as the superhero Ozymandias – the world believes this was an interdimensional attack and thus – as Veidt planned – world peace is achieved.

The Zach Snyder film took a different approach and changed the ending to a more realistic outcome of having the world turn on Dr. Manhattan – instead of a giant interdimensional squid – to achieve world peace. For the film, at the time, this was definitely the right direction to take. It was a more “realistic” ending and, let’s face it, more palatable to a general audience. An audience who may have never read the graphic novel and may take a giant “alien” squid as unbelievable. The show however fully embraces the weird. It acts as a sequel to the book and not the film, giant squid attack and all. I was surprised the show was using the comic ending. I too had my doubts. Happily the show blew all that doubt away in the first episodes.

It made me wish the film also had embraced the squid. I loved seeing a world impacted by something so wild and fantastical happen to it.

Watchmen squid

HBO’s Watchmen fully embraces the comic books ending.

That is where the beauty of the show lies. Watchmen expands on the source material while simultaneously not changing a single thing. It adds characters, settings, and elements all of which act to enhance the original source material. HBO’s Watchmen – in my opinion – is the best possible sequel a story like Watchmen could have. When HBO first announced they were creating a show based on the Watchmen graphic novel I admit I was a bit weary when I heard Damon Lindelof was attached.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy his work. I know the infamous writer has a shaky relationship with the nerd community but come on, Lost and Leftovers were great. I actually like most of his stuff, if I continue to pretend Prometheus and World War Z don’t exist. No, what worried me was the fact he said a sequel to the novel should never be made. But this got me thinking, maybe this attitude going into the project allowed him to look at this source material with the respect it deserved and bring it into a new direction. Or, he is a super fan with connections and heard HBO would be making a Watchmen series, so he abandoned all his beliefs and burst into the HBO offices shouting “I’ll do it!”.

In either case, it seems to have worked out for everyone involved – including us, the viewers.

The show is fantastic.

As this was a new recipe for me – and squid not being my thing – I recruited three people who love calamari to be my food critics. The idea man, Ben, his girlfriend Hayley and my wife Holly. “Bah! A biased panel!” you scream at your screen? Don’t worry, unlike Sports or The View, I hear you. Before you completely write the dish off based on my judge picking skills, please consider this: Holly and Hayley, I admit are overly nice and would never tell me how they truly feel if they hated the dish. Fortunately for me, they are also two people who cannot do the same with their facial expressions. They might say “I love it!” But their face would clearly state “what is this putrid mass of waste you fed me, you sick bastard!?”

As for Ben, I think the fact he brought his own pasta to cook is all you would need to know about his honesty.

Cole Rispin squid ink spaghetti noodles

Checking on the Squid Ink Spaghetti noodles

As I raced around the kitchen in a stress, researching recipes while picking all my favorite elements to create something I (and others, of course) would enjoy, Ben packed a bowl of the cannabis strain; Super Lemon Haze and passed the bong my way. Let me tell you, it was exactly what I needed. Luckily for me, it also made the perfect complement to the dish. Ben is two for two on this blog. The tart and sweet citrusy flavors of the bud match the fishy dish perfectly, and with it being a Sativa dominant strain it is a perfect smoke for before and after your meal. The energetic buzz was the pick me up I needed, crushing my stress while cooking a brand new dish. The euphoric high you receive after was perfect for watching the wild and twisted universe of HBO’s Watchmen.

Calamari

The sauce – like most plots – thickens. This is a shot before adding the saved Pasta water.

Once I locked down a recipe and determined exactly how I was going to bring everything together, the dish was actually super simple to make. As stated before, I am not a fan of calamari. I have always stated that it is a texture thing and not a taste thing. Too rubbery for my tastes. One common statement was said in every “how to cook Calamari” guide I researched: Do not overcook as it will become rubbery. Really? Was it true? Was my distaste for calamari solely based on the fact I have only ever eaten poorly cooked calamari?

Suddenly my excitement level went through the roof! I actually have a chance here of loving what I am about to cook. I started with frozen Calamari – I know, already a risky move – but it turned out great. After I defrosted the rings I quickly fried them till light brown then I removed them to set aside which was the key to keeping them not overdone. Then the sauce was straight forward from there. Super easy, super fragrant and because you are using one pot, cleaning up is a breeze.

Squid ink spaghetti with calamari

I am amazed at how delicious black colored pasta looked

As I took a few pics of my finished bowl of Calamari and Squid Ink Spaghetti the judges enjoyed their food. Only a few minutes had passed and I joined the judges at the table to eat. The four of them were already close to finishing their spaghetti. I believe none of them breathed as they inhaled it. I asked them if they enjoyed their food and all three of them snapped to attention – coming back from their trips to food heaven.

The three of them looked at their almost finished meals and chuckled.

Holly exclaimed she loved it as she took her final bites of the dish with a look of genuine joy. Hayley had already finished and began to laugh as she exclaimed how much she loved it with a surprised look on her face. I think she shocked herself at how much she liked it. As for Ben, the man who was already dropping excuses of an upset stomach before he had eaten – in case he had to bail on the awful dish – ate the whole thing exclaimed it was restaurant quality and never brought up his “upset” stomach again for the whole night. I am just happy I was able to take some pictures. I have a winner and a brand new addition to the good old recipe box. Thanks again, Ben for the ideas. You can be my Kirk Douglas anytime.

Squid ink spaghetti with calamari

The Finished Dish: Squid Ink Spaghetti with Calamari

Food: Squid Ink Spaghetti with Calamari 

I know it is not a traditional thing to do, pairing calamari with squid ink noodles. But for the nerdy pairing of Watchmen, I went for the double dose of squid anyways. If you are a purist or simply cannot find Squid Ink Spaghetti, try fettuccine or linguine, both would be great replacements for this dish.  

 

Prep Time: 20 minCook Time: 20 min Total Time: 40 min 

 

Course: Main CourseServings: 2 – 4

 

Ingredients

  • Black Ink Spaghetti Noodles (Fresh or Dry) 
  • 3 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Crushed tomatoes 
  • ¼ cup White Wine
  • ½ cup Reserved Pasta Water
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Oregano, minced
  • 2 large cloves Garlic 
  • 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes halved 
  • 1 large Shallot thin sliced 
  • Salt and Black pepper to taste
  • Squid (Thawed if frozen, Cleaned and cut into rings if fresh)

 

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 3 – 4 Minutes if fresh. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile add 1 Teaspoon of oil to a hot fry pan. When the oil is hot add the Thawed Calamari and quickly fry till browned on both sides. Remove and set aside in a bowl.
  3. In the same pan, add shallots and garlic and cook till fragrant. 
  4. Add Wine and reduce, collecting up all the brown bits left behind from the calamari.
  5. Pop in the Cherry tomatoes and Oregano. Cook until the tomatoes are softened. 
  6. Add Tomato sauce and Calamari. Simmer until cooked through, season with Salt and Pepper to taste.
  7. Once the Pasta is cooked, reserve a cup of water and drain the pasta well.
  8. Add the Pasta water to the sauce and stir. The pasta water is the trick to a nice smooth sauce. Start with a little and add more reserved pasta water for your desired effect.  
  9. Divide pasta into bowls and top with the sauce.
  10. Serve and enjoy!

 

My guests enjoyed the dish. As for me? Still not my thing. Although I loved the sauce and noodles, I still couldn’t get over the calamari. Cooked perfectly and not rubbery at all, I no longer can claim it is a texture thing. I simply cannot get over eating a thing with tentacles. Like the character “Looking Glass” in Watchmen, I too would be spending my days and nights hiding in my bunker, not for the fear of a horrible psychic attack that would literally melt my brain…

…No, I just don’t want those slimy things touching me.

The world of HBO’s Watchmen would be my nightmare.

Canned pasta watchmen

Me eating Chef Boyardee in my bunker hiding from the squids.

Writer, producer, gamer, podcast host, cat enthusiast, and a lasagna connoisseur. Taught by the very best at The Second City and armed with a diploma in Screenwriting, Cole's diverse writing portfolio includes music videos for bands such as Walk Off the Earth, television pilots for Bite TV and the dark comedy graphic novel, Strike The Dead.

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