kasha spaetzle with red bean sauce, chantarelles, herbs

Here’s a winter-y version of spaetzle - a really unique noodle from northern Italy and the surrounding area.  In these areas, semolina isn’t really a thing and 00 flour rules.  Historically, the mountainous regions of the north weren’t even totally invested in wheat flour, relying on many alternatives including flours made from buckwheat, corn, chestnut, and rye, often in combination with wheat flour.  Here, buckwheat adds color, flavor, and texture to these spaetzle.  I’m horribly jealous of anyone with a flour mill - I could only imagine how good this pasta could be with freshly ground buckwheat flour.  Anyway, spaetzle is one of the quickest pastas to make even if it takes a little bit of muscle (unless you have a spaetzle maker).  The key to this texture here is the carbonation in the water, which creates microscopic air pockets in the dough.  The only other cooking method I’ve seen using carbonated water is in tempura, where it makes a batter that can really puff up. The Ideas in Food book has a lot to say about carbonation including methods for carbonating pancake batter, and I think there are a lot of vegan applications down this path.  For this recipe, you will need a colander with large holes, at least ¼ inch in diameter, as well as a slotted spoon.

bean puree:

150g dried kidney beans 

1 shallot

½ a medium yukon potato

1 small carrot

1 small celery stick

1 cup good Olive oil

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Spaetzle:

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 1/2 cup Ap flour

1 1/2 cup sparkling water

2 t salt

Everything else:

2 tablespoon fresh picked and minced mixed herbs: ideally equal parts marjoram, chervil, and parsley

Olive oil

¼ pound chanterelle mushrooms, stems trimmed

salt

pepper

nutmeg

1 lemon 

to prepare:

Soak the beans overnight in salted water.  

Drain the beans and put them in a pot, covered by about 3 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover. After an hour, add the shallot, potato, carrots, and celery, salt and peppercorns. Simmer until the potato and beans are tender.  Make sure the beans are completely tender - no starchiness or brittle feel. Strain, reserving the liquid.  Puree adding some of the reserved liquid, and then the oil. Ideally, you’ll have a consistency that’s almost as rich as a good hummus, but thin enough to be a sauce.  Pass through a fine mesh sieve. Season with salt and vinegar.

Heat olive oil in a pan over high heat.  Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  Sautee until  browned on all sides.  Remove from the pan and onto a paper-towel lined plate.

Now for the spaetzle, toast the buckwheat flour in a dry pan over medium heat, almost constantly stirring or tossing to get even color.  Toast until it smells of kasha and is a medium beige.  Remove from the pan and let cool.

Mix the flours and salt in a bowl. Pour in the sparkling water and mix that with a spatula just until its homogenous, plus 5 or 6 stirs. Put up a large pot of water to boil, adding a lot of salt and a few tablespoons of good olive oil. When the water is boiling, place the colander over the pot. Place a golf-ball-sized piece of the dough into the colander, and using a spatula or dough scraper, push the dough through the holes in the colander into the water. little noodles will rise to the surface after about 10 seconds, and you will pick them up and out with your slotted spoon and put it on an oiled plate or sheet pan to cool off. Repeat until you’ve done all the dough.

Right before this final stretch is the best time to cut your herbs.  Treating them right is very important - if you do they will add freshness to this very rich dish, but if you don’t they will look dark disgusting green, limp, clumped together and taste of old grass.  The first rule to cutting herbs is a sharp knife. that’s really the first rule to cooking and if you don’t know how to sharpen your knife, then you need some jaques pepin in your life.  Second, you will line up the herbs as though you were about to put them up your nose.  Then, you will carefully hold them in place with one hand, while swiftly rocking your knife back and forth with the other, moving down the line.

Heat a pan over high heat and add enough olive oil to cover the pan about ¼ of an inch. Add your spaetzle and cook without stirring until the bottom starts getting a little browned and crispy.  Flip over the spaetzle, to start crisping the other side.  Add in your mushrooms and toss just long enough to warm them through, then add your herbs.  Toss once more.

Gently warm the bean puree in a small pot.  Spread a spoonful of it on each plate. Top with the spaetzle.  Finish by zesting some lemon and some nutmeg over each plate.