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.

Late Summer Spaetzle

This dish is great for a light but satisfying meal, as a pasta course or a side, or as a cold salad the next day. Spaetzle is a kind of pasta from the border areas of Italy, Slovenia, and Austria. It is simultaneously springier and richer-feeling than traditional pasta, and quicker to make. When I first was taught how to make it, it was a revelation with lemon zest and nutmeg but very far from vegan, and sorta complicated so I put it off and thought that maybe one day I’ll play with flax seeds or tapioca starch or something and try to mimic it somehow…   Then I found this recipe from Jonathan Waxman, and it worked even better than I imagined, and was so easy. Instead of egg yolks and milk, the carbonation from seltzer water completely changes the character of this soft dough. The sauce is stupid simple. Eggplants, fennel, and sweet corn are at their best in late august and early September. Pine nuts add texture, while these bright green olives are something else, truly, and add great acidity. While spaetzle are usually sauced with butter, the combination of the oil, excess starch from the pasta, and some water make a beautifully creamy feel in your mouth which picks up all the strong flavors from the vegetables. Basically you’re going to replace the traditional butter with water and thereby make it taste better.  
 
Spaetzle:
1¾  cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sparkling water

For this you will need a colander, not a mesh strainer, and a slotted spoon, the bigger the better. Mix the flour and salt with a spatula. Pour in the sparkling water and mix that with a spatula just until it forms a ball.  DO NOT KNEAD. Kneading will make it dense and hard to pass. 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. It will rise to the surface after about 10 seconds, and you will pick it up and out with your slotted spoon and put in on a plate or sheet pan to cool off. Repeat until you’ve done all the dough.


Vegetable mix:
I don’t really know what to call this, it’s sorta like a caponata, I guess, although it also reminds me of a good ratatouille. I love all different kinds of olives but these castelvetranos might be my favorites.

1 medium eggplant, medium-small diced
1  large bulb fennel, trimmed, cored, and medium-small diced
1 small head of corn, off the cob
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted for 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until lightly browned
8 castelvetrano olives, pitted and chopped


Lay out a large plate, cutting board, or sheet pan. Get a large sautee pan very hot and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the eggplant, salt and pepper. Toss every 30 seconds or so. You want the eggplant to brown a little and be just cooked through, which should happen after about a minute and a half. It’s very important that you taste for doneness and seasoning. When ready, remove from the pan. Wash out the pan and repeat with the fennel and then the corn. Each will cook a little different so taste them all. With the fennel you’ll want to maintain a little more bite in the center of each piece, so it may only take a minute. After all of this cools, mix it all together with the olives and the pine nuts in a big bowl. Make sure the seasoning is good and the balance of flavors is what you want, adding more olives for acid, eggplant for savoriness, etc.

When you’re ready to serve, heat up a large sautee pan over high heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil  Add your garlic and cook for just 20 seconds or so, so that it’s not raw. Add your spaetzle and toss, until it’s basically heated through but not browning. Add the vegetable mix and ½ cup of water and toss. Here’s where practice makes perfect: continue cooking over high heat and pay attention to the liquid. As the water evaporates it will thicken, just a bit. When you see this thickening, turn down your flame, check your seasoning, and begin plating the pasta and vegetables with a slotted spoon in a mound in the center of two plates. When you’ve plated all the solids, adjust the consistency of the liquid. If it’s too thin, cook it down.  If too thick, add a splash of water. When just right, pour this light sauce around the plates.

Tags: spaetzle vegan