Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Green Spaetzle--A Treat for Those who like Noodles and Vegetables

A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon this recipe in Bon Appetit and have always planned to use it for my family. But I have never done it until recently, when I decided to make a post based on it. My kids love all kinds of noodles, so it was potentially a dish that my whole family would enjoy.

Spaetzle belong more to a German than Polish tradition so I did not know them until twenty years ago, when for the first time I tried them in Switzerland. However, I realized that during my absence they must have become more popular in Poland, because I managed to buy in my hometown a special colander for making spaetzle. It is a very useful tool, which makes the whole process even easier than it already is. Otherwise a regular colander or a grater with big holes can be used. If you don't have either, you can make spaetzle by dropping them in the water from a spoon, but that requires a little bit of practice.

In the past, I was only buying dried spaetzle and I still have a bag of them in my pasta drawer. I usually serve them with meat (beef or veal) sauce. Encouraged by their popularity at my home, I got a recipe from my cousin, who lives in Germany, and I made them myself from scratch. They tasted good to me, but it looked like my kids did not notice any significant difference between my spatzle and those made by Bechtle, so I never made them again.

Regular speatzle are made just with two ingredients--flour and eggs, which are very, or even excessively, detectable in their taste. But the recipe for speatzle with green peas intrigued me very much. Spaetzle made with a vegetable are not only a whole meal, but also a vegetarian one, which is always popular at my home. The original Bon Appetit recipe also calls for mint as one of the ingredients, but I omitted it in my spaetzle, fearing that its aromatic flavour could discourage my kids, but I leave this possibility open to those who are not afraid to experiment.

Green Spaetzle
Adapted from Bon Appetit

2 and 1/2 cup unfrozen green peas,
2 and 1/2 cup flour,
4 eggs,
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth,
4 tbsp chopped chives,
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (optional),
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg,
salt, pepper
freshly shredded Parmesan cheese,
slices of prosciutto cut into strips.

1. Combine green peas,nutmeg, chives, mint (if used), and broth in a blender and puree until smooth.
2. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl, stir in eggs and flour, and mix well with a spatula until you obtain a smooth batter, which should have a consistency as on the picture below (if it is too thick add extra broth, if it is too loose add extra flour).

3. In a large pot boil water with 1 tbsp of salt.
4. Working with about a cup of batter at a time, press it with a spatula through the spaetzle colander or a large hole grater, or using a small spoon drop the noodles into the boiling water.
5. Boil each batch for about 3 minutes from the moment they rise to the surface.
6. Using a strainer, transfer the spaetzle to a large colander to drain them thoroughly.
7. Serve them directly from the colander tossed with a good quality butter, and seasoned with freshly grated coarse black pepper and Parmesan

While plain spaetzle are great with meat sauces, the ones I propose today have such a subtle, slightly sweet taste that are best eaten only with butter. You can also serve them with Parmesan and fried prosciutto, or both. The salted prosciutto makes them taste more spicy and this is my favorite version. On the next day, I reheated the leftover spaetzle on a frying pan together with the remaining fried prosciutto and they tasted also very nicely, slightly golden and crispy on the surface.