Spaetzle 2 Ways for a Fall Sunday Dinner

As the weather turns cooler, we are all in search of cozy, comfort foods. What better excuse to make a hearty (read: carb packed) meal with your family? For years, I have known that Hubs has a soft spot for spaetzle, the Germanic noodle/dumpling. I have heard tales of family lore, making spaetzle for holidays and other special occasions. We even received a spaetzle maker as a Christmas present some years back.

Spaetzle maker

I admit here (with some embarrassment) that it remained wrapped and unused until last Sunday. As you know, I prefer to prepare meals based on nutrient-dense foods, high in protein, complex carbs, vegetables, grains and the like. Spaetzle vehemently does not meet any of these requirements. It is made from a basic dough of flour and water (or milk), and often dressed with butter or gravy. But with inspiration from the NY Times’ Melissa Clark, and a devil-may-care attitude about my waistline  (I am in the 3rd trimester of my pregnancy), it was time to make the spaetzle.


Knoffli recipe

We agreed that Hubs would be in charge of the spaetzle preparation. Hubs consulted the Cassellini family cookbook, a collection of recipes from Hubs’ maternal grandmother and her family, which has the classic family recipe, actually spelled “knöfli.”IMG_4252[1] He decided to test Melissa Clark’s updated recipe, which used rye flour, in addition to white flour, and also whole milk, in place of water. We thought this would produce a more flavorful noodle. Once the spaetzle were ready, we’d each prepare our own dish using the spaetzle base. I was going to adapt Melissa’s recipe, which incorporated cabbage and leeks (vegetables!! yay!) and Hubs would go a more traditional route. Plus, cabbage is rich in fiber, anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories. We would re-join at the dinner table and sample both for our Sunday night dinner. Keep reading for our recipes

Basic Spaetzle recipe
Adapted from Melissa Clark’s Rye Spaetzle recipe

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
180 grams all-purpose flour (1 1/2 cups)
100 grams rye flour (3/4 cup)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 to 1 1/2 cups whole milk, as needed


Using the Spaetzle maker

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and 1 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 cup milk. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. The consistency should be that of a sticky cake batter. As the batter sits, it will absorb more liquid; add more milk as needed to keep it loose.
Working in batches, press the spaetzle through a spaetzle maker or a colander into the boiling water. (If using a colander, either hold it with oven mitts so you don’t burn yourself over the steaming water, or get a friend to help). As the spaetzle rise to the surface, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl.

Toss spaetzle with butter or olive oil and serve as a side dish. Or, choose one of the following preparations.

Cabbage & Leek Spaetzle Gratin
adapted from Rye Spaetzle Gratin With Savoy Cabbage and Caraway

1/2 batch of  Basic Spaetzle recipe (above)
1 small-medium green cabbage (1 1/2 pound)
3/4 teaspoon whole caraway seeds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large leeks, thinly sliced (3 cups)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Large pinch chile flakes
1 thyme branch, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, or more to taste
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
1/2 cup Gruyère or Emmentaler cheese, grated
Ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit. IMG_4216[1]Discard the outer leaves of cabbage; quarter, core and slice the rest. Using a mortar and pestle or the flat of a knife, lightly crush the caraway seeds. Melt the butter in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly colored, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the caraway, garlic, chile and thyme; cook 1 minute. Add the cabbage and cook, tossing frequently, until very tender and wilted, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with vinegar and 3/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

IMG_4218[1]Add the spaetzle to the pan and toss well. Scrape the mixture into a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish. Scatter cheese over the top. Bake until golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Grind a generous amount of black pepper all over the top of the gratin, then serve.

YIELD 6 to 8 servings

Classic Spaetzle with Sauteed Shallots

1/2 batch of  Basic Spaetzle recipe (above)
1 shallot, chopped finely
2 tablespoons butter
Black pepper and salt, to taste

Melt butter over medium low heat. Add shallots and saute for 3-4 minutes until slightly colored, but not browned. Add spaetzle and toss to coat. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, and add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste. Serve and enjoy.



Cabbage & Leek Spaetzle Gratin


Spaetzle with Sauteed Shallots

Both recipes tasted delicious. I cannot tell a lie, they really hit the spot for comfort food on a chilly fall night. The cabbage and leek gratin was very tasty. I used about 1/2 the amount of spaetzle called for in the original recipe, so it made for a looser and lighter gratin. It still felt rich and hearty, but not so heavy. Even Hubs admitted it had good flavor. I sampled the classic spaetzle preparation, and admitted it, too, was delicious. The rye flour used in the recipe also gave the noodles more bite and flavor, as suspected. We wholeheartedly recommended the updated recipe to Hubs’ family, even if some called it blasphemous.



Fermentation Frenzy

With the new year, I’ve been motivated to try a few new things: fermenting, healthy cleansing (read: no juices or starvation), and taking real food cooking to a new level. I’ll start on fermentation and why it’s piqued my interest.

Hubs and I started taking a liquid probiotic supplement every morning last fall. We both agreed that we felt better after taking it – helped to keep us balanced and the digestive tract functioning more smoothly. I became a fan and a repeat customer.  Two issues: it’s hard to find and pricey. Well, what’s in this magic elixir but the extract of fermented real foods? 

I found inspiration from many fellow bloggers in the real food community about fermenting:

And so I began last week. I started with lacto-fermentation, straining a container of whole milk plain yogurt and reserving the liquid that resulted (whey). Thanks to OhLardy! for the step-by-step instructions here. A fun by-product of this was ultra-rich homemade Greek yogurt, which I had for breakfast this week. With my homemade whey, I tried making sparkling orange juice – add a few tablespoons of whey to OJ for a probiotic rich drink. And then, I moved on to fermented coleslaw.

Red Cabbage Fermented Slaw

Red Cabbage Fermented Slaw

Red Cabbage Fermented Slaw

Red Cabbage Fermented Slaw

Roughly following the Fermenting Vegetables recipe from Feedmelikeyoumeanit, I made my first batch of slaw using salt as my fermenting agent. Super exciting. I used my Cuisinart to shred 1/2 head of purple cabbage and slice 1 whole yellow onion, grated 1 carrot by hand, and then used the equivalent of 1 sliced red bell pepper that I had “put up” over the summer from Wolfe Spring Farm‘s CSA. Felt like a regular homesteader, I did.

The recipe filled 2 – 1 pint Mason jars. After 2 days of rest, I carefully opened one jar to test it and tamp it down. As forewarned, open carefully! There are live cultures inside and pressure builds. The concoction bubbled up and spilled ruby-colored juice on the counter, but it needed a few more days to “cook.” I sealed the jars back up and left them alone. By day 5, we were ready. Shifted to the fridge, my fermented slaw was ready to go. Crunchy, salty, savory, I ate several forkfuls with my dinner last night and loved it. I can’t say that the digestive benefits were felt as immediately as with taking a supplement, but I knew I was eating something real and homemade.

Taste the goodness

Taste the goodness

Have you ever fermented?

À la recherche du l’ete perdu (or Better Late Than Never, right?)

OK, so Debra and Hubs were generous enough to give us yet another pickup a week and a half ago and I’m only now getting to blogging about it. Excuses abound but here it is. Y’all should be glad I’m late, actually. Since October 6, when we picked up, we’ve had a frost and fall is definitely here and summer is definitely gone. So maybe my pics will conjure some wistful thoughts……………

Look at the gorgeous haul. More soon on what we did with some of it. I don;t have pics of the great braised cabbage and kale I made. Chopped both, tossed in olive oil, added a bit of vinegar, some water though beer would have been better, a couple of juniper berries and a red chile. Braised with the top off in 400 for 20 minutes, then 250 until tender. Toss once or twice.

We were going to make something cool out of the raspberries but we and our house guests ate them up before dinner time came around!

Last of the season

Hearty Fall Soup for Frosty Temps

Chopped leeks ready for some butter

Chopped leeks ready for some butter

The irony of this soup recipe is that I originally tried it back in May, and here it is in mid-October and I finally have all the ingredients available in my CSA basket. It took nearly 6 months and 2 seasons to reach the point where I can prepare the dish from local, seasonal ingredients. The recipe for Cabbage, Potato and Leek soup comes from Melissa Clark‘s NY Times column, “A Good Appetite.”

It is a deeply flavorful, thick and satisfying soup that in my opinion, is much more suited for the fall than early spring, so I’m glad I filed it away in the back of my mind for this season. I was excited to put my frosty leeks to work (truly nothing smells better than leeks sauteed in butter), use up some of that never-ending cabbage, and make some headway in our large stock of potatoes. What sounds like a rather bland and monochromatic soup actually turned out to be quite colorful during the prep stages. The soup was roundly praised by all. Baby Sam asked for thirds. Check out my modified recipe below:


Sliced purple potatoes. Just because.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
8 cups shredded cabbage
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 small new potatoes (I used purple potatoes because I had them on hand) 
3 cups vegetable stock
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 thyme branches
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pecorino Romano rind, or parmiggiano rind (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to serve

1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat, add the leeks and cook until soft and golden around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cabbage and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes.

Sauteed leeks

2. Stir in potatoes, stock, 4 or 5 cups water, salt, cheese rind (if using) and thyme. Bring soup to a simmer and cook, partly covered, until potatoes begin to fall apart, 45 to 50 minutes. Add more water, as needed, to reach the desired consistency. Use hand blender to partially puree and remove thyme stems. Season with black pepper and serve, topped with cheese.

Yield: 6 servings


Hard Frost: CSA Pick-up 10/13/12

Mid-October and the end of CSA season in Western Mass is growing nigh.

Warning: Temps dipped into the 20s last night

If you like your kale crispy, it’s your lucky day:

Frosty Kale

Despite the overnight freezing temps, we still had a wide assortment of veggies at today’s pick-up, including some new fall veggies like Brussel Sprouts (yay!), multi-colored carrots, acorn squash and leeks (double yay!):

New: Brussel Sprouts

New: Carrots & Leeks (hello again, potatoes)

I was already brainstorming on what to do with this bounty and knew I’d have to act quick. Everything looked great, but once the ice melted, I feared many things would go to mush, and worse, rot. Here’s what I’ll make once I get these puppies home:

  • Leek, Potato and Caramelized Cabbage Soup
  • Kale & Edamame Quinoa salad (inspired by Guido’s prepared foods counter)
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts
  • Acorn Squash with Chili-lime Vinaigrette
  • TBD

Here’s the full run-down of today’s pick-up:




Masochism in the Kitchen

So with my massive haul from Wolfe Spring Farm, I had to get cracking on Saturday afternoon.

CSA Pick-up 9/22/12. Photo styling courtesy of Hubs

With the crisp evenings we’ve been having, I felt some sort of soup was in order and so the planning began. Soup is always a good way to use lots of veg, and forgiving, too. After some deliberation with Hubs, I decided on a Minestrone-style Vegetable Soup. This would be my lead dish for the weekend. I mapped out my other dishes and figured out which ingredients I could prep simultaneously. I would prep the ingredients for the vegetable soup and Freekeh Pilaf at the same time, since I could chop onions and garlic for both dishes in one shot.

Timing was also a factor, so I decided to put up some of the vegetables because it would be impossible to consume all in the week. The veggies are organic, and most have a short shelf life. I would freeze the bell peppers and roasted eggplant (must chop all peppers first, and grill the eggplant), as suggested by Agrigirl in a comment last week. And the tomatoes would turn into Sweet Tomato Jam, but not until Sunday.

And lastly, why not make some kale chips?

At one point, I had 5 dishes going in various stages of preparation in the sink, on the stove, in the oven and on the grill. Controlled chaos at best. Or, why chefs and cooks who do this, day in, day out, impress me to no end. Like I said, it was my own personal form of self-torture. If I knew how to insert a table into this post, I’d have a matrix with the following headers: Ingredients, Dish, Cooking Method. That’s how much I had goin’ on. And this didn’t even include Saturday night dinner!

The good news is that the “lead” dish du jour, the Vegetable Soup, turned out delicious. I call it Minestrone-style because I used tomatoes and it has a light tomato base, but I didn’t use any beans or pasta, which you usually find in a Minestrone soup. Here is my recipe, and like most others, consider it a starting point and alter it based on what you have in your cupboard.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium or large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 carrot diced,
2 stalks celery, chopped (I didn’t use because we didn’t have any, but highly recommend)
8 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth for the carnivores)
1 cup tomatoes, chopped, cored and seeded
2 small potatoes,  diced in 1/2 inch,
1 Parmiggiano cheese rind (I keep the rinds in a plastic bag in the back of my fridge. Use in risottos and soups, add great flavor)
1 cup winter squash, diced (I used spaghetti squash and surprisingly, turned out great. Had never used it in a soup)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shredded cabbage (left over from last week’s pick-up. A head of cabbage goes a looong way)
Large handful of parsley, leaves only, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


In large soup pot, on low-medium heat, saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes in olive oil. Add carrots and celery and continue to saute until vegetables are softened.  Add potatoes, squash and bell pepper (or whichever “hard” vegetables you are using – turnips, parsnips would also be great). Saute for 2-3 minutes to give vegetables some color.

Sauteed “hard” vegetables in the pot

Add liquid – broth and chopped tomatoes, and Parmiggiano rind, if using. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until “hard” vegetable soften. Add cabbage and parsley (or other “soft” vegetables or greens, like zucchini, kale, collard greens, etc). Season with salt and pepper, simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool. Serve with shredded Parmiggiano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings

Minestrone-style Vegetable Soup

What’s left in the basket from my CSA Pick-up? Cauliflower, a cucumber, cherry tomatoes (I was greedy with these), watermelon, raspberries (not worried about the fruit) and 2 shiitake mushrooms. Looking for suggestions for the shiitake mushrooms and cauliflower. Any ideas?

Cole Slaw

OK, so the first thing we did was make a quick cole slaw with the WSF red cabbage, WSF jalapeño and some epazote for our garden. Its super easy and fresh and delicious tasting. Slice up the cabbage, finely chop the jalapeño and the epazote, grind some fresh pepper and salt on top, add a dollop of mayonnaise (we used Hellman’s but if you are more ambitious that we are, make fresh) and a drizzle of white vinegar. Toss, let sit for a few hours in the fridge and enjoy!

The basic ingredients

Cabbage Chopping in process

Blurry pic of the chopped cabbage, jalapeños and mayo.


Preview: CSA Pick-up 8/4/12

All this and more! Wow, I felt exhausted and excited just looking at this list. And then I spied a basket of small, shiny green peppers. I chatted with June and mentioned that there was so much included in this week’s pick-up that she didn’t bother with the peppers even. She feared members would have my reaction! But when I told her I was thinking about gazpacho, she kindly offered to pick a few cucumbers for me and said to help myself the peppers, too. So nice! Thank you, June!

Stay tuned for more on the recipes…


Vegetables and Trickery

I had absolutely no plans for Friday night dinner. I vaguely thought we’d pick up something ready to go for dinner and relished the absolute lack of planning. While in the car, we made a pit stop at the Farmer’s Market in Sheffield, MA, in search of inspiration for our meal. I was conscious not to be tempted by the wares on display and splurge the night before our CSA Pick-up, and focus only on the meal at hand. I also knew what we had in the house

  • 1 v large zucchini
  • 1/4 head of cabbage
  • Potatoes galore
  • Eggs

Pretty limited selection, I know. We picked up a few ears of corn from a trusted farmer and had hopes that it would be tastier than last week’s. Hubs and I talked over a tomato salad and looked around for some, but only “paste tomatoes” were on display.  Still early in the season, said Dominic and his crew from Moon in the Pond Farm. A vague idea started forming in my mind about zucchini fritters or some kind of veg pancake. I suggested it to Hubs and he looked nonplussed.

I hit the books when we got home and offered a few suggestions based on an old copy of Bon Appetit and my handy How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbok by, you guessed it, my food idol Mark Bittman. I suggested this recipe for Shaved Zucchini with Parmesan and Pine Nuts to Hubs. He scoffed – too obvious a use of zucchini, a verboten vegetable. I then suggested some fritter recipes and we settled on Korean Style Crispy Vegetable Pancakes. The fact that the recipe name contained the words “pancake” and “crispy” helped sell it.

Vegetable Trickery: Korean Style Crispy Vegetable Pancake

I followed the recipe with the exception of using rice flour, which I didn’t have on a hand. I halved the recipe and it made 2 large pancakes. My first pancake did not turn out as crispy and I considered it my “tester” pancake, a phrase coined by Hubs. The second pancake is pictured above. I used about a cup of shredded zucchini, a healthy handful of thinly shredded cabbage, as well as a carrot, scallions and chives from the garden.

So that’s where the trickery comes in. You couldn’t individually identify the zucchini or cabbage, but they were in there. On their own, these ingredients would never fly in our house, but mixed into a dish with the word “pancake” in it, I could get away with it. There are a bunch of food writers out there proposing recipes like this all the time, especially for kids.  Things like stashing sweet potatoes in muffins, not to name names [Jessica Seinfeld], but I’m generally not a proponent of this method. I want ingredients to shine and for the people I’m cooking for to know what they are eating. But I mention it here because you could put almost any veg in this dish, serve it with dipping sauce and it would be roundly praised.

Scallion Ginger dipping sauce

Final word from Hubs: “Pretty good for an impromptu meal.” I would definitely make the Crispy Pancakes again, using rice flour as Bittman recommends. We also had corn on the cob and some mixed greens. The corn was sweet and succulent, with even rows of ears. As it should be.

It’s Thursday and do you know what’s Left in your CSA Basket?

Our CSA Pick-up day is Saturday and I’m usually out of food, ideas and energy for creative home cooking by Thursday night. Quick review of this week’s recipes:

But I’ve still got a few usable and useful items left, so it’s back to work tonight. I have the following left:

  • 1/3 quart cherry tomatoes – dinner tonight
  • Shallots and Garlic- dinner tonight,and these will last, so no hurry
  • Zucchini – have plans for zucchini bread this weekend, so sit tight
  • 1/2 head of cabbage – I’m out of ideas for you, cabbage head
  • 1 ear of early drought corn – Sam was going to eat for dinner, but the crazy rows look uninviting

Krazy Korn from CSA Pick-up 7/28/12

Krazy Korn is going in the compost bin.

We’ll have Salmon en Papillote and a green salad for dinner tonight. As I wrote in an earlier post, fish en Papillote is a simple to prepare dish for the kitchen weary. I’ll use the cherry tomatoes and shallots from my CSA pick-up, and then we’re ready again for Saturday’s stash.