Twelve long years ago, I met spaetzle for the first time. We were in the Czech Republic, and it was summer. I was 16 – spaetzle was….well…considerably older, but age didn’t matter to us. During our first encounter that summer in the Czech Republic, I fell madly in love.
I remember it like it was yesterday: I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt; spaetzle was cloaked in a sweet sauce of butter and poppy seeds. Neither of us heard the clink of fork on plate as we met for the first time. I remember the moment as tender, with a slight bite (just the right amount.) I remember the rush as my teeth sank into pillowy goodness. And I remember the butter.
That summer was amazing, and we both swore we would not be strangers to each other when it came to an end. But touching down on American soil once more, I was distracted. Years of pizza, tacos, and take-out Thai came and went, my beloved spaetzle momentarily forgotten. During one of those years, I swore off floury food all together: no gluten, no spaetzle! It looked like our love affair might be over for good.
But I’m happy to report that, twelve years after we first met, I’ve rekindled my relationship with spaetzle. Our first meeting on American soil was remarkably similar to our first meeting in the Czech Republic: my new spaetzle is just as tender, just as pillowy, and just as buttery as the one I remember from twelve years ago. But with one major difference: no gluten. Which made our encounter all the more exciting.
If you’ve never heard of spaetzle and just made it through that whole love story without googling it or giving up – you are super awesome! In case that did happen, let me brief you: spaetzle is a traditional German dish that is somewhere between a dumpling and a noodle. It is normally oddly shaped and can be served in both sweet and savory preparations, with all manner of delicious things.
I chose to serve my spaetzle with an incredible caraway-dill scented cabbage that just happens to be my favorite way to eat cabbage ever! So if spaetzle sounds too involved right now, make the cabbage anyway – it’s really quite delicious. If you do decide to make the spaetzle, but then don’t feel like making the cabbage topping, you can also just lightly fry the spaetzle in butter with some fresh herbs for a delicious side. Or make a topping of your choosing – the possibilities are endless with these guys: think sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlicky broccoli rabe…you really can’t go wrong.
A couple notes about the recipe:
-Make sure your water isn’t boiling too rapidly when you form the spaetzle – it should be at a gentle simmer or even below that. If the water is boiling too rapidly, it will be difficult to scoop the cooked spaetzle out with the slotted spoon. (It’s much easier to do this when the surface of the water is calm.)
-The dough is pretty thick, so don’t be afraid to use some elbow grease when you are forming the spaetzle (method described in the recipe below). They cook almost instantly, so work as quickly as you can.
-Because of the oat flour, the spaetzle will have a darker color than traditional white-flour spaetzle.
-This recipe serves 2-3 people as a small entrée (with the cabbage topping) or side dish.
- 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
- ¼ cup arrowroot starch
- 1 teaspoon flax meal
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
Combine the flour, starch, flax, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the vinegar. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture along with ½ cup water and stir until well combined. Pour in the melted butter and mix well. The batter will be fairly stiff.
Turn down your boiling water so that it is at a very gentle simmer. Fill a bowl with cold water and set it somewhere nearby. Next, place a wide-holed colander on top of the pot of simmering water. (The colander should not touch the water – if it does, dump some water out.) Drop a heaping spoonful of batter into the colander. Using a rubber spatula, vigorously spread the batter back and forth over the bottom of the colander so that the batter falls through the holes and into the pot. Work as quickly as you can. Remove the colander and use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked spaetzle (they will cook almost instantly and float to the top) into the bowl of cold water. Repeat with the remaining batter, draining the soaking spaetzle after every two batches so they don’t become water logged. Refill the bowl of cold water and transfer the drained spaetzle to a third bowl/container. Toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.
To reheat before serving, sauté the spaetzle briefly in butter or simply toss them with a topping or sauce that is already hot.
Recommended with: Cabbage topping (below) and a dollop of sour cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ large onion, sauté sliced
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- ¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt
- 4 cups shredded green cabbage
- 1 scant teaspoon umeboshi paste
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for about 8 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the caraway, dill, and salt, and cook for a couple minutes more; then add the cabbage. Cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is soft and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. (If the pot gets too dry, add a drizzle of olive oil.) Finally, add the umeboshi paste and mix very well. Ladle over spaetzle, toss with potatoes, or serve with your favorite pasta/grain.