Friday, March 2, 2012

Basil Spaetzle with Corn & Spinach

My husband and I spent last weekend at our house on the lake. For some reason I have a hard time sleeping there. So, when I can't sleep I often go to the loft to watch TV. Though the house is quite modern, we don't have cable service. And, since it is located in a rather rural part of town, our TVs capture only a few, and mostly bad or local, channels.

Therefore, I'm stuck watching either cartoons, this home shopping channel selling hunting knives, or a lifestyle station that features a fairly entertaining cooking show. The cooking show, called Bringing it Home, features both notable celebrity chefs and head chefs from fine restaurants in the locales featured in their episodes. On this particular episode, the chef, whose name I didn't catch, made this wonderful side dish of basil flavored spaetzle sauteed with fresh corn and baby spinach. Of course, as a trained chef, he whipped this delicious looking dish (even at 4:30 in the morning) up in no time flat, and made the process look super easy.  I figured it was worth a try and would make a great side dish for any simply grilled, sauteed or broiled meat or fish.

All in all, making the batter is indeed a cinch. What I liked about the spaetzle featured on the show was that the basil, when added to the batter, made beautiful, brightly colored green spaetzle dumplings. Next to the corn and spinach, it made a visually appealing side dish. But, as you can see from the picture above, mine weren't so bright green, more tinged green than fully green. I concluded my basil, though very finely chopped, really needed to be  pureed as it must have been on the episode, but I missed that part of the show. To further complicate matters, the recipe for the dish featured on the Bringing it Home website, was terribly written. The steps to preparing the dish were clearly incorrect, and more importantly, didn't even include the procedure for preparing or adding the basil to the batter. I'd like to think, had the recipe been better written, my results would have been better, as well. 

I've never made spaetzle before, but with some research on the internet, it's clearly not rocket science. Though I didn't have a spaetzle making device, most recipes recommend using either a colander with big holes, the large holes of a box grater, or even a large slotted spoon. The chef on the episode I watched, used a colander, similar to one I had, so it did indeed seem simple enough.  Not so.

When I added the batter to the colander and pushed it through the holes, the little pieces of batter wouldn't drop into the hot boiling water as it was supposed to. They just stuck to the bottom of the colander and had to be scraped into the hot pot below. So I moved to the box grater method, but that was a bust as well. In the end, I filled a small plastic freezer bag with the batter, snipped off a corner and as the batter squeezed through the hole, using a small knife, I cut the batter into small pieces as it dropped into the hot boiling water. That process actually worked fine, not as efficient or fast, but it got the job done. Whew! I don't know why I didn't just thin the batter a bit.

All in all, this a great side dish, with an incredible amount of flavor and great color (had the spaetzle been the right color).  I used fresh corn, instead of frozen, to ensure a robust corn flavor, and so glad I did. My next purchase is a spaetzle maker as it is quite versatile, and can be used in place of rice or orzo in so many dishes.

Basil Spaetzle with Corn & Spinach Saute

1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. fresh basil

2 small ears of corn, kernels removed
2-3 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach, cleaned and well drained
2-3 T. butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, puree the basil with a tablespoon or two of water. You want a fine puree. 

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. 

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk together until well combined -- an electric mixer works great here. 

Now add the egg mixture and the basil puree to the dry ingredients, and beat together until it turns into a thick batter. Let the batter rest for 10-15 minutes.

While the batter is resting, bring a pot of water, with a generous amount of salt added to it, to a rolling boil.  

Using a colander or spaetzle maker, drop the spaetzle batter into the pot. When the droplets float to the surface and are firm to the touch, remove to a clean colander.  Rinse quickly with cold water to stop the cooking process, drain well and set aside.

In a heated skillet or saute pan, melt the butter. Add the fresh corn (or thawed frozen corn) and saute a minute or two until the corn is tender. Add the spaetzle and spinach. Saute, mixing frequently, until the spinach is fully wilted and cooked. Season with salt and pepper as needed, and serve. Enough for 4 generous side portions.

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