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Kitchen Mailbox: On a cold winter day, get cozy and nostalgic with dumplings

Thursday, February 01, 2001

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Dumplings are the quintessential comfort food. They're tasty puffs of dough that enhance stews, soups and casseroles. Sauteed with butter and onions, they become a hearty side dish. Comfort foods not only please the palate, they conjure up happy childhood memories of our mothers' and grandmothers' dishes.

 
 
Cooking term
of the week

Herbs, spices -- Herbs come from the leafy parts of various plants while spices are obtained from the bark, buds, roots, seeds or stems. Herbs and spices are used to flavor food and drink.

   
 

Kitchen Mailbox received this request from Donna Cooper of Belle Vernon: "Do you have any recipe for dumplings? My mother used to mix flour, water and some other ingredients together into a pasty dough, then drop little lumps into a pot of boiling water. She would then saute them in butter and onions. Have you ever heard of this? Could you tell me what the other ingredients are?"

The answer is today's recipes.

If you're looking for a dish to replace stew, try the first recipe for German meatballs with spaetzle. The meatballs are moist and tasty with a flavorful gravy made of beef stock and sour cream.

One word describes the recipe for Slovak potato dumplings with cabbage and onions: scrumptious.

The recipe for spaetzle with stew is a great stick-to-your-ribs dish loaded with flavor.

The final recipe, Kluski Dumplings, was also fabulous.

When making the dumplings, we followed these tips from "The Food Lover's Tiptionary" by Sharon Tyler Herbst: "To prevent heavy dumplings with soggy bottoms, make sure the liquid in which they're cooked bubbles gently but continually. For light, fluffy dumplings, cover the pan and leave it covered until the cooking time is almost complete."

Here's a German version of the dumpling with meatballs, sent in by Susan Cohen of Stanton Heights.

German Meatballs With Spaetzle

1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup soft bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon dill weed, separated
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
1 pound ground beef
12- to 14-ounce can beef broth
3-ounce can chopped mushrooms, drained
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon flour

For meatballs:

Combine egg, milk, bread crumbs, parsley, salt, 1/2 teaspoon dill weed and pepper.

Add ground beef and mix gently but well. Shape into 24 (1 1/2- inch) balls.

Brown meatballs in vegetable oil; drain fat. Add broth, mushrooms and onion.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Combine sour cream, flour and 1 teaspoon dill weed. Stir into broth. Cook and stir until mixture thickens and bubbles.

Spaetzle:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk

Combine flour and salt. Add eggs and milk; beat well. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Place batter in coarse-sieved colander or deep fryer basket. Hold over large kettle of boiling water. Press batter through colander with back of wooden spoon or spatula. Cook and stir 5 minutes; drain.

To serve, make a nest of spaetzle on a large platter. Spoon meatballs and sauce in center. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: Dill weed can be added to spaetzle batter for this dish. A spaetzle maker (found anywhere cookware is sold) can be used instead of a colander. A spaetzle maker resembles a large garlic press.

Potatoes are the main ingredient for the recipe sent by Dee Ridgley of Baden.

Slovak Potato Dumplings

2 medium Idaho potatoes
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour (about)
1 medium onion
1/2 cup butter
Salt and paprika to taste
1 small head cabbage (optional)

Grate potatoes; add salt, egg and flour. Mix well. If dough is too stiff add a little water (1/4 cup, more or less). Place dumpling dough on a plate; using the tip of a teaspoon, break off small pieces of dough into boiling salted water. Cook from 7 to 10 minutes. Drain.

Chop onion, set aside. Melt butter in pan. Add onions and dumplings, heat through and mix well.

Season to taste with salt and paprika.

Note: One small head of cabbage, chopped, can be added. We sauteed the cabbage and onions in butter on low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the cabbage was tender -- we then added the dumplings and sauteed for about 10 more minutes.

Gloria Tracy of Bethel Park sent her mother's recipe for Spaetzle and Stew.

Spaetzle and Stew

3 cups flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
Approximately 1 cup of water
2 pounds cubed veal (we used beef)
3 tablespoons flour
Carrots, beans or other vegetables (optional)

For the spaetzle, combine flour, eggs and salt with enough water to make a soft dough. Force the dough through a colander into a kettle of boiling water or place dough on a cutting board and slice the dough. Cook for 5 minutes or until they rise to the surface. Drain, if you're making the stew, place the dumplings in a bowl and set aside.

For the stew:
Saute
about 2 pounds cubed veal (we used beef); add enough water to cover the meat. In another pan on low heat, brown 3 tablespoons flour (this will take about 5 minutes and must be watched carefully and stirred constantly). Add the browned flour to the veal and water, stir until thickened. Carrots, beans or other vegetables may be added. (We used approximately 2 cups fresh sliced carrots.)

Cook until the carrots are soft. Add the dumplings and cook about 20 minutes more.

Kluski Dumplings was sent in by Agnes McKruit of Greenfield.

Kluski Dumplings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Approximately 1/3 cup lukewarm water

Combine first three ingredients; slowly add the water, beating with a fork until a sticky dough is formed (the dough should be thick and gummy). Scrape the dough onto a plate and with a spoon break off bits of dough (about 1/2 teaspoon) into a pot of boiling water. When all the dough is used, stir the kluski and bring water to a boil. Drain. Serve as desired.

Note: If the spoon is dipped into the boiling water from time to time, the dough will not stick to the spoon. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Serve sauteed in butter and onion or with gravy.

Requests

Marie Jefferson of West Mifflin received a White Westinghouse bread machine without the instructions. Marie would like an address or a way to get the booklet. If anyone can help, please write to the Kitchen Mailbox.

School-day memories from Hilda of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: "I have searched everywhere but cannot find those great peanut butter cookies that the public schools had in the 1960s through the '80s. I had a recipe from my home ec class but lost it. Everyone has the criss-cross cookie recipe but these were big, flat and crispy. Does anyone share my memory?" Anybody? We'd love to hear from you.

Julian Kopas of Easton, Pa. writes: "My mother states that in the newspaper many years ago there was a fabulous recipe for maraschino cherry cake." We checked our data base and found nothing; we hope one of our readers might have this recipe.

From Nancy Durst of Harmony: "I'm writing to see if you could get me the recipe from Gamble Mill restaurant in Bellefonte, Pa. for their corn polenta. It is absolutely delicious."


If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.\

Thursday, February 01, 2001



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