gnocchi with fiddleheads and lemony spinach

Every so often I make something in the kitchen that delights me to no end. This gnocchi dish was absolutely that - and almost nearly by accident. I last cooked with fiddleheads in May 2013 at a phenomenal cooking class. It might have been one of the best meals ever and so much fun. Since then, I've always wanted to tackle fiddleheads again.

The thing with fiddleheads is... they are super seasonal. So you literally get a few weeks a year - maybe - to play with them before you lose your opportunity. And for the last 3 years I've let that opportunity just skate by... UNTIL last week when I was at Whole Foods during lunch. I saw those curly little delights and bagged a handful before I could think otherwise.


In my head, my first inclination was to find some way to mix fiddleheads and fish. Then I remembered I had this pile of ingredients from one of those silly meal delivery services. The original recipe was a creamy spinach gnocchi dish. The bag of fresh ingredients stayed in my fridge for 3 weeks because I just couldn't get inspired by a creamy starchy meal. So, this meal is essentially what I was able to carve out from that package of edible products and pluck from my garden.

The moral of the story? I will never let the those fiddleheads pass me by next season.

Here's how it goes.
(1) Get two pots of water boiling on the stove. You need 1 for the fiddleheads and 1 for the gnocchi. You can get by with 1 pot but prep will be just a bit slower as you wait for the refilled pot to boil after cooking the fiddleheads first.

(2) Soak and rinse fiddleheads while you let the water boil. Add to the boiling water and let simmer for like 10-12 minutes.

(2) While the fiddleheads cook. Heat a skillet to medium high heat and add in butter then garlic and shallot. Cook until fragrant (like 2 minutes) and then add in spinach at a slightly reduced heat.

(3) Pull the fiddleheads from the boiling water and add to the spinach skillet along with pine nuts. Reduce to a lower heat if you aren't doing the 2 pot approach so as to not kill the spinach and fiddleheads.

(4) Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and let cook for about 2 minutes. My gnocchi was frigerator fresh (not "Italian part of town" fresh or frozen) so it's a pretty quick run. This may or may not be right but I always pull them from the pot when they start to come to the surface of the water.

(5) Toss the gnocchi into the skillet and bump the heat up to medium-high. Then top with lemon zest and two-thirds of the chopped basil. Reserve the rest of the basil for plating.

(6) Your gnocchi is already cooked at this point, but keep cooking until you get the right sear/crusty-ness to the gnocchi you like. This might have been like 5 minutes for me (?) - that's just how I like my gnocchi.

(7) Plate and top with the remaining chopped basil and grated pecorino romano!

Shopping List (for 2-3 people)
2.5-3.5 cups fiddleheads, cleaned and trimmed
2 cups of baby spinach
12 or so basil leaves, chopped
zest from one lemon
2 T butter
1/2 large shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
1 package of refrigerator gnocchi (approx 16 oz)

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