With the summer heat receding, I’m so happy the sunny bright heads of dandelion flowers are on their way back! This means I’ll be making more Dandelion Gnocchi, a delightful dinner for the coming cooler evenings. Filled with golden blossoms, slathered in a garlic cream sauce, fluffy, puffy and satiating, Dandelion Blossom Gnocchi is one of my all-time favourite carby comfort foods.
These little potato dumplings really take no time at all to make, just boil potatoes, mix with flour and egg, roll out, slice – boil. That’s it. I’ve been making them from scratch for nearly 15 years and while I still haven’t perfected gnocchi making techniques (always in a rush to eat!) they always turn out delicious.
Dandelion blossoms have a long culinary history, most often made into wine, cordials, jellies, vinegars, fritters, added to salads and the buds are popular pickled. I love to use them whenever I can in cooking, throwing them into muffins, scones, breakfast egg cups, cookies – you name it.
Dandelion Blossom Gnocchi just takes your standard potato gnocchi recipe but incorporates about a cup full of freshly picked petals right into the dough. This gives not just glorious colour but oodles of nutritional and medicinal benefits as well. High in vitamins A, C and B12, the flowers are full of polyphenols, flavonoids, luteolin (good for the eyes) and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Every region in Italy has its own gnocchi, sauce and serving style. Tuscans are known for their spinach and ricotta dumplings, gnudi. In Piedmont potato gnocchi are tossed in a simple dressing of butter and Parmesan. In Sorrento potato gnocchi is baked in a tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil. So feel to improvise with any sauce you wish! I bathed these Dandelion Blossom gnocchi with a garlic cream sauce and served with fresh minced crow garlic, and braised dandelion greens. I added a little Parmesan cheese and lemon zest to the dough, but you can make them just plain with the blossoms, or add other herbs and flavourings.
You’ll begin by harvesting a largeish basket of flowers, and then take them home and put in a vase of water in a sunny place until you’re ready to use them. Because of a natural behavior known as nyctinasty the flowers close in the dark and I find the petals are much harder to remove when the blossom is closed!
The flower head is actually a tightly packed mass of many tiny florets (individual flowers, and each petal represents a single flower. The blossoms flavour is mild, slightly bittersweet. The green sepals at the base of the bloom are the bitter part so you can them leave out, but I think they add flavour and they’re most likely highly nutritious.
Once you’re ready to make the gnocchi you’ll peel your potatoes (make sure they’re a starchy variety like Russet) and set them to boil. Meanwhile, you’ll strip the petals from your flowers -you’ll need about a cup packed on the firm side.
When your potatoes are boiled to a good mashable consistency, drain them off, mash, add your petals and mash a little more. Then you’ll be ready to assemble your dough by cutting in the flour and egg.
Now this is the trickiest part. Overwork it and you’ll develop the flour’s gluten too much, resulting in hard, gummy gnocchi. Under-work it, and you won’t form a proper dough; the gnocchi start to fall apart once they hit the boiling water. Now I love them even hard and gummy, but you don’t want them to fall apart – far worse!
I use a pastry cutter to cut the potatoes into the flour until it begins to form into a doughish mound. Then remove it and place on a board, gently folding the dough overself, pressing down flat with your head, repeating a few times until all the flour is incorporated. Don’t knead the dough – again it will make your gnocchi firmer and less tender.
Next you’ll roll out into long thin strips about the size of breadsticks, and then just slice off your gnocchi one by one. I then roll into oval shapes. Don’t forget to press your gnocchi with the tips of a fork helps give the dumplings ridges where sauce can cling – bringing full flavor with every bite.
Then you’ll take you lovely little dumplings, toss them in boiling water a batch at a time. Give a slight stir so they don’t stick – they’re ready when they rise to the surface! You can give them a little pan fry with butter after they’re boiled if you like a bit of crispness. But I like them puffy and soft – and coated with cream sauce! Enjoy!
Dandelion Blossom Gnocchi w/ Garlic Cream Sauce
- 4 large russet potatoes
- 1 cup dandelion blossoms
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the water
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 whisked egg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, extra to dust
- 1 tablespoon oil
Garlic Cream Sauce:
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
- Add the potatoes to a large pot of salted water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce a potato. Drain the potatoes and set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm.
- Using a peeler or your fingers, remove the skin from the potatoes. In a medium bowl, mash the potatoes until all lumps are gone. Add the dandelion blossoms, 1/2 cup of flour, salt, pepper and cheese. Mix well. Make a well in the center of your potato mixture and pour your whisked egg into it. Then, using your hands, gently blend the mixture until evenly distributed.
- Sprinkle the other half of the flour onto a clean surface and turn out the potato dough onto it. Gently knead the dough, working in as much flour as you need until the dough loses stickiness and becomes more solid.
- Slice the dough into 2 parts. Roll out each part into a long rope, about 1 inch wide. Slice the rope into rounds and shape into an oval. Set aside on a lightly floured surface.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Boil the gnocchi in batches, stirring gently once or twice to ensure they are not sticking. Boil until they float to the surface; after another 15-30 seconds in the water, remove.
- In a saucepan, bring the broth, cream and garlic to a boil. Simmer gently until the garlic is tender, about 10 minutes. Purée in a blender. Season with salt and pepper, add Parmesan cheese.
- Pour over gnocchi and rewarm if necessary. Garnish with chives or crow garlic greens.