We are still working with artichokes and brown butter. As a child one of my very favorite treats was stuffed artichokes. I could only get them from my Aunt Lucy, who happened to be an amazing Italian cook. When we would go to see her for the holidays or whenever she would come to visit us, if there were artichokes to be had in the market, we had them on our dinner table. The petals and center were filled to bursting with an herbed, garlicky bread stuffing. No on else made them the way that Aunt Lucy did and she passed away before I was old enough to learn. We always felt special when she set them out on the table because we knew that she made them because we loved them so much. Her husband, my Uncle Alex, would make them for us after she was gone. He tried hard but the artichokes were never the same, although they all still tasted like love and we consumed them happily because they told us how much he cared both for us and for her memory. It's no wonder that I cannot resist artichokes in any of their guises. They are labor intensive to prep and to eat and the rewards for your effort are great. How many other ingredients have the ability to change the flavor of other food and make everything around them just a bit sweeter? The thistles are beautiful when allowed to bloom and dry. Although it does seem a pity not to eat them up. Somehow I've never been able to stuff them for myself, it seems wrong, yet whenever I see them in a restaurant I am compelled to order them and savor each bite. It's just as wonderful when Alex prepares them for me because in my mind artichokes are a symbol of great love and care.
The combination of roasted artichokes and their puree expresses it's inherent flavors differently because of the varied textures. The silky puree eases down gently with a lingering punch of that sweet, earthy flavor. On the other hand the roasted pieces are tender and yielding, with a bit of chew from the petals and fibers to force you to really savor each bite. The brown butter potato gnocchi with their creamy, delicate centers encased in the slightly brittle outer crust from a quick sear in butter provide a beautiful counterpoint to the unique flavors of the thistle.
The straightforward presentation of these ingredients allows for an honest expression of tastes. We both enjoy the restrained simplicity of this dish and the fact that it allows the vegetable to take the spotlight. These elements would work well in conjunction with hot smoked trout or even the fabled and feared steak. For today though, it seemed best on its own. It may not be perfection but it is pretty darn close. It's the flavor of love.