For six months a year, David Tanis is the head chef at Chez Panisse, the Berkeley, California, restaurant where he has worked alongside Alice Waters since the 1980s in creating a revolution in sustainable American cuisine. Read more...
For six months a year, David Tanis is the head chef at Chez Panisse, the Berkeley, California, restaurant where he has worked alongside Alice Waters since the 1980s in creating a revolution in sustainable American cuisine. The other six months, Tanis lives in Paris in a seventeenth-century apartment, where he hosts intimate dinners for friends and paying guests, and prepares the food in a small kitchen equipped with nothing more than an old stove, a little counter space, and a handful of wellused pots and pans.
This is the book for anyone who wants to gather and feed friends around a table and nurture their conversation. It's not about showing off with complicated techniques and obscure ingredients. Worlds away from the showy Food Network personalities, Tanis believes that the most satisfying meals--for both the cook and the guest--are invariably the simplest.
Home cooks can easily re-create any of his 24 seasonal, market-driven menus, from spring's Supper of the Lamb (Warm Asparagus Vinaigrette; Shoulder of Spring Lamb with Flageolet Beans and Olive Relish; Rum Baba with Cardamom) to winter's North African Comfort Food (Carrot and Coriander Salad; Chicken Tagine with Pumpkin and Chickpeas). Best of all, Tanis is an engaging guide with a genuine gift for words, whose soulful approach to food will make any kitchen, big or small, a warm and compelling place to spend time.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 49.
- Review Date: 2008-10-06
- Reviewer: Staff
Both a meditation on the powerful rites of cooking and serving a meal and a gentle but serious education in doing both, this book by the part-time head chef at Berkeley's renowned Chez Panisse is an impressive ode to the simple beauty of food. With 24 menus distributed over the course of a year, Tanis emphasizes seasonality with ingredients (blueberry-blackberry crumble in summer; celery root mashed potatoes in winter) and with the types of dishes provided for each menu (as with a divine, warming lobster risotto as part of a menu for a cold spring day). Anecdotes from his peripatetic life of enjoying good food around the world, from Venice to Morocco to New Mexico, add another intimate dimension and help the book appear written just for the reader by a kind, patient friend. Many of the recipes are almost as simple as the title implies: a summer menu features sliced tomatoes with sea salt, while a course for a fall lunch consists of nothing more than pears and Parmigiano cheese. Others, like a black paella with squid and shrimp, are more involved, but the detailed instructions make them accessible to any cook willing to put in the effort, and the results are delicious, never fussy. Taking a stand against the typical cookbook organization from appetizers through desserts, Tanis teaches how to think clearly about conceiving, preparing and enjoying simple but delicious meals. Full-color photos throughout. (Nov.)
Celebrating the simple
A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis is a cookbook with attitude, not to mention the 100 recipes and 24 menus included. That attitude comes from working with the legendary Alice Waters at Chez Panisse for the last 25 years and from David's own core belief that "the best meals mirror nature and celebrate the seasonal," that simple food, simply served, can be a pure, sensual experience. Many cooks and their books claim to be based on that same principle, but this one is true to it through and through. You won't find a fussy dish or an ingredient too many; you will find six menus per season made up of only three doable courses each. These are not "30-minute-specials"; David loves food and loves the process of preparing it and "building a meal." Not that he wants you slaving in the kitchen all dayfar from it. Just consider menu 14 (it got me a grand ovation!)garlic and tomato-rubbed toasted country bread topped with an anchovy fillet to start, a fantastic fish soup with mussels and spicy chorizo, and goat cheese with artisanal honey for dessert. Simply superb, understated elegance, and there are 23 others to savor.