The Friday Cookbook Review: “A Platter of Figs”

A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, David Tanis, 2008, Artisan.

He had me at “…I am not a big fan of fusion.”  If ever there was one, this is an understatement.

Six months a year, David Tanis is the head chef at Chez Panisse, one of the most influential restaurants in America. The rest of the year he lives in Paris,  cooking out of what has been described as a “ridiculously tiny” apartment kitchen for a private dining club. Year-round, Tanis focuses his energies, time and talents on bringing the best qualities of every food to the surface and preparing simple, elegant meals. To Tanis, a platter of figs, perfectly ripe, heavy with sweetness, is as complicated as one needs to get.

images11More than anything, this is a book about knowing about foods.  At this particular moment, is the food perfectly ripe, or should it be paired, enhanced with something else from nature? (You won’t find a $200 bottle of “artisan olive oil” or curry mayo in his kitchen.) Is this, in fact, the time of season to eat this  food? Tanis believes, when it comes to food, the wait is worth it.

Tanis is incredibly skilled at pairing one food with another. Instead of the traditional recipe-laden format, “A Platter of Figs” is 24 of the most mouth-watering seasonal menus imaginable.  For spring, Warm Asparagus Vinaigrette, Shoulder of Spring Lamb with Flageolet Beans and Olive Relish, Rum Baba with Cardamom.  For summer, Sliced Tomatoes with Sea Salt, Grilled Chicken Breasts, Corn, Squash and Beans with Jalapeno Butter, Blueberry-Blackberry Crumble. Not embellished or  nouvelle, not even stylish, Tanis’  cuisine stands on its own, as a whole, as complete as a straight line.

A Platter of Figs is is also a great read – well written, engaging. I bought it just before a cross country flight and read it cover to cover.

You should too.

Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. (c) All Rights Reserved, 2009

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