A good friend of mine calls David Tanis the only real genius he knows personally. Apparently Mr. Tanis operates on another plane of existence when it comes to the culinary arts. As my friend described "David could look at a stack of books and figure out how to realign it's structure and turn it into something tasty".
David's cookbook, A Platter of Figs - And Other Recipes, may not stand up to "genius" masterworks in literature, but it is a damn good cookbook. You might not be surprised to learn that I enjoy reading cookbooks cover-to-cover. I don't often follow recipes strictly, but I relish the idea of the influence gained from studying recipes and applying the theories to my existing skill-set. For that reason alone, Platter is worth owning. More traditional cookbook users, who follow recipes, won't be disappointed either.
I was really struck by the forward by Alice Waters and the introduction by Mr. Tanis. She provides a glowing and humorous introduction to how he became her chosen-one to run the prestigious kitchen at Chez Panisse many years ago. He speaks of his proclivity towards home cooking and speaks frankly about the impersonal nature of restaurant dining. I found it refreshing from someone who makes a living cooking in a restaurant. I have also come to prefer the intimate dinner party with an appreciative group of friends, spending a day immersed in food from market to table, versus the quick fix and mixed bag of dining out.
This weekend I dove into Platter of Figs by recreating one of his summer menus (pictures below). While his structure was there for guidance, it was wonderful to make interpretations at the market that would result in personalizing the ultimate results. I think my guests would agree it was one of the tastiest meals we've served in a while. With that, I give a hearty Zealot recommendation for "A Platter of Figs".
- Acme ciabatta crostini with bellweather farms sheep' ricotta, the-sweetest-cherry-tomatoes-ever, basil chiffonade.
- Braised dirty girl romano beans with lemon, garlic and chili.
- Long-grilled fennel.
- Radicchio hearts wrapped in pancetta with balsamic.
- Porchetta-style grilled pork loin, rubbed in fennel fronds, rosemary and insanely fresh garlic.
- Macedonia of blueberries and apricots with grappa.
- Brown turkey figs!