However, as I make my way through the wonderful new cookbook, "A Platter Of Figs And Other Recipes" by Chef David Tanis, I realize anything is possible. David Tanis is the Chef six months a year at the iconic Alice Water's restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California. The other six months, he lives in Paris, France.
I have only dined at Chez Panisse once in the cafe upstairs. The meal was family style with fresh, seasonal, and locally produced ingredients. I have not yet had the pleasure of dining downstairs in the restaurant which is where David cooks. The closest I may ever come to tasting his food is by preparing and eating the recipes I make from his cookbook. Despite that fact, David is fast becoming one of my culinary heroes.
My first introduction to the man and his recipes was in an issue of Saveur Magazine. They featured a story about David living in Paris, shopping in the open markets, selecting foie gras, pork loins, tender greens and herbs for a salad, all for a dinner back at his Paris apartment. Froom this article, I immediately gravitated to his food sensibilities and tastes. With his clear descriptions on various techniques and simple recipe instructions, accompanied by step-by-step photos, I was inspired to run to the grocery store, to purchase my own pork loin roasts, garlic, and rosemary. Dinner turned out beautifully that night! I even tried my hand at making a proper vinaigrette for hand-washed greens, all by David's instruction. The result? The simplest, tastiest, well-seasoned mix of salad greens I have ever put together at home. Who knew you are supposed to salt your greens before dressing them?
In "A Platter Of Figs", David, has thoughtfully prepared several menus for each season and removed the guesswork about what to buy and what to avoid depending on the time of year.
As shoppers, we often assume that because the ingredient is on sale year round in the grocery store, it must be good at anytime. Not according to David. For instance, garlic is at its best in summertime, especially for raw preparations. As a home cook, when I follow David's recipes, I never have the sensation that I am in way over my head. My daughter and I recently decided to use some berries from our local Farmer's Market for his blueberry and blackberry cobbler recipe. My husband even ran out late at night to purchase brown sugar for the crust. Let me say, it was totally worth the grocery run and the hour long bake time. The flavor of the berries burst forth all gooey and warm. The brown sugar crumb topping was heavenly as well.
I must also highlight the beautiful photography, included in A Platter Of Figs. The food does not appear fussed over and styled beyond anything I could ever do. As I flip through the pages, I think, "I could make those crusty toasts, topped with ricotta cheese and cherry tomatoes", and then I do. The results always surpass my expectations, with layers of flavors bursting forth, and ingredients that compliment each other.
"A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes" is worth buying and adding to your cookbook collection.
I have not cooked my way from beginning to end as David may have intended. However, I do stick with the seasonal approach because I understand the value in that. I don't believe he would be offended by me randomly choosing recipes, as long as I utilize what's in season at my local market. I imagine, he is similarly inspired when he strolls through the Paris markets smelling, tasting, and sizing up potential ingredients for the evening's meal.