A Platter of Figs and other recipes, DAVID TANIS. Artisan 2009. Six months of each year, David Tanis is head chef at Chez Panisse in Berkely, California, where he’s worked since the 1980s for legendary Alice Waters. The other half of the year he’s in Paris preparing meals in a 6x10 foot galley kitchen in his 17th century apartment.
This book was conceived from Tanis's belief that the best meals are simple, easily prepared, and served without too much fuss. A meal should not take all day to make. The “platter of figs” symbolizes the idea of eating with the seasons and is a metaphor for the food Tanis enjoys most: fresh, abundant, luxurious, fleeting, and innately beautiful.
Twenty-four seasonal menus designed for 8-10, easily halved or increased, includes such enticements as “Salmon on My Mind,” “Yellow Hunger,” “A Simple Morrocan Supper,” and “Slow Beef.” For each section, Tanis writes as much about eating as about cooking, about his inspirations, techniques, and infinite joy in the kitchen.
This is my favorite cookbook so far this year! Here’s a selection from the book that is simple yet superb. Bon appétit!
Sea Scallops a la Plancha
One of the delights of the winter season is the availability of good shellfish, especially sea scallops. Ask your fishmonger for freshly shucked scallops, often called “diver” scallops. A good way to cook them is a la plancha, on a hot griddle or cast-iron pan, which caramelizes the exterior and keeps them juicy inside.
1 pound large sea scallops, about 16
Salt and pepper
Green Sauce (recipe follows)
Remove the “feet”—the tough muscle that attaches scallops to their shell—and discard (or add them to a fish stock). Season the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Heat a large griddle or cast-iron skillet to nearly smoking. Add the scallops in one layer, being careful not to crowd them. Brown the scallops well, letting them cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the scallops over and cook for another 2 minutes. Put the scallops on a platter and spoon a little green sauce onto each one. Surround with lime wedges.
Green Sauce: Put 1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 sliced serrano chile, and 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground, in a blender. Season lightly with salt and add 1 cup olive oil. Blend to a smooth puree. Makes about 1 cup. (Excerpted from A PLATTER OF FIGS by David Tanis [Artisan Books]. Copyright 2008. Christopher Hirsheimer, photographer)