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The simple pleasure of making 'One Good Dish' from David Tanis

November 13, 2013|By S. Irene Virbila
  • From former Chez Panisse chef David Tanis, "One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal"
From former Chez Panisse chef David Tanis, "One Good Dish: The Pleasures… (Artisan Books )

Amid this season's flurry of massive cookbooks from important chefs such as David Kinch (Manresa), Daniel Patterson (Coi), Daniel Boulud (Daniel) and more, comes this modest entry from former Chez Panisse chef David Tanis, “One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal” (Artisan, 2013, $25.95).

I sat down with the book the other day and read his short, but sweet introduction. What he means by one good dish is "tasty, simple and real," i.e., something a home cook could make without devoting the entire weekend to one recipe.

He goes on to say, “even though we may not always have the energy to invest in a complex meal, making one simple, delicious dish (maybe two) is certainly manageable. One good dish, carefully prepared and eaten with pleasure, is an end — and a delight — in itself.”

Browsing through sections named “Eating With a Spoon (Pleasure in a Bowl),” "A Dab of This and That (Superior Homemade Condiments)” and “Strike While the Iron is Hot (Scorched, Seared, and Griddled)," I kept slipping torn pieces of paper next to recipes I want to try. At the end of an hour, my book was bristling with strips of paper.

What to make first?

Fuyu persimmon and navel orange salad perfumed with orange flower water and scattered with pistachios? Crispy potato galette for two? Oh, yes, right now.

His bistro chicken liver salad seasoned with garam masala? Or the well-charred endives with anchovy butter?

This is the time of year when I long for soup. His pleasures in a bowl include polentina alla toscana, a vegetable soup thickened with a little polenta and drizzled with fruity green olive oil. That goes to the top of my list along with "Save-Your-Life Garlic Soup," a “strictly bare-cupboard Provençal soup” (and hangover cure) made with only garlic, sage, olive oil and water. It’s served over a slice of toast topped with a raw egg and a sprinkling of parsley.

The recipes are beautifully simple. Bite-sized Tunisian meatballs “simmered in a spice-laden saffron-scented sauce” seem the most complicated, but they’re not, really. The recipe just has more ingredients than others.

I love that he notes at the back of the book, "I also hope you don't follow the recipes slavishly, since improvisation and ad-libbing are always part of a good cook's process -- they make life in the kitchen much more interesting."

Tanis has also tucked in his recipes for making your own mustard, for seasoned nuts to go with an aperitif and even included his favorite Provençal cocktail -- homemade Pastis-flavored syrup added to chilled Prosecco.

That I'm having soon as aperitif hour comes around tonight.

ALSO:

COOKBOOKS: Daniel Boulud's French manifesto

COOKBOOKS: 'Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking'

COOKBOOKS: Inside the early days of California cuisine

Twitter: @sirenevirbila

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