Book Reviews

Book review: A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes.

The author of this eminently readable and enjoyable book is an enthusiast of fresh and seasonal food. While he cooks professionally for one of the most famous American restaurants (Alice Waters) for half a year, he spends the other half in Paris to roam the markets, that he so loves, and cook for friends and paying foodies. He is replaced at Alice Water’s restaurant by a French chef. While in France, he also visits colleagues to learn new techniques, more importantly to understand how the French “food mind” works and how it combines different ingredients to achieve new, pleasant, sometimes extraordinary taste and texture dimensions. This book advocates freshness and seasonality extolling the advantages of cooking simply, but properly.

Artisan, a division of Workman Publishing Inc. New York, 294 pages 2008.

David Tanis does not settle for store bought mayonnaise, he tells the reader to make it, and explains how easy it is to whip up a cup of home-made, heavenly mayonnaise an what to do if it “beaks” in the process.

According to him, even garlic used in cooking must be fresh in season. Simplicity and spontaneity of recipes provided should not be confused with less or bland taste! To the contrary, if you gollow his instructions to the letter, you will find his recipes flavourful, enjoyable and healthy.

Books written by celebrity chefs provide complicated recipes, and even more complicated presentations. One must wonder how many home cooks can afford the time and expense to create them at home. A platter of figs and other recipes gives you 24 three-course seasonal and fresh food menus that you can follow easily; even you can only afford little time for cooking. The catch here is to live close to a farmer’s market.

David Tanis is such a food purist, and rightly so, he even distinguishes between common iodized salt, sea salt, kosher salt, fleur de sel from France ad Maldon salt from England. A cook who goes into such detail knows how important it is to source fresh ingredients. This book should be in every professional and home cooks’ library and be referred to constantly.

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