There are a handful of cookbook authors that speak to me — I know I’ve mentioned Nancy Silverton, Richard Olney, Elizabeth Schneider, Sam and Sam Clark, Marcella Hazan, Elizabeth David and a few others in this space — but it’s been a while since a title has had a truly profound effect. I first started thinking about David Tanis while Adam was doing research for a story on private restaurants (Tanis runs a 6-seat “restaurant” in his tiny apartment in Paris), and while I was familiar with his name — mostly in association with his past life as a chef at Chez Panisse, and more recently with his (outstanding) NYT lamb curry — I had never opened one of his books.
A Platter of Figs is one of the best, happiest cookbooks that I’ve come across in a long time. The photos are lush and inspiring, and Tanis’ writing is honest, loving, and thoughtful. Plus! The recipes are organized by season and menu, an organizational technique I first admired in Olney’s The French Menu Cookbook.
When I first got hold of the volume, I was in the midst of planning the menu for Cool Fest. I started flipping through the book, and wound up reading the entire thing, front to cover. Right now I’m obsessed with his apple tart, which I made at Cool Fest, and continue to make at dinner parties and for work. It’s delicate, sweet, and crisp — think faux-puff pastry. I love it.
The recipe is so basic I already have it memorized — though you can find a proper writing-out of it here — and was so easy to execute I was able to make it at midnight at Cool Fest, half-drunk and exhausted. Not bad for a pastry recipe! Like the rest of his recipes, this fruit tart lacks fussiness or complexity, but the final product emerges with a richness and elegance that I really appreciate. Right now I’m loving his tart with a mixed fruit blend of plums, pears, and apples, and a big, fat spoonful of freshly whipped cream. It’s the perfect everyday tart.