I love Spanish food, but I just don’t cook its cuisine at home very often. So I was extra excited to help organize a Spanish-themed potluck — I contributed David Tanis’ hearty and elegant Spanish tortilla, pan con tomate, and patatas bravas (all the starchy, carb-y offerings, haha!) — because everyone seriously turned on their A-game. There was aged chorizo made from scratch and fried with apple cider vinegar… a wide pan brimming with a seafood paella… a vegetal black chickpea stew… and Spanish cheeses, nuts, and fruits from Seville. It was a feast! But now I’m left adrift: what now? I realized I have no cookbooks devoted to the region, and I have a feeling I have so much left to learn. Can anyone suggest a good place to start? Any suggestions would be awesome!
Now, I know I’ve written in the space before how much I love David Tanis’ easy fruit tart. It’s a simple, clever dish from a book packed to the gills with simple, clever recipes. I recently adapted Tanis’ recipe to make an easy savory tart, topped with tiny zucchini from the market. (That it looks like a pizza was entirely unintentional, I swear!)
I rolled out the pastry, cut it into a circle, then brushed it lightly with heavy cream. To make the topping, I sprinkled a cup of finely grated gruyere, and layered baby zucchini, sliced thinly on a mandoline, and drizzled with good olive oil. After 30 minutes, the tart was finished! We ate big slices with a lemony salad of bitter greens and radishes, and the meal was just the right balance of sumptuous and lightness. In the future, though, I would cut the zucchini thicker and use even more cheese — the buttery, rich crust can handle more aggressive toppings!
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.