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A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes Hardcover – October 1, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Both a meditation on the powerful rites of cooking and serving a meal and a gentle but serious education in doing both, this book by the part-time head chef at Berkeley's renowned Chez Panisse is an impressive ode to the simple beauty of food. With 24 menus distributed over the course of a year, Tanis emphasizes seasonality with ingredients (blueberry-blackberry crumble in summer; celery root mashed potatoes in winter) and with the types of dishes provided for each menu (as with a divine, warming lobster risotto as part of a menu for a cold spring day). Anecdotes from his peripatetic life of enjoying good food around the world, from Venice to Morocco to New Mexico, add another intimate dimension and help the book appear written just for the reader by a kind, patient friend. Many of the recipes are almost as simple as the title implies: a summer menu features sliced tomatoes with sea salt, while a course for a fall lunch consists of nothing more than pears and Parmigiano cheese. Others, like a black paella with squid and shrimp, are more involved, but the detailed instructions make them accessible to any cook willing to put in the effort, and the results are delicious, never fussy. Taking a stand against the typical cookbook organization from appetizers through desserts, Tanis teaches how to think clearly about conceiving, preparing and enjoying simple but delicious meals. Full-color photos throughout. (Nov.)
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From the Inside Flap

David Tanis might cook in the most famous restaurant in America, but here he is all about keeping meals simple at home.
In this eloquent appeal for good sense in cooking great food, Davis Tanis serves up twenty-four seasonal menus that are simply conceived and simply served on platters, family style. His food bursts with invention and flavor, such as wild salmon with spicy Vietnamese cucumbers to celebrate spring and braised duck with fried ginger for a cool-weather dinner.
Tanis has an elemental, unpretentious finesse with ingredients and a genuine gift for words. Deliciously down-to-earth, his intuitive menus make cooking a pleasure, not a stress whether you're "Feeling Italian" (Steamed Fennel with Red Pepper Oil; Roasted Quail with Grilled Radicchio and Creamy Polenta; Italian Plum Cake), "Slightly All-American" (Sliced Tomatoes with Sea Salt; Grilled Chicken Breasts; Corn, Squash, and Beans with Jalapeno Butter; Blueberry-Blackberry Crumble), or "Too Darned Hot, Alors!" (Provencal Toasts; Melon and Figs with Prosciutto and Mint; Deconstructed Salade Nicoise; Lavender Honey Ice Cream).
"David s recipes are simple and marvelous," says cookbook author Paula Wolfert. "What more can a food lover want?" Tanis shows you how to slow down, pay attention, give ingredients their due, and provide meals that will delight friends and family.
Here, at last, is a cookbook that has nothing to do with celebrity chefdom and everything to do with real life. Cancel the dinner reservations and pick up this book and rediscover the pleasure of cooking at home.



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Artisan (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579653464
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579653460
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.2 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By G. Constable on September 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
How can you not love someone who writes, "What makes a boy from Ohio, born in the wrong century, raised on Tater Tots and Birds Eye, end up wanting to eat like a Greek peasant for breakfast, a French peasant for lunch, and a Moroccan peasant for dinner?"

This book is beautiful, inspiring, intelligent and unpretentious. It is laid out by seasonal menu, rather than classes of food, and gets you thinking about the experience of food as much as the creation. The recipes are well written with lovely pictures, clear formatting, and good descriptions.

I'll also include another quote from Tanis that you might find useful if contemplating a purchase: "Simplicity is key. People who cook fussy food for their friends seem to have the least fun. I say leave that fussy food to those with a staff and a paid dishwasher... A meal needn't be fancy, nor should it take all day to make. But, that said, most of the menus in this book are not those 30-minute-specials-with-only-3-ingredients whose intent seems to be to keep youout of the kitchen. What's wrong with spending a little time in the kitchen?"
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is a simple test that I have concerning the real worth of any cookbook for me: does it sit on the shelf among my more than 250 cookbooks, or do I find myself repeatedly pulling it out to cook from it or to refer to it for some other reason. Books by Alfred Portale, for example are go-to books.

The most telling test of value to me is if I donate it to the local library or pass it on to someone else.

I purchased A Platter of Figs a while back based on something I had read in Saveur Magazine. The book was suggested as a warm appealing book of approachable warm appealing meals for friends by a warm approachable author.

Much of that is true of this work. David Tanis comes across as a surviving latter-day hippie who found a job. He lives in Paris and California, and one can't escape the feeling that after his meals with seven other friends (his recipes are indicated as proportioned for eight people), they can all be found on his back porch enveloped in a cloud of sweet-smelling smoke from a stash, holding wine glasses in the dangle-dangerously position and saying words like "cool." It is a good read, and I was left with the image of myself in a pair of tattered jeans, a flannel shirt and a pair of sandals casually turning out knockout dinners while I sipped a glass of wine. The recipes are well thought out (with an occasional mistake or two) and nicely guided by Chef Tanis, and most of them are well within the realm of possibility for any moderately experienced cook.

The problem for me with this book is that it is not as simple as it purports to be...not if you are really doing things correctly.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this cookbook for my husband for Christmas (he is the cook in the family) and he absolutely loves it. He has made several of the recipes, mostly the duck ones so far, and they have all turned out delicious AND beautiful. The recipes he has made have been fairly simple but still come off as "fancy" (meaning if you served these meals to guests they would be impressed).

He said his favorite thing about the book is that it has made it easy for him to try out new ingredients (this week it was turnips) without a lot of fuss. He also enjoys the organization of the book by menu. Finally, this is truly a beautifully made book, with gorgeous photography and nice paper.

I would say this book is great for a home chef with a bit of experience who is looking to try new things and expand their horizons.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a cookbook freak. I am not even sure how many I own and I don't want to count them-it borders on a disorder! But then again, I used to work as a personal chef, and although I love to eat out, I tend to cook at home most nights, so my obsession goes to good use. Of all my cookbooks I have a few tried and true books that I turn to again and again- this is one of them.
I have made from this book: green chili stew, salmon with Vietnamese cucumbers, spinach pie, pork loin, paella with shrimp and squid ink, to name a few. All have turned out well.
There are so many memoir type cookbooks out there and although this is not officially one of them, Tanis does have his personal musings about food included with each menu. I love the memoir/cookbook genre, but they can be a bit precious...."The waft of the scent of (fill in name of flower/fruit) blossoms from the (fill in name of tree) in (fill in glamorous or exotic country) where my family had a house....." Tanis' musings are so engaging but with a down to earth voice that does not come off like he is trying to write a poetic novel. I have actually read both his books cover to cover. He wrote one sentence about zucchini as a preface to a another recipe for zucchini and I have taken this idea and eaten it literally hundreds of times adding my own variations (zucchini and onion cut up and slowly stewed in olive oil as a side dish, or over pasta). This is what I love about this book- Tanis encourages you to explore, to work with food the way a chef does- not by following exact times but cooking by smell, sight and feel and substituting based on what you happen to have on hand or what looks good at the market.
The book is also very of the moment (it's divided into seasonal menus) and yet not at all fussy.
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