The other day, a friend was over and he picked up David Tanis' latest cookbook, One Good Dish, from the large pile of books on my table. He started to casually flip through it but soon he began to slow down, turning each page thoughtfully. Five minutes passed, then ten minutes. Finally he looked up and said, "Wow — this is how I cook. I would make everything in this book." Yes, exactly!
• Who wrote it: David Tanis
• Who published it: Artisan
• Number of recipes: 100
• Recipes for right now: Waffle-Iron Grilled Cheese; Polenta "Pizza" with Crumbled Sage; Mackerel Rillettes; Save-Your-Life Garlic Soup; Rice Porridge with Salted Egg; Winter Minestrone; Warm French Lentil Salad; Long Cooked Kale, Please; Wok-Fried Lamb with Cumin, Candied Grapefruit Peel.
• Other highlights: David Tanis is well-known for his previous cookbooks, A Platter of Figs and The Heart of an Artichoke, as well as his City Kitchen column in The New York Times. (And of course, his many years cooking and running the Chez Panisse kitchens are the foundation to this impressive resumé.) One Good Dish, his third book, differs from the others in that it is not menu based. Rather, Mr. Tanis explores the delights to be found in the simplicity of making 'one good dish' to be eaten alone or maybe accompanied by a green salad. 'Company welcome,' he adds.
The book is divided into eight chapters. Beginning with Bread Makes the Meal (spaghetti with bread crumbs and pepper; spicy stovetop flatbreads), the book moves onto My Kind of Snacks (prosciutto and fruit; almonds with rosemary), A Dab of This and That (north African red sauce; mustard from scratch), Eating with a Spoon (confetti vegetable broth; rice porridge with salted egg), Vegetables to Savor (young turnips, greens and all; Swiss chard al forno), Strike While the Iron is Hot (Spanish pork skewers; crispy potato galette). The book ends with A Little Something Sweet (after-dinner dates; ginger spice wafers) and A Few Remarkable Drinks (Provencal cocktail; lemongrass tisane).
I really appreciate the simplicity of these recipes. This is the book that I will pick up when I'm hungry but not quite sure for what, for these dishes are inspiring yet can be made without a lot of fuss. Even something that I'm already familiar with, such as pesto, receives a just-different-enough treatment here to make it interesting (basil and garlic are chopped on a board, placed in a bowl and covered in olive oil.) It's not always easy to make simple food sound as tempting and succulent as these recipes but Mr. Tanis manages just that.
There is also a very nice introduction which explains how to work with the book, a short list of recommended ingredients, and an index. This is a well-bound book, with a cloth cover (no slipcover — a plus, in my opinion). The color photographs by Gentl & Hyers are wonderful and really showcase the food.
• Who would enjoy this book? People who enjoy simple, delicious, no-fuss cooking and who appreciate well-written recipes written by someone who really knows their way around a home kitchen.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal by David Tanis
• Visit the author's website: David Tanis
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