David Tanis is a chef. Granted he is the head chef at Chez Panisse, which has a more laid back, ingredient vibe than say... The Four Seasons, but he is still a head chef so you have to think, big old complicated recipes. Here is where Tanis is brilliant. The recipes really do feature the food. The clean, only slightly fussed with, fine ingredients that one really wants to eat. Heart of the Artichoke is Tanis' second book. It follows up on his first book A Platter of Figs which shares the same clean edible and "cookable" recipes.
While I am the first to embrace immersion circulators and having a huge tank of liquid nitrogen in my kitchen, there is something remarkable to be said for some one who can look a a beautiful pile of green beans (how pedestrian) and turn them into Green Bean Salad with Pickled Shallots, a dish that is one the one hand so simple and on the other so complex and beautiful, not to mention it a dish that even the most challenged cook cold pull off with total aplomb.
Don't get me wrong, while I adore the Stand Around Melon with Mint, your basic melon balls with mint sprinkled on the top, there are some very involved recipes, like Pho with its nearly thirty ingredients. But for the most part, these recipes are easy to do and would make even the most finicky eater happy.
How could I resist my favorite poached pears. Tanis says that he often finds poached pears in spice end up coming off like a really bad mulled wine. Here he takes a light and delicate approach.
Today is a steamy, muggy summer day. What a lovely end to any meal.
Spiced Pears in Red Wine
8 slightly under ripe small Comice or Anjou pears
1 (750-ml) bottle medium-bodied red wine, such as Côtes du Rhone
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 whole cloves
A wide strip each of lemon and orange peel
1. Peel the pears top to bottom with a sharp vegetable peeler, leaving them whole, with stems attached and the core intact.
2. Put the pears in a large wide nonreactive pot (enameled or stainless steel) in one layer. Stir the wine and sugar together in a bowl to dissolve the sugar, pour over the pears, and add the aromatics. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Poach the pears for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted encounters no resistance. Remove from the heat and let cool, in the poaching liquid, overnight.
3. The next day, with a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a platter. Heat the poaching liquid over high and boil down until it is reduced by half. Strain this syrup into a bowl and let cool.
4. Use a paring knife to cut a small slice off the bottom of each pear, allowing them to stand up straight. Stand the pears in a deep rectangular glass or plastic container large enough to contain them in one layer.5. Pour the cooled syrup over the pears. Refrigerate for up to several days. Serve chilled, putting each pear in a soup plate and spooning over a little syrup.