David Tanis delivers ‘One Good Dish,’ at least


Cold Chinese Chicken. (Deb Lindsey/For the Washington Post)

When chefs use the word “simple” to describe their food, home cooks have learned to be skeptical. Trust David Tanis to keep it real. Even before he published “A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes,” his first cookbook, in 2008, the former part-time chef at Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse wrote for Saveur and Fine Cooking magazines, honing his prose to an elegant edge.

We’ve gotten to know Tanis’s food further through his weekly City Kitchen column in the New York Times’s Dining and Wine section, and through the menu-driven “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys” (2010). His newest, “One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal” (Artisan, $25.95; 100 recipes), builds on the kitchen rituals inherent in “Artichoke” — minus the menu pairings.

It’s a cozy size (about 7 by 9 inches) and offers the opportunity to mix and match small plates and tap into Indian, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, North African and Mediterranean cuisines.

Yet the oeuvre is modern and American, unfussy and charming. It’s a melting pot that manages to stay minimal. Tanis taps Everyman’s penchant for snacking on cold poached chicken; his version has the slightest Asian accent. Leftover polenta becomes a pizza platform. Tea-focused recipes wrap up the collection in an urbane way, and I found them a thoughtful, welcome addition in our coffee-saturated culture.

A close reader of cookbooks will find a certain serenity in the book’s design, and considerable comfort in re-creating dishes with relatively few ingredients.

Tanis will join today’s Free Range chat at noon: live.washingtonpost.com.

Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes: washingtonpost.com/recipes.
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