Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys by David Tanis

I have to preface this book review with a quick mention that the Dinner Event with David Tanis (celebrated chef from Chez Panisse) at the Artichoke Cafe on November 15th is almost sold out. Call Bookworks ASAP for details and one of the few remaining tickets! 505-344-8139. Now back to our scheduled programming….

I love cookbooks. I read them like novels. I read them not just for the recipes, but for inspiration and to be taken on a journey. So when I got my hands on David Tanis’ new cookbook, Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys, I eagerly sat down with a cup of tea and started reading.

This gorgeous and useful cookbook doesn't just look pretty. The recipes are fantastic!

It felt like meeting an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years, where we talk about what we used to eat together as kids and compare new delicacies. The first section, Kitchen Rituals, is filled with refreshingly simple tips, more story than recipe, sometimes focusing on a single ingredient like apples, on how to easily put a dish or meal together. I found myself saying “I do that too!” or “What a good idea!”

This isn’t just another celebrity chef cookbook with glossy photos of the chef’s grinning family enjoying perfectly constructed food, accompanied by insipid or impractical recipes. This is a book about using fresh ingredients simply to make the best food possible. And Tanis doesn’t belabor the point about eating organic or seasonally. His audience gets that by now. So instead of a lecture we get a mouth-watering recipe for fresh peach ice cream (I can’t wait till August!) or easy apricot jam (I can’t wait till July!).

No fancy equipment, no glamorous kitchens, or exotic ingredients are required here. Ok, there is one recipe that calls for kumquats (which we had growing outside when I lived in California, but are going to be harder to find here in Albuquerque or the rest of the country). But instead of being annoyed with one exotic ingredient, I thought, “Wow, I haven’t thought of kumquats in years, I wonder if they have them at the local asian grocer?” The recipe took me on a journey back to my childhood where we could snack on ripe kumquats right from the bush. In season, naturally.

The recipes are all doable, and as an experienced cook, I found myself tempted with foodstuffs I have shied away from, like tripe and squid. With Tanis’ tips on selection and preparation of these not so ordinary ingredients, I feel confident enough to finally try cooking with them.

Some cookbooks take you on a journey, but you don’t end up actually using the recipes. Not so with Heart of the Artichoke. Every recipe looks good. I’ve already made half a dozen of them and look forward to personalizing the rest of the pages with dribbles of spices and smudges of flour.

Tanis is a chef after my own heart. This is the kind of cookbook I would write if I were a celebrity chef and lived half of the year in Paris and half in California. Heck, it’s the kind of book I would want to write even if I lived on an urban farm in Albuquerque full-time (Oh, that’s right, I do). Starting with spring (and Lamb with Rosemary), Tanis takes us from simple recipes for one or two people to simple delicious meals for a crowd. Heart of the Artichoke is a beautiful follow-up to his previous cookbook, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, and I give it my highest recommendation.

And for those of you living in Albuquerque, wait, there’s more! There will be a dinner with Tanis held at Artichoke Cafe on November 15th in celebration of his new book. What is sure to be an entertaining (and delectable dinner) event is only $75, and includes a signed copy of the book, three courses with wine pairings and dessert (for 2, $115). What a deal! See Bookworks for tickets and details and don’t delay. This dinner is almost sold out! If you miss out on tickets, Tanis will be at Bookworks on the 15th from 5-6:30pm for a reading and booksigning.

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