Down to ear h
How to eat away at a glut of vegetables
WITH ALL MANNER of meal-delivery services depositing their cardboard boxes and cool bags on doorsteps near his home in New York – their contents pre-weighed, chopped and grated, or plated ready for reheating – the food writer David Tanis understands the appeal of a dinner that can be dished up in minutes. But, he argues, ‘it’s rather more fun to start at the other end.’
By this he means beginning with the raw ingredients, eyeing them up at markets, summoning the courage to bag them and take them home. ‘A lot of people don’t know how to cook certain vegetables,’ he says, ‘especially if they look intimidating.’ His new book, then, is for them – and for all of us who crave simple treatments for bristling green leaves, a handful of mushrooms, or a couple of
gnarly parsnips. Market Cooking was not intended to be encyclopedic, but Tanis tells me it grew naturally into a source of advice for when ‘you’re stumped about what to do with the turnips you’ve got on your worktop’ (young ones are sweet enough to eat raw, he advises, and larger ones can be boiled and buttered without being ‘cooked to watery smithereens’). ‘Nothing I share is earth-shattering – but I hoped to illustrate all the various things you might want to know about vegetables.’ Especially good for those who receive weekly deliveries of seasonable vegetables and can find themselves drowning in a sea of kale or swedes.
Tanis was a chef for more than 30 years, notably at Chez Panisse in California and Cafe Escalera in New Mexico, and is already the author of three bestselling cookbooks. This latest has been some years in the making, and its vegetable bias reflects not only how he himself eats but also the huge surge in vegetar-
ian and vegan diets in America and here. There are simple dishes – leeks vinaigrette, baked beetroot and grilled mushrooms – that show off their core ingredients, but they’re not all speedy and nor should they be. ‘Thirty-minute meals used to be all the rage, and now it’s down to 15,’ Tanis says. ‘I think an hour is more realistic, then you can enjoy the process.’
Autumn draws Tanis towards pulses and legumes, to potato gratins and rich vegetable bakes such as the lasagne below. ‘Delicious food doesn’t have to be complicated, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have complex, satisfying seasonings.’ Home cooks will applaud his lack of lengthy ingredients lists and may well find themselves agreeing with Tanis that ‘the simplest foods taste the best’. Market Cooking: Themes and Variations, Ingredient by Ingredient, by David Tanis (Artisan, £32), is available for £26.99 including p&p from Telegraph Bookshop (0844-871 1514; books.telegraph.co.uk)