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’One Good Dish,’ plus many more

Bonnie S. Benwick
The Washington Post
Fresh Shell Beans With Rosemary Gremolata.
The Washington Post | 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’ Chez Panisse wrote for Saveur and Fine Cooking magazines, honing his prose to an elegant edge.

We’ve gotten to know Tanis’ food further through his weekly City Kitchen column in The New York Times’ 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.

Fresh Shell Beans With Rosemary Gremolata

4 servings

MAKE AHEAD: The beans can be cooked several hours in advance. Reserve/cool them in their cooking liquid and reheat (low) before completing the dish.

Adapted from “One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal,” by David Tanis (Artisan, 2013).

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh shell beans, such as cranberry beans, shelled (2 generous cups)

4 cups water

4 whole cloves garlic, plus 1 clove, minced

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Put the shelled beans in a small pot, cover with the 4 cups of water and add the whole garlic cloves, a generous pinch of salt and the oil. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low; partially cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Check to see whether the beans are soft, tender and creamy throughout; if necessary, uncover and cook them a bit longer (5 to 8 minutes).

To serve, drain the beans and transfer them to a serving bowl, reserving the cooking liquid for another use (such as soup).

Sprinkle the rosemary, parsley, lemon zest and minced garlic over the beans. Drizzle with oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cold Chinese Chicken

4 to 6 servings

This is an easy dish, put together in minutes and abandoned for an hour over a low flame.

Buy the best chicken you can, preferably free range. Look for large thighs that have a bit of the backbone included; we tested this recipe with Kosher Valley chicken, available at Whole Foods Markets.

Sprinkle the ice-cold jellied chicken with sesame oil and scallions, then give a squeeze of lime. If you want something extra, add cucumber, avocado and crisp lettuce leaves. Or shred the chicken and serve it with cold noodles.

MAKE AHEAD: The thighs and their cooking liquid need to be refrigerated for at least several hours and preferably overnight. Adapted from “One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal,” by David Tanis (Artisan, 2013).

6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds; see headnote)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

One 2-inch piece peeled ginger root, cut into thick slices

4 cloves garlic, sliced

3 whole star anise

4 scallions, trimmed, 2 left whole and 2 slivered

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

1 jalapeño pepper, cut crosswise into thin slices and seeded (optional)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Lime wedges, for serving

Season the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper. Put them in a large pot and barely cover with cold water. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise and the 2 whole scallions; bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming off and discarding any foam from the surface. Reduce the heat to low; cover and cook for 1 hour.

Use tongs to transfer the thighs to a large bowl to cool.

Skim off and discard any fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Increase the heat to high; boil, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

Meanwhile, discard the skin from each thigh. Discard the bones, if desired.

Strain the reduced cooking liquid over the thighs, discarding any solids. Cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least several hours or overnight. The cooking liquid will become jellified.

To serve, arrange the chicken on a platter, with some of the jellied broth clinging to it. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Top with the slivered scallions and with the cilantro and jalapeño, if using. Drizzle with the sesame oil; serve with lime wedges.

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