Saturday, January 31, 2009

Platter of Figs: He's no Claudia Roden

A tough crowd, my toughest. The other night I presented them with David Tanis' North African Comfort Food menu which consisted of:

-carrot salad
-chicken tagine with pumpkin and chickpeas
-walnut cigars

They were surprisingly tolerant. For once, I was the meal's harshest critic, disappointed by the tagine, which I felt needed something starchy to soak up the thin, copious sauce. Tanis is supposedly the master of the "harmonious" menu, so why no couscous or bread or potato buds? 

I'm dying to hear Philomere's thoughts and will withhold some of my larger theories about Tanis and this book until she has weighed in.

The walnut cigars were basically deconstructed baklava and very tasty.


  1. Philomere weighs in: First, I'm exhausted from the hours of prep required for this "simple, home cooked meal"? Tipsy, how do you pull this off every night? The carrots were well received, reminiscent of a simple salad the kids love to eat when in France. While I liked the cinnamon in the chickpeas, the chicken was a total disappointment: saved from a completely flaccid fate by cooking an extra 20 minutes with the lid off, but still way too wet and utterly bland. None of the subtle, complex flavors I was expecting from the pumpkin, ginger, saffron and cumin. Walnut cigars were a hit, but the family consensus is: if you’re going to go the trouble, why not just make the baklava? A Platter of Figs: the photography is lovely, but lost in translation on poor-quality paper. About Tanis: I’ll reserve final judgment until I can skim the whole book, but isn’t there something slightly arrogant in implying that my tangerines aren’t properly dressed unless they’re presented in a “well-worn earthen vessel”? Maybe I’m just still mad about last night’s dinner…

  2. I'm so glad to get your report. I completely agree about everything, but didn't want to come on too strong. The salad was good enough, but the chicken? Flaccid, wet, and utterly bland -- a perfect description. I didn't even eat it.
    Plus, a TON of work.
    I would say this was my worst meal yet from the (beautiful) book, but none of them have been particularly good. Did we hallucinate all those rapturous reviews?

  3. Apparently! Well, I'm holding my breath for the pig's ear salad...

  4. I would argue that the carrots were two big to be a simple salad. Each bite had too much carrot to it, and too much carrot is not a good thing. The walnut cigars I preferred to baklava, because their exterior wasn't so sticky. Easier to eat and not as sweet.

  5. I knew I remembered you having some issues with "A Platter of Figs" but I was just browsing this recipe and thinking it sounded so good that I had to come search the site to see if you'd done the tagine. Crap. I was going to try it today for the faux in-laws, but I'm not going near a wet, bland chicken dish.
    My collection of cookbooks is woefully short on tagines. Am I going to have to buy a tagine cookbook? Any thoughts on a good lamb tagine?

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