The New York Times' David Tanis Recommends These 5 Kitchen Essentials
David Tanis spent years as chef at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse, the acclaimed Café Escalera in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and his own private supper club located in his apartment, and now, he dispenses some of what he's learned over the years each week in his New York Times column, "City Kitchen."
And that's not all you can read: his new cookbook, David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient, offers a crash course on how to seek out the best, fresh, and simple ingredients, and what to do with them once you have them. He stopped by the Food & Wine Test Kitchen to demonstrate just how much flavor you can create with a simple recipe like Indian Panfried Cauliflower, and shared five things to keep around the kitchen that will help you do it.
"I'm a big mortar and pestle person," Tannis tells Food & Wine. He owns almost every possible size, and uses it for grinding dry spices, pounding garlic and anchovies together, making vinaigrettes, and "pretty much anything that needs to be smashed," preferring it to a garlic press for garlic paste.
Like many chefs today, Tanis loves Korean red chili flakes for their medium heat and "fruit" flavor. Because they're not too hot, you can use more of them, imparting more of the unique heat without setting your palate on fire.
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When asked if there were any ingredients people are needlessly afraid to use, Tanis express his love of the wide and varied world of beans. "I don't know if people are scared of beans or not," he says, but recommends a kind of dried bean called Christmas Lima, which, don't worry, you can have whenever you want.
Spices are key to building flavors in dishes like those found in Market Cooking, and his Cauliflower is a perfect example. " When you toast cumin seeds and mustard seeds," says Tannis of the traditional Indian spices, "a wonderful thing happens," combining the musky flavor of the cumin, the "mustardy (but not hot mustard)" flavor of the mustard, with the rest of the ingredients for truly delicious combination.
And finally, Tanis recommends a cast iron pan, which you can get in whatever size you need. "It's nice to have the right pan and the right tool," and cast iron is "awfully good," but he also stresses to remember that, whatever the equipment, the best way to up your game is to just keep cooking.