Friday, June 25, 2010


I have this little crush on David Tanis.  For six months he is the head Chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. (I know I've written about my love and adoration of Alice Waters.)  Then for six months he lives and cooks in PARIS.  Holding little salons and dinner parties and a private dining club.  IN PARIS.  Maybe it's not so much David Tanis I have a crush on, as it is his lifestyle.  I have his book, A Platter Of Figs and Other Recipes, and you know who he thanks in the acknowledgments?  David Sedaris.  When he's in PARIS he hangs out with David Sedaris.  Ok?  See what I'm saying here?  (Has anyone ever noticed before that Sedaris rhymes with Paris in this weird way?)

I also have a crush on David Tanis's food.  His whole philosophy is to use food when it is at the height of its season and to prepare it in a way that is both simple, fresh and flavorful.

So, last week, we're going to this party and I'm supposed to bring a dish, and I'm flipping through A Platter of Figs and see this spring menu with rabbit and what not and spinach cake - and I'm just caught by this spinach cake idea.  It looks so easy, and yet could be so amazing what with the fresh spinach I already had in my fridge from the farmer's market.  It's just leeks and a bit of butter and steamed fresh spinach and eggs and you whir it all up in a blender and pour it into a deep dish pie plate with a bit of parmesan on top and bake it until it's fluffy and set.  Well, maybe it's because I didn't spin the spinach after I washed it, or maybe it's because I had to let the concoction sit in the blender for 10 minutes when I went to pick Mads up from a friend's house, or even maybe it's my oven, which hasn't been calibrated in a while and might be cooking at a lower temp, or, maybe it's because I don't live in PARIS, but the whole thing turned out tasty, but watery.  Really watery.  I was bummed.  I know it wasn't David Tanis's fault, because that guy is a god.

So, I decided to make the whole thing over again last night because the farmer's market is on Thursdays and I thought I'd be able to pick up some awesome spinach, except there was this unbelievable hail/rain/armageddonish storm at 3pm right when people were setting up the farmer's market and most people just packed up and went on home.  I did score some incredible chocolate cake from Sarah Bakes - Sara is a parent at my daughter's school and is a good person to know if you need cake or brownies.  A really, really good person to know.  But, no spinach.  Only potatoes.

I did have a little bit of spinach left over from a salad I'd made earlier in the week, and I had some broccolini - which the girls love - and I had the leeks and eggs - and I was getting all ready to make this when I got a couple of phone calls which I had to take, then there was some issue in the basement with the dog eating a couple of pairs of underwear (you don't want to know...) and I thought we were having a guitar lesson for Emma, but that turned out not to be the case, at which point Smith came home and uncorked a Reisling, and the next thing I knew it was almost 7pm and I hadn't even begun to saute vegetables for a dish which needed 45 minutes (possibly more) in the oven.

In the end, I did what I always do - I took the basic idea of David Tanis's spinach cake and winged it - sauteed the vegetables, mixed up the eggs with some milk and tossed them into the pan, and baked it at 400 until it got puffy.  I liked it - but it was no David Tanis recipe, and it was a lot like a fritatta.  Then again, when I made David Tanis' recipe it was no David Tanis recipe...

This is what I did:

1 leek, chopped and rinsed of grit
2 TBLSP of butter
1 lb of baby spinach
1 lb of broccolini (that baby broccoli with the long tender stems) roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
a quick grating of nutmeg
a 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper - optional if you have kids, which I do.
6 eggs, whisked well
1 cup of milk
a grating of parmesan over the top

Preheat your oven to 400.  Saute the leeks in the butter.  When the leeks are nice and tender add the broccolini for a bit, then finally the spinach.  Season everything well because you're going to be adding the eggs soon.  Let the spinach wilt and the vegetable cook down

Meanwhile, whisk up the eggs the nutmeg and cayenne with the milk until it's all a bit frothy.

Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, grate on the cheese and stick the whole thing into the oven.  (Make sure you are using an oven proof pan!)

Let it cook about - I don't know 15 min?  I just kept checking though my oven's little window because I didn't want the whole thing to deflate.  It might have been 20 minutes.  In any case, I took it out when it was nicely browned and crusty.

Do check out the recipe for spinach cake on page 34 of A Platter Of Figs - and let me know if yours turns out better than mine...


  1. Beautiful...I've worshiped at the Chez Panisse alter since the early 90's when I was lucky enough to be in Berkeley every few months for activist trainings.

    Fresh lima beans in butter, slow roasted leg of lamp in a jus to die for, grilled figs on a balsamic reduction....I could go on and on.

    Do you own any of her books? I'm not a big cookbooks fan but they are the best. NO PHOTOS! Just the purity of food.

  2. mmm. Grilled figs... so jealous. Keep meaning to get to San Francisco (sorry MER and Freya - I'll get there, I swear) - soon I hope...


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