Holiday books on cooking - a varied selection

By , Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.

This year's cookbooks have been appearing at the same fast pace as last year, with some books more suitable for one person than another - depending on the cooking ability of the reader.

There are excellent choices for Christmas giving, for both the expert and the beginner, ranging from a tiny book with a cover that looks like an English biscuit to large color editions priced up to $50.

The English Biscuit and Cookie Book, by Sonia Allison (St. Martin's Press, $6 .95).

Recommended: Default

The biscuit tin is to the English what the cookie jar is to Americans, and no British household would be without a store of assorted biscuits on hand for nibbling.

This charming small book includes over 80 recipes to fill either container -Cornish Fairings, Nutty Cinnamon Crescents, Savory Twists, and a recipe for plain biscuits from which you can make endless variations.

Martha Stewart's Quick Cook, by Martha Stewart (Clarkson N. Potter, $17.95).

This author is one of those contemporary wonder-women who has everything going for her. A model, a successful stockbroker, she's now a caterer who thinks nothing of planning parties for hundreds of people, and does it all beautifully.

She also works on her farm and garden and cooks interesting, fresh foods for her daughter and husband. All of which brought her to a second book, after an enormously successful first one on entertaining.

The ''Quick Cook'' evolved as her daily schedule became more demanding and she formulated a set of quick cooking rules. Recipes in this newest volume are quick, easy, and illustrated with color pictures.

Mrs. Witty's Monster Cookies, by Helen Witty (Workman Publishing, $5.95.)

Helen Witty, an experienced and serious cook and food writer, has focused her talents on giant-size cookies. She labels the cookies in three sizes - Monster cookies, which are 6 inches in diameter; Maximonsters, 9 inches across; and Ultimates, 12 inches across.

Recipes range from huge and gooey to elegant and old fashioned. All are easy to make, with good step-by-step instructions.

Try the crackly orange and ginger cookies, crisp sesame thins like peanut brittle, or chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies done with a mold you make of Campbell's condensed soup cans.

L. L. Bean Game & Fish Cookbook, by Angus Cameron and Judith Jones (Random House, $19.95).

L. L. Bean's boots may be right - and preppy - for man, woman, or child, whether or not they ever set foot in the North woods, but Bean's new cookbook is another kettle of fish.

Comprehensive and complete, it is for the serious hunter, fisherman, camper, and cook, covering techniques from barbecue to bourguignon for campsite suppers or elegant game dinners.

With handsome wildlife and botanical drawings by Bill Elliott, the book was written by two experts and is complete and comprehensive.

The Cook's Collection, A Literary Feast, by Maria Polushkin Robbins (Pushcart Press, $8.95).

This is, in a way, the most amusing food book of the year, but it's not a recipe book.

A small volume of quotations about cooking and dining from history and contemporary people, it quotes Herman Melville, Julia Child, Miss Piggy, Lord Byron, and many more. A delightful collection that is completely entertaining.

The Loaf & Ladle Cookbook, by Joan S. Harlow (Down East Books, $8.96).

This is the second book about the restaurant of the same name in Exeter, N.H. , where wonderful breads, soups, chowders, and stews of many kinds are the specialty of the house.

The book starts with basic stock recipes. From there on you can choose legume soups made with peas and beans or cream soups, chowders, and stews. There is also a chapter on what Mrs. Harlow calls Odd Bowls.

Recipes for breads, quiche, good cookies, and desserts are simple and hearty, and the book is also eminently readable.

The Baked Bean Supper Murders, by Virginia Rich (E. P. Dutton, $12).

A recipe for Giselle's Acadian Plogues, included in this book of ''culinary crime'' has readers as far as California writing to the Madawaska, Maine, I.G.A. grocery for buckwheat flour that can only be found in Aroostook County.

Recipes obviously get as much attention as mystery in this second book about Eugenia Potter, a lively, middle-aged widow who collects recipes and clues and proved her ability as an amateur sleuth in ''The Cooking School Murders.''

The baked-bean-supper book is set in a Maine coastal village, and Mrs. Rich handles the Maine accent of her characters well. The story does well as a regional study, too.

The Art of Russian Cuisine, by Anne Volokh with Mavis Manus ( Macmillan, $24. 95).

Against a colorful and rich background of culinary and historical anecdotes and quotations from Russian literature, this writer has traced the development of a classic cooking tradition which evolved in Western Europe and the Orient.

There are wonderful dishes with their roots in Scandinavian, Mongol, Tatar, Ukrainian, and Polish cuisines as well as some that were refined by French chefs employed by Russians years ago.

Five hundred recipes of a Russian cuisine which goes much further than Beef Strogonoff and Chicken Kiev have been chosen and tested by the author, a food writer for a Moscow Sunday newspaper for seven years.

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