Buffets and cookies for the holidays

If lots of people are coming to your house for a special party, the easiest way with food is at a buffet table; but instead of the usual platters of salads and cold meats, why not try something realy different? A table of Spanish tapas or Greek mezes or Chinese dim sum would give you a chance to show off savories of skewered meat and vegetables, spicy noodles or pasta, smoked poultry or game, unusual cheeses, and glistening fruit tartlets and tiny sweets.

Buffets, by Georges St. Laurent Jr. and Chet Holden (Wiley, $29.95), has most of the answers about international and ethnic dishes, along with creative and innovative ways of serving and presentation.

Including more than 300 recipes with color photographs of foreign and regional foods, the book encompasses buffets for all kinds of menu categories and seasoning groups with emphasis on heated foods.

An added feature is that each recipe has a test quantity for eight and a service quantity for 50, so cooks can sample their dishes or try them out at home before preparing them for the large group for a special occasion. Professional serving suggestions are included for each dish, as well as tips on more exotic or complicated variations.

With its global perspective on food, ``Buffets'' includes recipes and international serving themes from the European countries familiar for special cuisines, but also from Uruguay, Turkey, Sudan, Poland, Madagascar, Columbia, Laos, and Lebanon. There are special ideas for appetizers, others for desserts or brunch, and ideas such as how to use herbs and spices.

Each holiday season for the past 15 years in the town of Wellesley, Mass., a group of women have held a party to exchange cookies and recipes. In 1982, when Yankee magazine ran an article about the event, more than 15,000 readers wrote in requesting recipes.

For The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook (Dodd Mead, $15.95), author Susan Mahnke Perry collected more than 200 recipes from Cookie Exchange participants and added a few of her own.

There are cookies of all kind from old-fashioned thumbprint cookies, snickerdoodles and hermits, scrunchies, meltaways, peanut blossoms, moxie cookies, German honey bars, cinnamon stars, tea party cookies and lots of traditional old world recipes.

Expert advice includes equipment, storage, and which cookies are best for packing and mailing.

Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.

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