There is such variety in good cookbooks this year that there should be no problem in choosing one or two for a Christmas gift for a person who likes to cook, or to eat or to read about food. Here are some suggestions.
Roger Verge, one of the best-known and liked chefs of France, has an imagination that appears to have no bounds. combining his love for the fresh produce of southern France -- the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, shellfish, basil -- and its regional dishes, with the home cooking of Verge's youth, he has well earned three Michelin stars at Le Moulin de Mougins, his charming restaurant in the hills overlooking Cannes. Now he has divulged some of the secrets of his "sunshine cooking" in a new book, Roger Verge's Cuisine of the South of France (New York: Wm. Morrow & Co. $14.95).
The Verge recipes are simplistic, emphasizing fresh vegetables, light sauces, herbs, poultry, seafood, and fruit desserts that are colorful and joyful on the plate and refreshing to eat. They are direct and explicit, with italic notes by the editor and translator to help American cooks in making Verge dishes in their own kitchens. What could be more appealing than preparing a fish soup from the Midi on a cold winter day in New England?
The four Seasons, by Tom Margittai and Paul Kovi, (New York: Simon & Shuster. elegant, handsome volume is resplendent with color photographs autographs menus, and special recipes.
It crystallizes the philosophy of this unique and beautiful restaurant with its concept of freshness, seasonal variations, and originality. This is not a run-of-the-mill cookbook. Your will not find breakfast dishes here. True, it could be considered a coffee-table book, but it will just as easily go into the kitchen.
Written by the owners, with recipes by Chef Joseph (Seppi) Renggli, it has been edited by food authority Barbara Kafka, and there is a foreword by James Beard.
Original recipes, many of which have been indicative of new trends, are included such as Tomato Bisque with Basil Sorbet, Red Salmon Tartare, Vegetable Terrine with Pepper Sauce Chicken Paillard and Onion Soup made with cream, potato, and Camembert cheese. The four Seasons Ham Mousse with Peaches, as sensation when first introduced, is given with an introduction telling how it evolved.
There is an interesting collection of savory souffles and the famous fish and dessert recipes, as well as lamb and duck preparations that are outstanding.
The Good Cook (New York: Time-Life. $12.95), a series of cookbooks with Richard Olney as chief consultant, is available by mail order and in bookstores about two months after each edition is mailed to subscription members.
The combination of Richard Olney's sensitivity and knowledge and the resources of Time-Life have proved to be an ideal collaboration, resulting in a series of cookbooks that are exceptionally complete and instructive.
Each volume is based on a specific food category such as Poultry, Salads, Soups, Classic Desserts, Fish, Eggs, and Cheese and several more.
Each book begins with just about everything you would want to know on the subject -- how to purchase prepare, and store the specific foods with attractive helpful how-to photographs.
An anthology of recipes in each, a collection from a variety of chefs and food experts such as Paul Bocuse, Julia child, Craig Claiborne, and Madeleine Kamman, is often expanded by recipes from foreign books or collections not available to the general public. Recipes are in both metric and American measure and the price is moderate for the quality of information given.
English Provincial Cooking, by Elisabeth Ayrton, (New York: Harper & Row. $16 .95) is an attractive example of the importance of history and geography as underlying factors in culinary traditions. Good food and, in particular good English food is traced to the origins of the specialties of the culinary areas with recipes from each.
Jean Hewitt's International Meatless Cookbook (New York: Times Books. $12.95) appeals to anyone interested in cutting down on red, cured, and processed meats and increasing the use of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as well as peas, beans, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, milk, and milk products.
It has a variety of good-tasting, good-looking dishes that fit into an economical, modified eating regime. International recipes are modern adaptations of the classics and are not intended to be completely authentic.
The American Heritage Book of Fish Cookery. by Alice Watson Houston, (New York: American Heritage Publishing Company. $17.50) will capture many of its readers first by the wonderful collection of vintage fish pictures showing an account of fishing styles in North American rivers, lakes, streams, and coastlines in early times.
Anecdotes and quotes from famous fishing characters also add to the book along with the excellent recipes from an accomplished fisherwoman and cook. Authentic line drawings by James Houston, author and naturalist.
At Home With Japanese Cooking, by Elizabeth Andoh, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $15) was written by an American who went to Japan to study the language, attended a Japanese cooking school for 6 years, and taught Japanese cooking to Westerners there.
Elizabeth Andoh married into a traditional Japanese family and after more than 13 years of living in Japan recently returned to America with her husband and daughter.
Her cookbook is straightforward, most attractive, and easy to follow. There are a few simple explanations of the Japanese language of equipment and techniques. From then on the book is full of delicious suggestions for adding just a few Japanese touches to a meal or preparing a full-course dinner.
A good book to cook by when you're on your own is Fearless Cooking for One, by Michelle Evans, (New York: Simon & Schuster. $13.95). Here is a collection of one dozen Cornish game hen entrees, 14 pasta dishes, 15 omelet recipes, and other quick, easy preparations for people with busy schedules. Suggestions for complete menus accompany each of the entrees, and fresh vegetable recipes from A to Z provide a selection of interesting side dishes.
Michele Evans is a well-known food consultant and author of eight other cookbooks, including the popular "Fearless Cooking for Men." She will help you stock a larder for one and equip your kitchen so cooking alone can be relaxing and enjoyable instead of a chore.
Cooking On Your Own, by Henry Creel, (New York: Times Books. $10.95) is a very complete book for the person who cooks for one with many recipes adapted from the menus of Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey, cooking writers for the New York Times.
Mr. Creel also tells you what to do with packages of food that are likely to spoil before one person can use them up; how to equip the kitchen for one person , and how to expand single recipes when company is coming.
English Bread and Yeast Cookery, by Elizabeth David, (American edition with notes by Karen Hess. New York: Viking Press. $17.50) is a treasure for anyone interested in a scholarly approach to the subject of flours, milling, and breadmaking. The English edition, which I have used for several years, is an invaluable reference.
The American edition's recipes have been translated to American measurements. As with many bread recipes, these are for the most part, guidelines, not formulas. Proportions are not rigid, but require a feel for the dough.
One of England's leading cookery experts, Mrs. David has included recipes ranging from a six-page discussion of the basic loaf to the complexities of French puff pastry.
Breads of all kinds are discussed as well as the lovely old spiced breads, Cornish saffron cake, Welsh bara brith, yeast buns, leavened pancakes, muffins, crumpets, and oatcakes.
The book is a culmination of five years of research with readable, scholarly essays on the history and lore of breadmaking and flour milling and fascinating discourses on the shapes and names of English and French loaves -- a definitive work on the subject.
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji, (Kodansha, $14.95). Americans for the most part have not yet delved deeply into Japanese cooking at home. This book is a good reason to start.
Author Tsuji, a leading figure in international gastronomic circles, is head of the largest school for professional chefs in Japan. He is the author of 29 books on gastronomy, travel and music, and the owner of one of the world's largest collections of Bach recordings.
Tsuji has satisfied the Japanese fascination for French cuisine by bringing Paul Bocuse and many other top French chefs to his cooking school in Osaka which with an expert staff of 220, offers intensive one-year courses on Japanese, French, and Chinese cooking.
Translated by Mary Sutherland his cookbook is arranged with recipes in groups according to cooking techniques.
Excellent for Christmas giving but not discussed here because of reviews in earlier Monitor issues are the following:
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts (New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Lenotre's Ice Creams and Candies, by Gaston Lenotre, (Woodbury, N.Y: Barron's Educational Series. $18.95).
The New Italian Cooking, by Margaret and G. Franco Romagnoli, (Boston: "Atlantic-Little, Brown & Co. $15).
The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook, by Chef Louis Szathmary, (Boston: CBI Publishing Company. $12.95).