Choosing a new cookbook - consider your taste, ability, the cost

With so many new cookbooks on the market, most with sizable prices, it's a good idea to use judgment before a purchase, to decide exactly how well it may fill your specific needs and how much direction you need in a recipe.

It may be mostly a matter of taste, but since cooking is a personal process, your level of technique and ability are also basic considerations.

Here is a list that may help you decide which one would be worth an investment. Chinese Delights, by Lisa Kinsman, with photographs by Christine Hanscomb (Atheneum, $14.95).

A jewel of a picture book, this is a collection of 50 carefully tested recipes of the various Chinese provinces - from Stir-Fried Chinese Cabbage and Peking Duck to Lamb with Green Peppers and Pancakes and exotic oriental soups.

The outstanding color photographs embody the Oriental philosophy of cooking as a wedding of visual art and culinary skill. Cooking With Fruit, by Marion Gorman, (Rodale, $14.95). Cooking with fruit the way Marion Gorman suggests can add a whole new style to your menus.

Such dishes as figs with lobster and pineapple, breast of chicken stuffed with avocado on tomato fondue, roast pork with guava give you an idea.

This is a fascinating book to read, with stories of the author's watermelon patch in Mexico, of her own vineyard in Tuscany, and of her first experience of eating white peaches.

Marion Gorman entertains as she educates, intelligently introducing new, more easily obtainable fruits. Sister Jennie's Shaker Desserts, by Arthur Tolve and James Bissland (Gabriel's Horn Publishing Company, Bowling Green, Ohio, $3.95 paper, $9.95 hardback, $19. 95 in a 200-copy limited edition.)

A charming, small book, spare as a Shaker rocker, written by two professors at Bowling Green (Ohio) University. Actually there are only 14 recipes in the book - all from a private notebook kept for many years by a Shaker sister.

Tested and edited for use by today's cooks, each of the modern recipes is paired with Sister Jennie's originals in her own handwriting. The Frank Davis Seafood Notebook, by Frank Davis (Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, La., $14.95).

This is not actually a recipe book, for it tells more of the basic techniques of cooking fish than it does of specific rules.

No recipe should be taken as gospel, this author states. He believes strongly that all dishes can be altered or improved to suit individual tastes. This is an individual cookbook, with ideas you won't find in any other book.

The author tells how to substitute local fish if the fish required in the recipe isn't available. He lists 38 specific fish you should not bother to cook.

He tells how to make creative decisions by explaining which recipe ingredients may be exchanged with others without upsetting the balance of taste.

This is an excellent seafood cookbook, highly recommended by Paul Prudhomme, who calls it ''the first authentic Louisiana seafood reference book.''

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