All the food that's fit to print

MACARONI and cheese, chicken pot pie, and foods with homespun ingredients are the favorites of two young New York chefs, along with a meat loaf that has canned mushroom soup among the ingredients. Carrie Levin and Ann Nickinson have collected these kinds of recipes in their cookbook Good Enough To Eat (Simon & Schuster, $12.95).

``We like the idea of American farm meals,'' Ms. Nickinson explains. ``We don't mind ketchup, and we like salt and use it liberally. Our cooking is actually shaded with French, Belgian, and Jewish overtones. But the dishes are comforting, delicious, and practical.''

Carrie Levin grew up in Belgium, and Ann Nickinson in Boston. But they share common ideas about food.

``Our greatest joy is to pretend we're mothers at home cooking for friends and relatives,'' comments Ms. Levin. The book has delightful illustrations by Abby Carter, and it is attractive and easy to follow.

Simple Cooking, by John Thorne (Viking, $20), is a collection of essays from the author's quarterly food newsletter. ``Ordinary dishes become extraordinary again if we go back to the roots and pare away all the ill-advised shortcuts that have dulled the luster over the years,'' Mr. Thorne comments.

He says his goal is to guide those ``of average cooking ability and without a strong sense of any ethnic culinary heritage toward acquiring a strong, usable, personal cuisine of their own.''

Born in Quincy, Mass., and now living in Castine, Maine, Thorne says he is no Yankee cook.

He discourages a dependency on convenience foods, but at the same time recognizes the place in American cooking for what he affectionately calls ``truly awful recipes.''

One of the new trendy cuisines is tropical cooking. This one began on the author's first trip to Jamaica, where she ``felt much like Columbus must have, discovering taste sensations never before experienced,'' she says.

The cookbook is Tropic Cooking: The New Cuisine from Florida and the Islands of the Caribbean, by Joyce LaFray Young (Ten Speed Press, $12.95).

Curried chicken, ginger, coconut, and exotic new spices are among the ingredients in these recipes for dishes like Lime-Garlic Shrimp, Banana Soup With Cinnamon, Caribbean Seafood Chowder, and Winged Beans With Bacon.

Although it's not a diet book, Elisa Celli's Italian Light Cooking (Prentice Hall, $19.95) shows that classic Italian cooking can be lighter. There are guides to shopping and advice on basic techniques as well as many recipes.

The author, an actress and best-selling writer, has collected what she considers the very best light, natural dishes from each region of the country - from Abruzzi and the Milanese to the Romano and Sicilian.

Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.

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