Fresh from the garden to your table

If you're inclined to include cookbooks among your summer reading in that tiny cabin on the lake, be sure to pack "The Taste of Summer" and "Summer: Recipes Inspired by Nature's Bounty." Written, respectively, by California cooks Diane Rossen Worthington and Joanne Weir, these books, with evocative color photographs and fresh-from-the-garden recipes, will spring even the laziest vacationer out of the hammock and into an apron.

The barefoot days of summer lend themselves to an easy style of entertaining. The season is perfect for the typically jittery host, who can forget the silver, fine china, and starched linens, and keep things as simple as paper plates in wicker holders, a blanket, and a picnic basket. It's what's inside that basket that counts most, and as soon as guests bite into a vine-ripened tomato, just-picked berries, or fresh-caught fish, winter is forgotten.

Ms. Worthington and Ms. Weir capture the season's laid-back spirit with recipes that don't keep cooks near a hot stove or grill for long. Simple and elegant dishes such as Scallops Brochette, Lemon-Herb Roasted Potatoes, or Farmer's Market Tomato Salad make the most of summer's culinary riches without too much effort.

Others such as Nut-Crusted Trout With Romesco Sauce, Tomato and Onion Tart, and Whole Poached Salmon require a bit more time and skill, but some cooks enjoy a bit more of a challenge.

Both books offer plenty of guidance. "The Taste of Summer" (Chronicle Books, $22.95) answers such basics as how to start the fire on a charcoal grill, what to pack in a picnic basket, and how to set a buffet table.

Those who learn best from visuals will especially appreciate "Summer: Recipes Inspired by Nature's Bounty," edited by Williams-Sonoma (Time Life Books, $21.95). After an introduction that instructs cooks on selecting quality ingredients, photographic glossaries define seasonal foods, and step-by-step photographic illustrations teach techniques such as peeling and seeding peppers.

Recipes in the Williams-Sonoma book are charmingly introduced with quotes from such literary giants as Emily Dickinson and Henry James. The latter sums up the sentiment of many of us - cooks and noncooks alike: "Summer afternoon - summer afternoon ... the two most beautiful words in the English language."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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