by Sybil PrattDecember, 2001
Gastronomical gifts galore
If there are foodie friends or family on your gift list, for whom cooking, eating and entertaining are a source of great interest and joy, give them the epic, epicurean sourcebook extraordinaire, the new, extensively revised English edition of Larousse Gastronomique, the A to Z reference that unabashedly calls itself "The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia". It's big (1,392 pages, 3,500 recipes), it's beautiful (350 full-page, full-color photographs) and it's been generously updated with 400 new entries on popular ingredients from around the world, new cooking tools, techniques and technologies, 200 new recipes, sidebar features and much improved maps and charts. An instant classic on classic continental cuisine and de riguer for all serious cooks when it was first published in 1938, this new Larousse carries on its great tradition while expanding its range to embrace our expanded interest in global gastronomy.
Food and wine
While we're considering the big and the beautiful, a look at Ann Willan's latest, luscious, lavishly illustrated Cooking with Wine is a must. Willan, an internationally acclaimed cook, author and founder of the La Varenne Cooking School, includes over 220 recipes that use wine as a key ingredient. She macerates, marinates, poaches, sauces, simmers, glazes, deglazes and flambÅ½es with wine; makes pastry dough and pasta dough with white wine; a rich, sweet Confit of Onion with red wine; French Onion Soup with port; savory Mushroom Croutes with madeira; cooks Salmon in Champagne sauce and bread pudding with sherry. All manner of marvelous meat, chicken and fish dishes are given flavor and complexity by the addition of a mellow, rounded wine. Each recipe is intriguingly introduced, with advice on the right wine to cook with and the right wine to drink. To top off these elegant offerings, Willan includes 24 portraits of winemakers and wineries from all over the country. A toast to Anne Willan and Cooking with Wine is definitely in order!
All the recipes fit to print
The years go by, the cookbooks pile high but I'm still among the mad clippers who can't wait for the weekly dining section of The New York Times and the edible wonders to be found there. But, every once in a while a cookbook comes along that supplants, even enhances, my cherished, yellowing files of newsprint. The Chefs of the Times: 250 Recipes and Reflections from Some of America's Most Creative Chefs edited by Michalene Busico certainly fits that bill and goes beyond. In 1997, the Times inaugurated "The Chef" column, giving a series of well-known chefs eight weeks to share their recipes and uniquely individual approaches to cooking. The first group of 23 chef columns is gathered here and what a glorious, four-star-studded gourmet gathering it is. Even if these celebrity chefs aren't familiar to you, the dishes and menus they have created will impress and inspire. Adapted for home cooks and home kitchens, they are sophisticated but doable. Here's a gift you may want to give yourself.
Chances are there's at least one vegetarian on your holiday receiving roster. If so, or if you're curious yourself about an all-veg regime, Very Vegetarianby Jannequin Bennett, with an introduction by Carl Lewis, is just what the vegan ordered. Ms. Bennett believes that vegan eating is about living well and benefiting from the rich array of nutrients naturally present in whole, fresh foods. The 250 appealing recipes she offers, for everything from appetizers to desserts, demonstrate that you can dine easily and elegantly, with a full range of flavors, textures and colors, without using meat, eggs or dairy products. And, hey, if Carl Lewis can run and jump and feel his best by becoming very vegetarian, it's got to be the winning way.