It's January, the beginning of a new year, the time to take stock of the past 12 months and look ahead to the next. We expect a State of the Union address from the president and, of only slightly lesser import, the state-of-culinary-America report from Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens. The Best American Recipes 2005-2006, the seventh in this inviting series, offers up 145 recipes and a quick scan of the trends Fran and Molly observed as they singled out the crme de la crme from books, magazines, newspapers, the Internet and even the backs of boxes. Overall, they are happy to report that culinary creativity is hard at work all across the country. The standout trend appears to be get real no fussy preparations and renewed appreciation for good, humble food. You'll find a full range of recipes from appetizers to sweet endings. Stunningly simple Pancetta Crisps with Goat Cheese and Pears are great with drinks. Carrot Ginger Soup, an old favorite, gets new zing from homemade ginger oil and a topping of lime crme fraiche. Neapolitan Spaghetti Pie made from leftover pasta and Tamale Pie made in a cast-iron skillet are comfort food treasures, while Dulce de Leche-Glazed Ham is an innovative take on easy elegance for a crowd. A collection of keepers from beginning to end.

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