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  A Chef's Table 2003 Cookbook Picks

There may only be a few shopping days left in the holiday season, but you're going to need 1,092 meals over the course of the next year--and that's not counting snacks! In order to ensure those meals are the best you or your loved one can make, here are our Chef's Table picks for this year's crop of cookbooks.

For the tentative in the kitchen, try Rick Rodgers The Carefree Cook. Over 150 hassle-free recipes will get you started with the basics. From a Grilled Cuban Sandwich to Spaghetti with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes to an elegant Oven-poached Salmon with Watercress Mayonnaise, Rodgers tips for buying, storing and cooking will make you a carefree and confident cook.

The trend of the year was bread baking with lots of new books that claim to make home-made bread as easy as the proverbial sliced. Serious home bakers will find Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible a meticulously detailed tome that's like having a cooking instructor by your side. From a Cranberry Banana Walnut Quick Bread to a feathery classic Brioche these recipes rise to the occasion.

Or try the Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook : Artisan Breads, Pastries and Desserts by James Barrett and Wendy Smith Born. As delicious as the breads are, go straight to the chapter on small sweets and the recipe for cannele. Be warned: making these rich French jewels at home makes it difficult to keep consumption to just one!

And along the bread lines comes American Pie, Peter Reinhart's search for the perfect pizza. You'll enjoy his romp around the world that lands you squarely (or, depending on your pie preference, roundly) in your kitchen for a home-made slice. His sure-fired methods to transform your oven into a pizzeria will turn the delivery guy from a close family member into a long-lost cousin.

Aspiring professional chefs will want Creating Chefs: A Journey Through Culinary School by Carol Maybach. With recipes expressed in the format of a professional and personal insights into the life of a chef, this selection is textbook.

If you want to add a touch of sophistication, you have 500 recipes to choose from in Rozanne Gold's exquisite Cooking 1 2 3. Gold has compiled the best of nearly a decade of cooking minimally with three ingredients. Just think, you could prepare half a years worth of meals with fewer than 1500 ingredients!

My vote for the sweetest book of the year is Sweets by Patty Pinner. If you don't have a large extended family, you do now. Pinner's collection of soul food desserts and memories welcomes you into her Saginaw, Michigan childhood kitchen. You'll love My-My, Aint Marjell, and Miss Lalou as much as the recipes. Ranging from the simple down-home pear cobbler to old fashioned pecan candy, the pages of this book are destined to be as loved and well-worn as a treasured family photo-album.

If you like dishing up food as memoir, then pack a picnic basket and go with Rebbeca Charles on a Maine beach with Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pie. Charles and her co-writer Deborah DiClementi offer three generations of recipes and stories from Charles family New England vacations. These are the recipes and inspiration that made her Pearl Oyster Bar a favorite Manhattan destination.

Hard-core French-i-fied foodies will want the Balthazar Cookbook, from the famous Soho neighborhood restaurant in New York. Loaded with pictures to make you salivate and written by three chefs, you can dine on sole a la meuniere, rabbit moutarde, or a simple chick pea pancake straight from the streets of Nice.

Another restaurant book to hit the shelves is The Artful Vegan: Fresh Flavors From the Millennium Restaurant by Eric Tucker. Recipes such as Sesame Crusted Oyster Mushroom Calamari or Indian Summer Grilled Fig and Raddiccio with Tomato Salad will make that college kid who came home as a vegan tolerable. And the gastro-porn photos are luscious looking---kinda like an all-natural Pamela Anderson calendar.

And, as if you didn't have enough meals to make for yourself in the course of a year, don't overlook the four leggeds in your life. Cooper Gillepsie offers, Throw Me A Bone, a break-out book elevating canine cuisine. Gillepsie is a Welsh Springer Spaniel who dines on Grrrrranola and Terrier Tofu.

Woof-woof.

 

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