Here are some classy cookbook options to consider as you puzzle out your shopping list.
"Pierre Gagnaire: Reflections on Culinary Artistry" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2003, $50) is a very refined collection of full-page color photographs, abstracted and stylized compositions made up of ingredients you might see listed in recipes, each with a poetic one-paragraph caption on the facing page.
"HomeBaking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World" (Artisan, 2003, $40) is the rich result of much travel, writing, photography and baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, award-winning cookbook writers.They really have covered the world as more than 200 careful recipes show, with instructions for making delectable specialties from Taipei coconut buns to New England brown bread, from Beirut tahini swirls to Kazakh dried fruit pastries and Welsh cakes.
"Winning Styles Cookbook: Recipes From the James Beard Foundation Award-Winning Chefs" (Feeding Frenzy Inc., 2003, $42) is guaranteed to carry conviction. With text by Elin Jeffords, it offers about 100 recipes contributed by 21 top chefs from across the country who have won the prestigious Beard awards.
"Great French Chefs and Their Recipes" (Flammarion, 2003, $40) has text by Jean-Louis Andre and lavish photography by Jean-Francois Mallet that convey a strong sense of style and place: very French, very true to the food and its essence.
A companion book to the above could be "The Great Book of French Cuisine" (Vendome, 2003, $35) based on the 1966 original by Henri-Paul Pellaprat, in a new edition, revised by Jeremiah Tower. This is a standard reference, with its definitions of cuisines and techniques and about 800 classic recipes.
"Cooking at Home With The Culinary Institute of America" (Wiley, 2003, $40) declares the aim it fulfills with admirable thoroughness: to bring into the home kitchen its teaching for professionals. Step-by-step instructions for dozens of basic techniques are followed by recipes on which to practice them. Plenty of photos clarify the words, and show the finished dishes. The 10 chapters start with soups and the menu is rounded out with desserts, for a total of around 200 recipes.
"Classic Home Cooking" (DK, 2003, $40) by Mary Berry and Marlena Spieler is another revised, updated version, this time of a 1995 original.
This is a large-format book of lively design, action-packed with what the publisher describes as "hundreds" of recipes, including 50 new ones, lavishly illustrated with enough color photos of step-by-step preparation and finished dishes to energize any laggard cook.
"The Best Christmas Ever With Mary Engelbreit" and "You're Invited: A Cookbook for Special Occasions" (Andrews McMeel Universal, 2003, $29.95 each). Both are geared to family gatherings, and are full of color and images, including Engelbreit's own art work as well as color photos. The first, as the title indicates, focuses on Christmas, decorations and setting as well as food. The second suggests ideas for parties at different times of year, with recipes for many different occasions.
-- From wire reports