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Cookbooks for Couples

Fresh and affordable basic guides for every cook or wannabe cook

Wedding season is almost upon us. That means couples will be setting up house, trying out new appliances, nesting, and possibly even cooking dinners. Anyone setting up a household, coupled or not, should consider acquiring a basic cookbook as a reference--something they can return to now and again to clarify, learn something new--to act as a guide through unfamiliar territory.

The latest crop of basic cookbooks offers a myriad of variations for the home cook. Whether a nervous novice or an experienced chef, there is a fresh, basic cookbook for just about everybody ready for something new.

We all know someone who just "can't cook." They never learned, and somehow when they choose recipes they pick the ones that are destined for failure. How to Cook Everything: The Basics is the cookbook for them. It's for first-timers who need to build up their confidence with no-fail recipes for things like pasta, stews, vegetables and chicken. Author Mark Bittman is masterful at simplifying recipes and offers gives enough variations that the beginning cook will not outgrow this book too quickly.

For someone who wants to perfect their skills, especially if they have a little skill to begin with, consider James Peterson's Essentials of Cooking. More than 250 techniques and recipes are complemented with more than 1,100 color photographs. This book has few actual recipes; it's really more about techniques. Everything from the basic (how to chop mushrooms) to the advanced (how to shape quenelles) is covered in clear, easy-to-understand instructions. No matter how experienced, everyone will learn something from this book.

Sally Schneider's A New A Way To Cook is exactly that. This book serves up recipes for cooking food simply, easily, and healthfully. Recipes reflect the way many want to cook today--relying on olive oil, a little butter, lower fat milk and the use of fresh techniques to boost flavors. Schneider includes methods not often covered in other books. For example, she provides close to twenty "flavor essences and spice & herb rubs," as well as tips on how to use them. For someone rediscovering cooking or looking for recipes beyond the expected, this book is a wonderful find.

Vegetarian cooks need a cookbook that covers the basics too and offers plenty of variety in styles. So which is the book for them? Charmaine Solomon's Complete Vegetarian Cookbook fits the bill perfectly. Unlike so many other vegetarian cookbooks, this one is not about health or political causes; this one is just about good food. The book is divided into several sections: Western Influence, Eastern Influence and East Meets West. Whether you are looking for a creamy onion soup, curried vegetables in coconut milk or Swedish rye bread, it's all in there. There are some photographs, but the techniques are fairly easy and the instructions are clear enough for the new cook as well as someone who had recently made a change in diet. This book is a gem for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

Finally, what to get for that certain someone who eloped? For the cook who believes that a successful meal is judged by how quickly the meal makes it to the table? For the ones who may not know that their kitchens actually include ovens, A Flash in the Pan --Fast Fabulous Recipes in a Single Skillet makes perfect sense. After reviewing types of skillets, skillet cooking basics and how to stock "the flash pantry," authors Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard zip through braises, sautÚs, stews and stir-fries--even Thai-style beef in lettuce wraps! These recipes are oriented towards everyday dinners and with the single exception of omelets, all serve four people.

How to Cook Everything: The Basics
by Mark Bittman
Wiley; ISBN: 0-7645-6756-X
Hardcover: 224 pages
(March 2003) $20.00

Essentials of Cooking
by James Peterson
Workman Pub Co: ISBN: 1579652360
Paperback: 312 pages
(April 2003) $24.95

A New Way to Cook
by Sally Schneider, photographs by Maria Robledo
Workman Pub Co: ISBN: 1579652492
Paperback: 756 pages
(April 2003) $24.95

Complete Vegetarian Cookbook
by Charmaine Solomon
Ten Speed Press: ISBN: 1-58008-427-3
Hardcover (cloth): 391 pages
(August 2002) $39.95

A Flash in the Pan
by Brooke Dojny, Melanie Barnard, Maren Caruso (Photographer)
Chronicle Books: ISBN: 0811835782
Paperback: 168 pages
(April 1, 2003) $22.95