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Something's Cookin'

[whitespace] A cookbook for every taste

book cover Salt & Pepper: 135 Perfectly Seasoned Recipes
By Michele Anna Jordan
(Broadway; $25)

THERE ARE LOTS of niche cookbooks dedicated to everything from tomatoes to tamales, but only a serious foodie would offer up a 238-page tome to those most staple of kitchen staples, salt and pepper. Michele Anna Jordan, a well-seasoned local food writer who has won a James Beard Award and spoken at the annual Pepper and Spice Seminar in Kuching (the capital of one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo), knows a thing or two about this ubiquitous culinary duo, having written on the topic first for the Independent and more recently in her role as a columnist with the local daily. Suffice to say, most of us take these spices for granted. But Jordan has a real flair for storytelling, whisking us from the salt mines of Kansas to the pepper farms of Sarikei while dishing up spicy recipes ranging from Asian salt eggs to pepper-spiced cookies.--Greg Cahill

Cooking without a Kitchen
By Peter Mazonson
(MCB Publications; $7.95)

THE SAME PUBLISHERS who brought us The Roadkill Cookbook are back with a cleaner, if still dubious, concept: coffeepot cookery. With Cooking without a Kitchen, author Peter Mazonson steps outside the boundaries of hotel-room edibles--candy bars from the vending machine or overpriced shoe leather from room service--and enters an infinitely more entertaining land of 20-cup steamed salmon and 10-cup soft-boiled eggs. Food in a filter usually takes longer to cook, and the lengthy disclaimer at the front of the book suggests that the road to becoming a coffeepot cookmaster is fraught with danger. But adventurous spirits who find themselves in a strange town with nothing but time and a spare box of mac 'n' cheese on their hands will find this a fun way of finagling dinner.--Marina Wolf

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Simply Vegetarian
By Sue Spitler
(Surrey Books; $14.95)

PART OF A SERIES of similar books devoted to simple cooking, Simply Vegetarian is blessed with quick and, yes, simple, recipes for everyday entrées or party creations. And anyone who has wrestled with a three-hour vegetarian lasagna recipe from the overrated Green's cookbook can appreciate that. Spitler has a way with--don't mind if I say it again--simplicity: mouthwatering 20-minute ravioli, tantalizing one-dish dinners, and beans, beans, beans! (And let's put in a plug for root vegetables--simply love 'em.) The beauty of these--you got it!--simple recipes is that they often are low-fat, healthy, and cheap. And you'll have extra leisure time to plan your meals and marvel at all those complicated cooking shows on PBS. It's as simple as that.--G.C.

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Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen
By Kitty Morse
(Chronicle Books; $22.95)

COOKING in the Kasbah is too pretty to use and too useful to languish on the coffee table. But once you've devoured the vibrant photos of the author's beloved Morocco, you should definitely get the book in the kitchen and risk a few splatters of olive oil. Morocco's climate is much like California's--warm and coastal--which means many of the indigenous ingredients should ring a bell: tomatoes, olives, peppers, lemons. But evocative spice blends and sweet-salty notes open up wonderful variations on those traditional Mediterranean themes. Morse's recipes range from simple (preserved lemons: cut open, stuff with salt, let 'em sit) to charmingly challenging (b'stilla, the logic-defying, cuisine-defining sweet chicken pie). Sit down with a cup of sweet mint tea (the Moroccan national drink) and take your pick.--M.W.

book cover The Healthy Oven Baking Book
By Sarah Phillips
(Doubleday; $17.95)

WHAT THE WORLD needs now is ... more desserts! Sarah Phillips understands this and delivers the goods--baked goods that is--made from scratch and with less fat. And for beginners, you get lots of easy-to-understand tips on strengtheners, sweeteners, and fat substitutres--a sort of Low-fat Cookin' 101. As the creator of Healthy Oven low-fat baking mixes, Phillips for years has been enticing the public to fill up on all-natural, low-fat cake and muffins. Now gourmands just like you and me can cozy up to guilt-free sweet potato cream cheese pie, fudgy chocolate frosting (just 1 gram of saturated fat), and zesty orange-coconut bars. Warning: Sarah does cheat a little by listing her own baking mixes in a few recipes. Hey, she's health conscious, but she's no fool.--G.C.

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The Millennium Cookbook: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine
By Eric Tucker and John Westerdahl; dessert recipes by Sascha Weiss
(Ten Speed Press; $19.95)

THE HEALTHFUL fusion cooking offered by The Millennium Cookbook and its namesake, the elegantly vegan San Francisco eatery, may be the best thing to hit the vegetarian world since prepackaged tofu. Some of the recipes herein are distressingly lengthy, but that happens in almost any high-glam cookbook. Beginners should start with simpler fare: salads, soups, dips, and desserts, which tend to be simple but not stupid, and rich with the promise of excellent flavor. The directions are always clear, the ingredients are inspired, and the nutritional information prosaically placed at the end of each creation is especially heartening for those who want low-fat with their high-flavor foods. Definitely give The Millennium Cookbook a whirl before Earth's odometer clicks over (and our Big Mac mines run out).--M.W.

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From the April 22-28, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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