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For the Kitchen Bookshelf : Cookbooks. Big books, little books, showy cocktail table books . . . all arrive in time for holiday shopping each year. The Times' Food staff took a look at some of this year's offerings, many of which will make excellent gift choices for last-minute shoppers. Here's a rundown on some we found interesting.

December 21, 1986|BETSY BALSLEY

Jeremiah Tower's New American Classics by Jeremiah Tower (Harper & Row: $25, 233 pp., illustrated).

The gorgeous photography by Ed Carey might, at first perusal, make one think that Jeremiah Tower's new book is one of those cocktail table cookbooks meant for reading only. Not so. The book is truly a beauty and great fun to read . . . but you'll find you are reading it on your way to the kitchen . . . with dinner in mind.

This enterprising young American chef's culinary artistry is well known to those who follow "trendy" chefs, but his entertaining prose may come as a surprise. In spite of his original leanings toward classical French cuisine and techniques, Tower comes through clearly as an American chef. An imaginative and appreciative American chef. One who has happily figured out how to comfortably blend the best of the foods and techniques prevalent in this country with those of other, more classical cuisines.

In a way, Tower's book has the overtones of a personal diary devoted to food and the people in his life who have influenced his palate. His recipes, essentially simple, well-constructed offerings, range from a prosaic club sandwich to a sea urchin souffle. And while some of the ingredients called for may not be your ordinary supermarket fare, by and large the recipes are not so esoteric one would not wish to try them at home.

Although not for beginners, Tower's "New American Classics" certainly belongs on the book shelf of every adventurous cook. Even if you don't follow his recipes exactly, you'll find a treasure trove of creative ideas between the covers of this appetizing volume.

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