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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|Minnie Bernardino

The Book of Garnishes by June Budgen (HP Books: $7.95, 128 pp., illustrated).

Many of the garnishes given in "The Book of Garnishes"--like radish roses, tomato sunflowers, lemon baskets, chocolate leaves, etc.--aren't new, of course, but overall the slim book is a nifty reference guide for useful garnishes. It is a wonderful gift book for the beginning cook. Jane Budgen divides the book into three main parts: garnishes for savory dishes, garnishes made with fruit and decorations for sweet dishes. What's eye-catching about this new book is the uniform, clean look achieved by an easy-to-study color photo of the garnish on top of each page with three how-to photos and directions underneath each garnish.

The emphasis on arousing the vital senses through pretty food is practical and motivating. Some innovative approaches are crisp noodle brushes tied with seaweed, lobster butterflies made out of the tip of a lobster tail and leek bows to top salads. A few finishing dessert touches include dipping roses in hot paraffin, making spun sugar and scorching powdered-sugar-coated pastries with a hot skewer.

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