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Junior League's Serious Cookbooks

December 10, 1987|BARBARA HANSEN | Times Staff Writer

Cookbook publishing has become big business for the nation's Junior Leagues. No longer content with the modest, spiral-bound, homey books that organizations usually put together, the leagues are producing comprehensive, expensive, hard-cover books that compete with the pros for bookstore space.

A landmark in this transition was the Junior League of Pasadena's "The California Heritage Cookbook," published in 1976 by Doubleday. Prior to this effort, the league had compiled volumes one and two of a conventional, spiral-bound book, "Pasadena Prefers." Ambitious in recipe selection and format, "California Heritage" won acclaim and hefty sales. So far, more than 160,000 copies have been sold.

Now the league has produced an equally ambitious sequel, "California Heritage Continues" (Doubleday: $22.50). Professional food photography and styling set off this large collection of recipes that probe further into regional tastes.

In the past 11 years, the culinary scene in California has changed considerably, and these changes are reflected in the book. With increased Asian immigration, spicy Southeast Asian dishes have gained an audience. The league takes note of this with a number of Asian recipes, including Thai lamb in lettuce leaves, Thai fish with pickled red ginger and a Vietnamese style shrimp and pineapple soup.

The Cajun craze brought still more highly seasoned food to California tables, resulting in the addition of Cajun-style meatloaf, barbecued shrimp and other recipes. Next, California adopted Texas-style fajitas. The league acknowledges this event with beef and chicken fajitas, each accompanied by its own version of the spicy Tex-Mex salsa, pico de gallo. Other Mexican and Southwestern recipes in the book range from tortilla soup to a chicken chili that requires 31 ingredients plus condiments.

Examples of contemporary trendy cooking are dishes that incorporate Asian, Latin and Southwestern elements, such as Chinese roast duck with kiwi sauce, Oriental steak with wasabi butter and Southwest snapper with cilantro cream. Then there are the "numerical" dishes that today's chefs dote on, among them Belgian endive with two fillings, spinach salad with three dressings and pasta with four cheeses.

Pasta and pizza are so fundamental to California cuisine that, along with rice, they rate an entire chapter. Goat cheese salad, duck breast dishes and other recently popular foods have ample coverage, and occasionally a real oldie, like blackberry jam cake, slips in.

"California Heritage Continues" is on sale in major bookstores, some department stores and specialty shops. The book also can be ordered by phone or mail. To order by phone, call (818)796-0162. The price for mail orders is $22.50 plus 6.5%sales tax ($1.46)and $2 postage and handling, making a total of $25.96. Add $1.50 if gift wrapping is desired. Make checks payable to Junior League of Pasadena and send to the league at 149 S. Madison Avenue, Pasadena, Calif. 9110l.

Some of the prettiest photography in the book shows a menu for New Year's Eve in Pasadena. Here is the menu and the recipe for the main dish.

New Year's Eve in Pasadena

Sesame Cheese Twists

Capellini With Smoked Salmon and Black Caviar

Roast Duckling With Black Peppercorn Sauce

Shoestring Yams

Sauteed Baby Vegetables

With Shallot Butter

Center Stage Salad

Chocolate Meringue With Raspberry Creme Anglaise

ROAST DUCKLING WITH BLACK PEPPERCORN SAUCE

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 shallots, minced

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

3 tablespoons unsulfured molasses

2 teaspoons freshly crushed black peppercorns

2 1/2 cups Duck Stock

2 tablespoons arrowroot

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons Madeira wine

2 (5-pound) ducks

Salt, pepper

In medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over moderately low heat. Add shallots and saute slowly until soft. Add vanilla bean, molasses, peppercorns and Duck Stock. Simmer 15 minutes. Strain to remove shallots. Return sauce to pan with vanilla bean. Blend arrowroot with 3 tablespoons Madeira. Beat into sauce base and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, until slightly thickened. Set aside. Sauce can be made ahead to this point.

Season duck cavities with salt and pepper. Pierce skin around lower breast, back and thighs. Truss ducks and place breast side up on rack in shallow roasting pan. Bake at 425 degrees 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast ducks 30 minutes on each side. With bulb baster, remove some of fat that accumulates as ducks roast. Turn ducks breast side up and sprinkle with salt. Roast 10 to 15 minutes longer for medium rare or until juices run faintly rosy when thigh is pierced with fork. For well done, cook until juices run pale yellow. Remove trussing, place ducks on heated platter and set in turned-off oven while finishing sauce. Ducks can be roasted in the morning, if desired, and reheated at 300 degrees. Place under broiler 3 to 5 minutes for extra-crisp skin.

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