Whether you're buying gifts for a culinary novice or an expert, an ideal present is as close as the nearest bookstore. The Times' Food staff looked at a sampling of the cookbooks released in time for this holiday season and offers the following reviews to assist last-minute shoppers. Some of these books get down to the basics, some deal with ethnic cuisines while still others are as much a feast for the eyes as for the appetite. These--or the host of other cookbooks you'll find on sale at local stores--will not only delight the recipient but might ensure the giver some memorable repasts during 1988.
The Norman Rockwell Illustrated Cookbook created by George Mendoza (McGraw-Hill: $17.95, 126 pp., illustrated)
The humor and warmth of 61 Norman Rockwell illustrations are combined with classic American recipes for a unique cookbook that appeals as much to the eye it does to the appetite. Rockwell's depiction of everyday life in this country continues to delight people today as much as it did during his lifetime, when many of his most famous and beloved paintings appeared as Saturday Evening Post cover illustrations.
Recipes include hearty, traditional, typically American fare: soups and chowders; fresh vegetables and salads; home-baked breads and desserts; basic sauces; and main courses for everyday meals, Sunday dinners and entertaining. Also included are holiday feasts, including Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.