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Cookbooks

December 20, 1987|JOAN DRAKE

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.

Monday Night at Narsai's by Narsai M. David and Doris Muscatine (Simon & Schuster: $19.95, 381 pp.)

Many of us have fond memories of dining at Narsai's, a restaurant that was open from 1972 to 1985 in Kensington, Calif. During those years, one of the traditions established by Narsai David, owner and chef, was a fixed menu on Monday nights, developed around whatever cuisine happened to capture his attention and appeal to his senses at the moment.

Now, for those who remember those meals, as well as those who never had the chance to experience one of his Monday night dinners, Narsai David and Doris Muscatine have created an international menu cookbook from the best of the Monday night menus. The 56 menus span an alphabet of cuisines, from African to Yugoslavian.

Three other menus are included--a low-calorie, an annual California Spring festival and one of perennial favorites from the regular restaurant menu. For each menu, the authors offer a traditional bread and a note describing the characteristics of each recommended wine.

Another note of nostalgia can be found in the reprint of the restaurant's extensive wine card. One more plus is the substantial glossary of terms, ingredients and dishes in the back of the book.

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