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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.

Memoirs of a Cook: Yesterday and Today by Mildred O. Knopf (Atheneum: $19.95, 414 pp.)

Eighty-eight year old Mildred Knopf has authored a sixth (and she says final) cookbook, interspersed with her recollections of the particular occasions when many of the dishes were served. It adds up to an interesting glimpse of her life with her husband, motion picture producer Edwin H. Knopf.

The Knopfs lived in five foreign countries as well as New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland and California. They entertained many well-known people during the golden days of Hollywood, and her anecdotes mention Katharine Hepburn, Loretta Young, Jerome Kern, Mel Ferrer, and Nancy and Ronald Reagan, among others.

The recipes are a lifelong collection, beginning with the dishes Mildred Knopf grew up eating, prepared by her mother's Austrian cook who was trained in Austrian Kaiser Franz Joseph's kitchens. World War I, her marriage and her own interest in food and entertaining changed her from someone who couldn't even boil water into an admired hostess and cook.

Also among the over 250 recipes are Angela Lansbury's strawberry meringue shell, Lisa Ferrer's clafouti and Michele Morgan's pineapple caramel ring.

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