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Cookbooks

December 20, 1987|TONI TIPTON

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.

Gourmet Cooking Without Salt by Eleanor P. Brenner (Doubleday: $9.95 softcover, 432 pp.)

When your doctor instructs you to limit your sodium intake for health reasons, as was the case for this author, the solution is simple--you do it. But the decision to reduce the amount of sodium in the diet can wreak havoc on the palate, especially for those who salt their food even after cooking. The result of a sodium cutback is usually tasteless food that is bland and unappetizing, inevitably causing the most well-intentioned to return to the salt shaker for relief.

The obvious solution is to gradually omit salt from recipes, calling upon herbs and other seasonings for flavor, or to select foods in their natural state as opposed to those in processed form. Another choice is to substitute low-sodium versions of commonly used and traditionally high-sodium food items such as cheese, soup, soy sauce and butter. A final solution is to season foods with a salt-substitute. All of these options are offered in this book.

The use of the term gourmet in the title implies extraordinary food. Instead, the book features fairly standard recipes such as stuffed peppers, typical salad dressings and chicken in every form from tetrazzini to Marengo or Moroccan style, with chestnut sauce and mole sauce. What is different is that the usual canned and packaged versions of ingredients are exchanged for homemade. Range-top stocks stand in for canned, and "lite" products--including triple-strength low-sodium dry milk, low-sodium tomato paste, salt-free cheese, sweet butter and seasoned salt substitute--contribute flavor.

It's a good reference for those on restricted diets or interested in cutting back in general, offering basic recipes for familiar dishes made with ingredients that are easy to find and easy to use.

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