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.
Baby Let's Eat by Rena Coyle with Patricia Messing, nutritionist, (Workman Publishing: $7.95, 128 pp.)
If you are bent on making your own baby food, the book will give you a good start. You not only get the recipe, but also preparation, cooking time and the time limit for freezing the food. Pureed carrots, for instance, take 10 minutes preparation time, seven to 10 minutes cooking time and they can be stored in the freezer as long as two months safely.
Recipes, of course, become more varied and interesting as the child grows. For the 18- to 24-month-old child, there are such offerings as bow-tie pasta salad, steamed dilled carrots, and applesauce pancakes, among others. At 24 to 36 months, children may want to eat five or six times a day and the authors advise parent flexibility. A suggested day's menu might include biscuit, milk, scrambled eggs with grated cheese for breakfast, plain yogurt with mashed bananas for a snack, cold Chinese noodles, apple slices and milk for lunch, a bagel and fizz for afternoon snack and chicken, potato salad, spinach salad and fruit compote with milk for dinner.
There are dessert recipes, such as fruit chewies, ginger cookies and applesauce cake, too.