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.
Desserts (Better Homes and Gardens Books: 128 pp.)
A good number of rich dessert favorites with a slightly modified twist are featured in this lusciously illustrated cookbook.
For example, instead of plain walnut baklava, the sweet filo pastry crunch obtains new flavors from coconut and pecans. A delicate custard is baked in a ring mold and served with rum sauce and toasted almonds. A light-as-a-cloud meringue shell is filled with a tangy sour cream and lemon filling and topped with raspberry and cream.
Comforting to cravers of old-fashioned desserts are cobblers, fruit crisps, shortcakes and cream puffs. And for those who want to show off, the daiquiri torte and candy-leaf decorated chilly ribbon souffle are sure winners.