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's Best Desserts by the Editors of Gourmet Magazine, (Conde Nast Books, Random House: $29.95, 576 pp.)
If there ever was a complete collection of desserts, this is it. A perfect resource to satisfy a dessert need for any occasion, "Gourmet's Best Desserts" consists of 500 recipes from a 25-year period. In addition, almost 100 recipes were developed specifically for the book; one such example is chocolate brioche bread pudding.
A cookbook promising to be a treasure to keep and hand down, it includes classics with European as well as American flair and newer treats like cream cheese brownies. For Christmas, an eggnog creme brulee pulls away from the traditional steamed puddings, recipes for which are also included.