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Read All About It : From once-obscure Asian cuisines to classic French to the lastest grain craze, the variety of cookbooks available for gift giving swells as Christmas approaches. To help cull the best from the rest, The Times' Food Staff has reviewed the year's most intriguing cookbooks. : France: The Beautiful Cookbook by Giles Pudlowski (Collins Publishers: 256 pages, 239 photographs).

December 17, 1989|MINNIE BERNARDINO

From the gardens of Provence to the fishing villages of Normandie, home-style meals from French countryside are translated into 240 authentic recipes in the latest volume in the "Beautiful Cookbook" series.

Collected by the Scotto sisters, Marianne Comolli, Elisabeth Scotto and Michele Carles--who grew up in Paris, the dishes are real food, none of them pretentiously pretty nouvelle plates.

Perfect examples delicious for the holidays include huitres en brochettes (grilled oysters on skewers) porc aux chataignes (pork with chestnuts) from perigord, epinards aux pignons (spinach with pine nuts and currants) from Provence, galette Brettonne (rum and butter cake flavored with angelica) from Bretagne and oeufs a la neige (snow eggs) from the Ile de France.

Author Gilles Pudlowski, a French journalist, eloquently introduces each chapter with picturesque narrations, giving vivid insight into the history, customs and traditions of eating and drinking in the region.

Breathtaking scenes from local markets and cafes, seas and rivers, gardens and rocky terrain are captured in color by photographers Pierre Hussenot and Leo Meier. Fresh, hearty dishes and a bounty of ingredients are projected against the gorgeous settings.

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