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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. : Cooking With Herbs by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead (Clarkson N. Potter: $40, 297 pages, illustrated).

December 17, 1989|TONI TIPTON

Beautiful and funtional. Both terms appropriately describe this comprehensive look and the art of successfully using herbs in the kitchen. It takes advantage of regional differences in cooking methods--both here and abroad--including California, the South, Southwest, Midwest and Northeast. England, France, Italy, Spain and Morocco represent the European contributions.

This is the second collaboration between writer Tolley and photograher Mead, and, like the first, it demonstrates the delicious way foods can be enhanced when herbs are added. It includes more than 350 lovely color photographs of scenic meadows and gardens, luncheons on wicker-filled porches, elegant dining rooms accented by French doors and large windows--all of which provide inspiration. Plus, ideas for centerpieces, such as apples and sage leaves, are offered.

In the recipe section, lavendar flowers lend exotic taste to fresh cherries, a melange of herbs--including basil, thyme and parsley--accentuate the savory goodness of chicken and rosemary is spotlighted in a poolside party suggestion for serving potatoes. In other dishes, a mint pesto accompanies lamb en croute and poached peaches are complemented by a bay leaf custard sauce.

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