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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. : Berries: Cultivation, Decoration and Recipes by Mary Forsell (Bantam Books: $35, 256 pages, 200 photographs).

December 17, 1989|MINNIE BERNARDINO

There's a lot to be said and done with berries, nature's most cherished food and adornment. An accomplished writer on gardening and design, Mary Forsell says it all and more in this lusciously illustrated book. This complete compendium on the little round fruits covers a wide range of berries--from the most common eating strawberries, raspberries and blackberries to their wilder, or more exotic cousins like lingonberries, cloudberries and extends farther to berry bearing plants like the pepper berries, holly and rose hips for ornamental applications.

Gathered from chefs around the country, all the recipes provided make wonderful, not forceful, application of the berry. Presented with mouth-watering photos, there's red raspberry tart studded with golden raspberries from Julia Orenstein of Pacific Heights Bar and Grill in San Francisco, grilled duck breast with raspberry sauce from Tom Grego of Ventana Inn in Big Sur, a tangy blackberry chutney from Oouida Dorr. Forsell shares design techniques to achieve a professional look in berry decorations. She illustrates how dazzling wreaths, bouquets, topiaries and garlands can be created by mixing berries with foliage, grapevine, flowers, herbs and other natural elements.

The book also has a chapter on berry gifts, discussing preserving and drying for potpourri and bouquets, and storing edible berries for jams. Another section features cultivating a berry patch as well as designing your garden. A source information chapter provides an extensive list of suppliers of berry plants, jams, jellies, decorations and delicacies.

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