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COOL FOOD : Read 'Em and Eat

August 20, 1992|RUSS PARSONS

Can a salad be a full meal? Don't look now, but it won't be long before it'll be a full bookshelf. Not one, not two, but at least four cookbooks focusing on salads have come on the market in the last couple of months.

Not so long ago the mere idea of a cookbook composed strictly of salads seemed highly unlikely. Did you really need a book to tell you how to dress a quarter head of iceberg lettuce with a quarter cup of Thousand Island? And even if you did, what of the other 150-odd pages?

The recipes in these books most assuredly are not limited to lettuce and dressing. In fact, sometimes it appears as if the authors are bending over backward to prove that salads can be composed of just about anything you would normally eat in any other course. What, for example, are we to make of grilled steak salad with beefsteak tomatoes, grilled potatoes and onions, bitter greens and creamy blue-cheese dressing? "Not even the heartiest of eaters could deny that this salad is a meal in itself," says the author. Indeed, all that's missing is a Scotch on the rocks and a wedge of apple pie.

These four salad cookbooks have distinctly different personalities, reflecting the concerns of their authors.

* "Salads," by Leonard Schwartz (HarperCollins: $23; 272 pages) is based in large part on the salads Schwartz serves at his Los Angeles restaurants, Maple Drive and 72 Market Street. Broken down into fish, poultry, meats, pasta and rice, legumes and fruit, the book includes 150 recipes, from Caesar to barbecued duck tossed with frisee, jicama, corn and a cilantro vinaigrette. There are 10 chicken salads to choose from too.

* "Whole Meal Salads," by Norman Kolpas (Contemporary Books: $9.95; 177 pages) is another book by a local author. He's previously written on pastas, pizzas and sandwiches and has co-written many restaurant books. "Whole Meal" is no exaggeration; the aforementioned steak salad comes from this book. But there are more restrained efforts as well, such as a Sichuan noodle salad with shredded meat and vegetables and spicy sesame peanut dressing.

* "Main Dish Salads," by Martha Rose Shulman (Bantam: $10; 63 pages) is a colorful little gift book by a noted vegetarian author. This slim volume is a happy collection of dishes, including tomatoes, mozzarella, avocado, zucchini and its flowers, and curly endive salad with tofu "lardons."

* "The Salad Lover's Garden," by Sam Bittman (Doubleday: $25; 201 pages) recognizes that good salads are built from the ground up. Not a recipe book, it offers instead detailed advice for the home vegetable gardener on the care and feeding of everything from a couple of dozen varieties of lettuces and tomatoes to edible weeds.

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