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4 hot cookbooks for summer

What are we reading? Here are the books that have risen to the top of the stack this summer, starting with a real find:

“The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper,” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter, $35). How could a book co-written by radio host Kasper and her producer be anything less than smart? It's turned out to be even better than I expected.

It's a fun read, sprinkled with tidbits and tips. And the recipes pull off the almost-impossible feat of being simple, smart and sophisticated, all at the same time. Here's an example: A simple supper (or lunch) of deviled eggs that are crisped, filling down, in a skillet and then served on a bed of fresh lettuce. There's a whole section on easy-to-change-up salad dressings for full-meal salads, and great tips (add a dash of Vietnamese fish sauce to dressing to spark up the flavor).

Here's another “Eat Supper” moment: After a lucky find of tree-ripened figs at a local farmer's market, I flipped through the book and turned up the perfect ending to an impromptu dinner party. Slice the figs, spread each half with fresh goat cheese (I used Bosky Acres chevre), drizzle each with honey and sprinkle with minced fresh rosemary and chopped pistachios. It took less than 5 minutes to pull together and was perfect for lingering around the table with a glass of port.

One final hurrah for this one: The type is big, all the better for those of us who struggle to cook with reading glasses perched on our noses. Very splendid, indeed.

3 more books

“America Eats!,” by Pat Willard (Bloomsbury, $25.99). It's about time somebody wrote this. During the Depression, the Works Progress Administration assigned out-of-work writers to document American food, particularly big feeds like reunions and county fairs. The project was scuttled before it was finished, and the essays have languished for decades, a hidden trove of treasure in library archives all over the country. Willard blows the dust off, reprinting the original pieces along with her own revisits to the places and events from long ago. The result is new attention to an old project that gives a lively glimpse into how we eat together.

“The Wine Trials: A Fearless Critic Book,” by Robin Goldstein with Alexis Herschkowitsch (Fearless Critic Media, $14.95). It's all attitude and more than I wanted to read about the blind-tastings the author held with wine fans all over the country. But there's good background here on the psychology and physiology of how to taste wine. The real meat is the breakdown of the results: A list of 100 wines for less than $15 that might be worth your attention. It's valuable for a beginner on a budget. Just remember: Wine tips don't age. Like the bottles in this price range, it won't age so drink it in now.

“The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table,” by Amy Goldman with photographs by Victor Schrager (Bloomsbury, $35). This is food porn for those who drool over the loveliest (and tastiest) tomatoes. There's more botanical information than anyone but a fanatical gardener will need, but the small recipe section is well-chosen, with some new ideas like tomato-water cocktails.

What are you reading? Use the commenting feature below to talk about your favorite cookbooks.

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