Here are samples from three of my favorite books.

From "Mediterranean Food" by Elizabeth David

Ratatouille aux Oeufs

1 lb. potatoes, 3/4 lb. onions, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 small marrows (zucchini), 3 tomatoes, 3 green pimentos (sweet peppers), eggs, olive oil, lard.

Clean all the vegetables and then cut them into rounds. Into a heavy frying pan put half a glass of oil and 2 tablespoons of lard; put in the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 45 minutes, and then another 30 minutes without the lid.

Turn into a serving dish and place on top a fried egg for each person.

From "French Cooking in Ten Minutes" by Édouard de Pomiane

Skate With Black Butter

Cook 1 pound of skate for 10 minutes in a pot of boiling water seasoned with salt and vinegar.

While the skate is cooking, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a frying pan. Add some fresh chopped parsley to it. The parsley will brown, and the butter will too — first light brown, then mahogany. Take it off the fire. Wait a few minutes. Now add a teaspoon of vinegar. The butter shouldn't foam too much, because it has already cooled off a little. If you hadn't waited, it would have splattered all over the place as soon as the cold vinegar touched it.

Take the skate out of the water and drain it well. Place on a platter, pour the black butter over it, add pepper and a little salt if needed, then serve.

From "Honey From a Weed" by Patience Gray

Patate al Forno (potatoes cooked in the outdoor bread oven)

The traditional feast day accompaniment to roast baby lamb seasoned with oil and rosemary in Apulia.

Peel and slice 1-1/2 kilos (3-1/4 lb.) of potatoes 1/2 cm (1/5") thick. Rinse and dry them in a clean cloth. Take a large oven tin or tiella (aluminum square baking dish) and oil it fairly liberally. Place the sliced potatoes in layers on the tin, sprinkling each layer with drops of oil, a little thyme or winter savory, salt, and garlic if you like. Sprinkle the surface with a little more oil and, failing the bread oven, bake in a hot indoor oven near the top. In about 45 minutes they should be cooked and golden.

irene.virbila@latimes.com