Stoveside Reading

In last week's issue of Food, we described our favorite cookbooks of the year. But that list left out several excellent books. Here are a few more good books for giving--and for keeping.

--LAURIE OCHOA

*

"Short Tails and Treats from Three Dog Bakery," by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff (Andrews & McMeel, $14.95).

Crumpets, cookies, peanut butter cups, after-dinner mints. There's lots of great-sounding stuff in this book. Ah, but don't touch. It's not for you; it's for your dog. The recipes are from the Three Dog Bakery in Kansas City, an outfit that caters exclusively to canines. Six years ago, authors Dye and Beckloff started the business with the help of three tasters--Sarah Jean, Dottie Louise and Gracie Marie, respectively a lab mix, Dalmatian and Great Dane. They're the three you see on the cover and in photos throughout the book, which, as you might expect, is full of doggerel.

Unless you're a cat owner, you'll want to sign up for the bakery's "dogalog," from which you can order fancy-looking gift packs, dog biscuit mixes, kitty cookies and some really scrumptious frosted cakes (made with carob, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, corn meal and honey). You can also enroll your dog in programs that issue regular shipments of treats. For the person at the other end of the leash, there are logo T-shirts, caps and dog-printed boxer shorts.

So instead of buying one of those mesh stockings bulging with biscuits and toys, slip this book under the tree. Your best friend will be thrilled. And you'll have fun reading the history of this novel enterprise.

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"Camille Glenn's Old-Fashioned Christmas Cookbook" (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $21.95).

At 86, Glenn has seen enough Christmases to make her a sure bet in writing about this holiday. I find her book totally charming, full of recipes I'd like to try--not just at Christmas but throughout the year. Author of "The Heritage of Southern Cooking," Glenn lives in Louisville, Ky. It follows that her recipes are laced with Southern flavor. There's also a warm, homey touch, not so much in the recipes, which are sophisticated enough for any table, but in her recollections of family traditions and Christmases past.

The menu format gives ideas for tree-trimming parties, Christmas tea, Christmas Eve supper and every meal on Christmas Day. When she finishes with that holiday, Glenn moves on to New Year menus.

If you haven't decided on the main dish for Christmas dinner, Glenn suggests roast turkey breast lined with country ham, roast quail with tarragon, pork loin roast with cider and poached apples or marinated beef tenderloin with old English walnut sauce. Her book is not a rehash of the commonplace but a fresh look at a delightful time of year.

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"International Baking Delights," by Lee Hwa Lin (Chin-Chin Publishing, $19.95).

Published in Taipei, this book offers a Taiwanese take on cakes, cookies and other treats that are basically Western in origin. But where in the West would you get doughnuts stuffed with red bean paste or coconut-filled buns topped with corn and piped with mayonnaise?

A few recipes are totally Chinese, like the egg tarts that you get at dim sum restaurants, and Cantonese mooncakes. Others are as non-exotic as "American" strawberry cake and oatmeal-raisin cookies. Still others sound familiar but aren't quite what a Western cook would expect, like cheesecake made with Cheddar cheese and a dash of corn flour, or a cake that's baked in a succession of 1/4-inch layers.

Simpler recipes that appeal include peanut-cocoa meringues and peanut butter cookies made with cake flour. If you are willing to fuss a bit, try one of the prettiest concepts in the book, chrysanthemum pastries with petals that reveal bean paste filling.

Author Lin is director of the Wei-Chuan Cooking School in Taipei, which produced this collection of 77 recipes. Wei-Chuan Publishing in Monterey Park is the distributor here. To get a feel for the contents, drop into the Taiwanese bakeries in and around Monterey Park. There you'll see the salad-filled buns, tender loaf breads and luscious cakes and pastries that you can recreate with the help of the step-by-step illustrations in this book.

It's worth noting that Taiwanese like less sugar in their baked goods than Americans, which assures at least a minimal break on calories.

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"Music & Menus for Christmas," by Willi Elsener (Macmillan, $25). If you're shy on Christmas spirit, you'll turn into an enthusiast after reading this book. Elsener, executive chef of the Dorchester hotel in London, has put together a dozen menus--one for each of the 12 days of Christmas, you might say. His book fairly glows with tradition, starting with the handsome photograph of flaming Christmas pudding next to the title page. Charming drawings, like old-fashioned Christmas card motifs, head each menu introduction. The compact disc inserted in the cover provides 23 Christmas carols performed by English choirs.

Recipes range from such classics as roast turkey to dishes that will add fresh life to the holidays, among them duck breast with raisins and cranberries, medallions of pork stuffed with sage and apricots and steak pie with walnut crust. Interesting side dishes include seared cauliflower and sweet peppers, potato and walnut galettes, sweet potato cakes with mushrooms and shredded Brussels sprouts in cream. Even cranberry sauce turns up different with its seasonings of fresh ginger, vinegar and port wine.

Elsener adds traditions from other European countries to English fare. Thus baked goods include German stollen, French yule log cake, Norwegian braided Christmas bread and Swedish St. Lucia buns. His initial menu introduces us to "Stir-Up Sunday," the last Sunday before Advent. This is considered the final day on which one can make the fruit cakes and puddings that require time to mature. In this group is the Dorchester Christmas pudding, a fruit-laden dessert that is ignited with brandy, bringing a spectacular conclusion to the holiday dinner.

*

"Tastier Productions," by the Friends of the Pasadena Playhouse (Self-published, $18.50)

If you want only fresh, innovative food, this book isn't for you. But if you're into cooking with canned soups, mayonnaise and Cheez Whiz, you'll find plenty of suggestions from kindred souls. And if you cook in both styles, you'll be as happy as canned clam juice with these recipes.

One day you'll make a taco casserole with corn muffin mix, packaged taco seasoning and canned French fried onions. The next day, you'll spend hours on an Italian meat sauce to go with lasagna or make your own mashed potatoes to top shepherd's pie.

Desserts range from labor-saving things based on cake mix and canned pie filling to one that sounds lovely for spring: fresh berries sprinkled with shaved white chocolate and chopped macadamia nuts, then tossed with homemade custard sauce.

A disclaimer says the recipes aren't kitchen-tested; nor are they necessarily original. However, as favorite dishes of people who apparently cook a lot, they seem like a workable collection, with some that sound quite novel.

"Tastier Productions" is the sequel to "Tasty Productions," published in 1989. Both grew out of meals served by the Friends of the Pasadena Playhouse to cast and crew of playhouse productions. The book costs $18.50, which includes tax. For mail orders, add $3.50. Send checks payable to Friends of the Pasadena Playhouse to 1626 Morada Place, Altadena, CA 91001. Copies can also be purchased at the Playhouse gift shop, 39 S. El Molino, Pasadena (818) 792-9691.

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