Cookbooks for grads, newlyweds

How to Cook Everything -- The Basics

It's the time of graduations and weddings in Charleston. A great cookbook makes a wonderful present for either of these two occasions. Thoughtfully matched to the recipient, it offers a lifetime of use.

“The River Cottage Fish Book.” Whether the college graduate departs Charleston or makes a home in the Lowcountry, he or she will have forged a connection to the sea during those college years. No better way to cement that than with this work by British writer/educator/food activist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and fishing authority Nick Fisher. In his always magnificent way, Fearnley-Whittingstall delivers a volume that could be called a seafood encyclopedia.

“The nitty-gritty of this book,” he writes, “is the delightful activity of cooking and eating fish. And we think you'll derive even more pleasure from your fish and shellfish if you understand them a little, or perhaps a lot, about the business of catching and preparing them. Besides being delicious, fish are uniquely nutritious. So you would think the very least we could do ... would be to nurture them in return.”

And so the authors beautifully set the case for the need for sustainability, explaining its principles as they apply to the fisheries and to the pleasure fisherman.

Replete with photographs, the book covers everything the person who fishes for pleasure should know, from catching and cleaning to cooking a comprehensive species list of fish and shellfish. And, yes, there are even recipes. It will be ever useful. Hardcover. Ten Speed Press. $45.

“How to Cook Everything: The Basics.” The cover says that this cookbook contains “all you need to make great food,” and if you've followed author Mark Bittman's other cookbooks, you're aware that he delivers on his promises. New York Times columnist and author of a dozen other cookbooks, Bittman knows how to teach cooking. Here he starts by taking the graduate or newlywed through the basics of setting up a kitchen and a pantry, followed by the basic cooking techniques.

Chapters with techniques and recipes follow, beginning with breakfast and moving through appetizers and snacks, salads, soups and stews, pastas and grains, vegetables and beans, meat, poultry, seafood, breads and dessert. Each technique or recipe is accompanied by photos illustrating important points and a photo of the end result. There could hardly be a clearer way to learn culinary skills.

“Start with real ingredients,” Bittman writes, “and anything you make will taste better than anything that comes from a box.” This cookbook is a present that will become a permanent part of one's kitchen library. Hardcover. Wiley & Sons. $35.

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