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"Souper' meals for all seasons

Souped Up!: More than 100 recipes for soups, stews and chilies and the breads, salads and sweets to make them a meal By Sally Sampson, Simon & Schuster, $22.

Making soup is a great way to clean out the pantry or get creative with seasonal ingredients. Whether served hot or cold, chunky or creamy, soups satisfy hunger and taste buds.

Sally Sampson's Souped Up! offers recipes for every season, every taste and seemingly every ingredient.

As the weather begins to warm, chilled soups such as asparagus, cucumber and cilantro gazpacho, cream of avocado and ginger melon sound tempting. The most difficult task for any of these soups is the prep work. Various ingredients need to be chopped, diced or sliced before being combined, all relatively simple chores. A blender, stock pot, strainer and food processor are the only special equipment needed.

When temperatures cool again, Souped Up! has recipes to take the chill off, including classics such as French onion soup, New England clam chowder, Matzoh ball or classic beef stew. If you're craving something different, serve Moroccan vegetable stew with raisins, herbs and rice, chili with eggplant and beef, or Vietnamese chicken with lots of accompaniments to sprinkle on top, such as bean sprouts and lime wedges.

Some of the soups, stews and chilis in this collection are hearty enough for a meal, but others may need a salad or bread. Dessert is also a nice offering sometimes. Souped Up! offers recipes for Irish soda bread, corn bread, bread pudding with whisky, and white chocolate and oatmeal lace cookies.

Cream of Avocado Soup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 small onion, chopped (about cup)

2 teaspoons peeled finely chopped fresh ginger root

2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced

2 ripe Haas avocados, halved, pitted and scooped out

\ cup fresh basil leaves, plus additional for garnish

\ cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus additional for garnish

\ to cup heavy cream

\ to cup fresh lime juice

3{ cups ice water

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Place a small pan over medium low heat, and when it is hot, add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Place avocados, basil, cilantro, cream and lime juice in a blender and puree.

Gradually, while machine is running, add water and blend until smooth. Add cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Garnish with basil and cilantro.

Makes about 5 cups.

Source: "Souped Up!: More than 100 recipes for soups, stews and chilies and the breads, salads and sweets to make them a meal" by Sally Sampson (Simon & Schuster, $22).

Mom's Best Desserts By Andrea Chesman and Fran Raboff, Storey Books, $10.95.

Warning: Mom's Best Desserts may send you on a walk down memory lane. You can almost smell the deep-dish peach pie, apple brown betty or chocolate chip cookies baking when you peruse this cookbook.

Authors Andrea Chesman and Fran Raboff have compiled 100 simple recipes for the desserts you've loved all your life.

There is nothing unusual about this collection, though that won't keep your mouth from watering. All the recipes are straightforward _ no unfamiliar ingredients, equipment or difficult techniques _ so this cookbook is suitable for any skill level. The only ingredient that may not be stocked in your pantry is cake flour, which is used in the numerous cake recipes instead of all-purpose flour.

Mom's Best Desserts has something to please every family member's sweet tooth. There are cookies such as snickerdoodles, gingerbread and blondies; cakes with familiar names such as Lady Baltimore, carrot and poppy seed; and pies such as blueberry, lattice-top sour cherry pie, and the holiday favorite pumpkin, made decadent with ginger-spiced whipped cream.

Also included are lots of cooking tips, historical notes and quotes from vintage publications. The authors address fresh coconut, an old-fashioned honey gathering, the Maine blueberry festival and piecrusts.

Ever wonder about the many varieties of apples in the market? This book discusses them and what they are best for. Your favorite eating apple may not be good for baking. Red Delicious are just that, delicious, but if you use them in a pie, they become bland and flat..

Mom's Best Desserts is a comprehensive collection of popular desserts that would make a great gift for anyone who loves classic sweets.


2} cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

{ teaspoon salt

\ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cups plus 3 tablespoons sugar

1 cup butter or vegetable shortening, at room temperature

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together 1 cups of the sugar and the butter until creamy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the vanilla.

Stir in the flour mixture, blending thoroughly.

Wrap and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the cinnamon and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls. Roll the ball in the cinnamon-sugar.

Arrange the cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until the cookies are golden.

Transfer the cookies to the wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 60 cookies.

Source: "Mom's Best Desserts" by Andrea Chesman and Fran Raboff (Storey Books, $10.95).

Essentials of Asian Cuisine: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes By Corinne Trang, Simon & Schuster, $40.

Asian food is taking America by storm, be it Cambodian, Filipino, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese cuisine. In the Essentials of Asian Cuisine, Corinne Trang touts China as the root of all Asian cooking.

Included in her book are more than 300 traditional and contemporary recipes, some of which may be too involved for busy or inexperienced cooks.

Some of the Asian ingredients used in these recipes can be found at the supermarket, others are available through mail order sources listed in the back of the cookbook. Therefore, most recipes require planning unless you prepare these kinds of dishes frequently and your pantry is stocked with such ingredients as red Thai chilis, preserved Chinese cabbage, mirin and Shaoxing wine.

A bamboo steamer, sand pot and wok are used in numerous recipes, including steamed leafy greens with mushroom sauce, steamed fish with ham, spicy seafood stew and spiced pork in leaves.

The Essentials of Asian Cuisine is not a cookbook suited to a novice home cook or, really, anyone not passionate about this food. Familiar recipes such as cashew chicken, shrimp in lobster sauce or sweet and sour pork found in restaurants aren't included in this collection. But readers will find more unusual offerings: pork blood stew, grilled lemongrass eel or sweet braised beef oxtail and tripe.

Trang's book will appeal primarily to serious students of Asian cuisine. Her personal anecdotes are intriguing, and so is the information on Asian culture.

Ellen Folkman's cookbook review column appears monthly in the Taste section.

Filipino Ceviche

Juice of 1 lime

{ cup coconut vinegar or Chinese white rice vinegar

\ cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and julienned

1 large shallot or small yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly

1 scallion, root and dark green ends trimmed and 6-inch stalk cut into 1-inch-long piece and julienned

1 green mango, peeled and julienned or 1 cup julienned green papaya

1 Thai chilis, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)

2 pounds skinless raw mackerel fillets, cut into bite-size cubes

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

cup cilantro leaves

Whisk together lime juice, vinegar and coconut milk in a bowl until well combined. Add the ginger, shallot, scallion, mango, chilis (if using) and mackerel. Season with salt and pepper and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes. Divide the ceviche among individual bowls and serve garnished with cilantro leaves.

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: The acidic lime juice essentially pickles the raw fish. Though the fish will taste cooked, it is not, so people with compromised immune systems may want to avoid this recipe.

Source: "Essentials of Asian Cuisine: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes" by Corinne Trang (Simon & Schuster, $40).