David Ricketts, Author, Mark Thomas, Photographer . Stewart, Tabori & Chang $35 (208p) ISBN 978-1-58479-092-1

This compendium of international recipes emits a homey amateur air, and readers will find themselves longing to sample Ricketts's cooking. An editor and food writer, Ricketts has familiarized himself with many native cuisines and here offers simple, delicious recipes with flavors originating from locales as diverse as Albania, Ecuador and Bali. The book is organized in broad categories: Poultry, Seafood, Pork & Lamb (a combination which may estrange certain orthodox readers), etc. Each chapter contains a cheerful amalgam of world recipes—Caribbean Sweet Potato Soup with Scallops appears alongside Bavarian Fish Stew with Vegetables and Vinegar. Ricketts, who seems fondest of Southeast Asian cuisines, practices a conscientious culinary affirmative action, dutifully including Irish Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage and a mostly-American Tuna Noodle Casserole, complete with cornflakes. With a few exceptions (pecans in the Chicken Pot Pie, star anise in the Czech Short Rib), he strives to reproduce authentic flavor combinations. The book is loaded with stews and braises, dishes that are both easy to embellish with complex ingredients and forgiving to struggling home cooks. Mark Thomas's gorgeous photography (even the redoubtable Tuna Noodle Casserole looks glamorous) partly compensates for the book's kitchen-unfriendly format. With a minuscule typeface and over-designed pages, the book doesn't have the trappings of a straightforward tribute to the soul food of many nations, though that's exactly what it is. Readers willing to brave the incongruous production values will be gratified to discover a fine down-home cookbook behind the gloss. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
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