cover image THE BEST AMERICAN RECIPES: 2003–2004


, , foreword by Alan Richman. . Houghton Mifflin, $26 (300pp) ISBN 978-0-618-27384-3

By paging through dozens of cookbooks, magazines, newspapers and newsletters, McCullough and Stevens, food writers and recipe sleuths, have come up with moe than 130 of the very "best" of this year's recipes. Several things make the latest edition in this series so much fun. First, there is the witty introduction by restaurant critic Richman, who clearly intends to eat his way right through the book. Then, there is the colorful mix of starters, soups, salads, entrees and desserts. These range from simple (Olive Butter from Saveur) to complex (Rosemary-Scallion Crusted Rack of Lamb from Sara Moulton Cooks at Home; homey (Amazing Overnight Waffles from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café) to fresh (Italian-Style Tuna Salad with Green Beans, Potatoes, and Red Onion from David Pasternack in the New York Times); and from all-American to multi-ethnic (with thanks to Bobby Flay, Madeleine Kamman and Mario Batali, among others). Flavors are bold, and cooking style is "seriously simple." Finally, there are the wonderfully helpful and enthusiastic "cook's notes" and "tips," which accompany nearly every dish, and provide useful information like how to juice a pomegranate or reinvigorate frozen shrimp. McCullough (Great Food Without Fuss) and Stevens (Williams-Sonoma New England) have given readers a nice taste of the year's recipes. (Oct.)