cover image Intimate Gatherings: Great Food for Good Friends

Intimate Gatherings: Great Food for Good Friends

Chronicle Books, Ellen Rose, Jessica Strand. Chronicle Books, $19.95 (132pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1575-8

The first effort by bookseller Rose (founder of Cook's Library in L.A.) and journalist Strand partially succeeds as it offers a dozen menus (three per season, one each for parties of two, four and six people). Although the authors promise that the cook ""won't be a slave"" to the kitchen and provide a ""menu manager"" to organize each meal's prep time, some menus give the chef little chance to relax with guests. If one starts preparing Antonia's Cioppino an hour before serving, as is recommended in the instructions, that time will be spent in the kitchen. A few touches may be considered precious: Barbecued Mussels in the Shell, an appetizer on the summer menu for two, calls for squirting white wine on each grilling mollusk with a turkey baster. Plating some of the meals can be quirky, as in two butterflied chickens in Our Favorite Tuscan Grilled Chicken for six. But many of the dishes are elegantly simple and relatively easy to prepare, notably Grilled Shrimp with Garlic Aioli, offering fare that would fully honor the friends of an attentive cook. Among the best: Oven-Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan; Lamb Marinated in Lemon and Garlic with Mint Pesto; and a toothsomely crunchy Autumn Mixed Nut Tart. (June)