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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen. With the holiday season approaching like a rising tide, chances are you're thinking about gifts and food. We're going to cover both in our next discussion about cookbooks. Joining us from member station WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts, is Susan Chang. She reviews cookbooks for The Boston Globe and NPR's Web feature, Kitchen Window. And she's compiled a nice list of the year's best cookbooks. Hi, Susan.

T. SUSAN CHANG: Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: I love the name of the first one, "Two Dudes, One Pan."

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Now, I really wouldn't mind two dudes in my kitchen. I could use the help. But what's so special about this one?

CHANG: Well, this one is just super, super user-friendly in the kitchen. It's very conservative with the dish count. And if you want to spend less time loading up the dishwasher, or if you are the dishwasher, like in my house, this is the book for you.

HANSEN: Everything's one pan?

CHANG: Yep. Whether it's meat, vegetables, sometimes they get the entire meal into one pan, and that's - you know, that's the trifecta.

HANSEN: There's another book - I love this - "How to Cook Everything."

CHANG: Yes. Modest. Yes.

HANSEN: Modest. But I can't help but think of Charlie Chaplin in "The Gold Rush," you know, eating his shoe. Does this really tell you how to cook everything?

CHANG: Well, you know, there is a certain amount of risk in a title like that. I actually checked. There's no stuffed sea cucumber, and there's no, you know, roasted salsa feet, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHANG: But it's a great cookbook. And Mark Bittman can do everything. He's just amazing. You know, he's probably written 12,000 pages worth of books.

HANSEN: The last one on your list is called "Baked." Tell us a little bit about the recipes in the book because they are desserts and most of them do contain alcohol.

CHANG: It's just these two guys from Brooklyn who seem to be willing to try putting anything in their baked goods. I mean, it could be beer. It could be stout. It could be any number of liquors. But also they do things that aren't alcohol. They put in chipotles. They put in salt. They put in green tea, you know. But it works. It's amazing.

HANSEN: It's kind of like the tomato soup cake of old.

CHANG: You know, if it works, what can I say?

HANSEN: Yeah. All right. I know it's time to pick your favorite child. So one cookbook from the list to give as a present - what one would it be?

CHANG: OK. Well, I have to say it's "The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper," my favorite book this whole year. It's just a delicious book. And I learned to broil asparagus along with scallions. They're exactly the same size, and they taste delicious together. I've tried dozens of recipes. It's literally - my book is bristling with yellow stickies. And they all work. There's not a clunker in the lot.

HANSEN: Susan Chang reviews cookbooks for The Boston Globe and NPR's Kitchen Window. She joined us from member station WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts. Susan Chang, thank you very much.

CHANG: Thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: And happy eating.

CHANG: Oh, and you too.

HANSEN: You can find recipes from all 10 of the year's best cookbooks on our Web site, npr.org.

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