LIKE MUSIC, the stage and sainthood, cooking is a vocation that tends to seize people early. Most future Escoffiers, Beards and Bocuses are the sort who head for the kitchen as soon as they can toddle.
Lisa Yockelson is no exception. The Washington food writer and cooking teacher who has just come out with "The Efficient Epicure" (Harper & Row, $15.95, 325 pages) has been in love with food in all its aspects as long as she can remember.
Her interest in producing the best without spending all day at it is only natural in a young woman whose female forebears had been both discriminating eaters and career women for three generations when she came along. Her mother, her grandmother and her great-grandmother were all in the real estate business, and they were all women who understood the arts of the table.
This legacy makes what Lisa Yockelson teaches in her classes and what she writes about in her book particularly pertinent for today's woman, juggling home and job responsibilities and trying to turn out good meals, too. The Yockelson secret, elaborated in the book, is to plan on a weekly basis, to organize the shopping and to make a habit of doing more than one thing at a time.
Pre-prepared food can be a bit tired by the time it reaches the diner. But this cook gets around the problem by emphasis on fresh produce artfully added at the last minute.
That and judicious use of the freezer. Yockelson is not a gadget person -- she prefers her French knife to a food processor -- but she uses her freezer to maximize the effects of cooking ahead and cooking several dishes instead of a single one.
Her book is more than a management text, though. It's also a collection of appealing recipes, presented with an attention to detail that puts them within the reach of the least experienced would-be gourmet.
There are those who do not need to be told to put whatever they're cooking in a pot big enough to hold it. There are those who do not need to be reminded that their shopping lists should include the ingredients for the dishes they mean to prepare. On the other hand, perhaps some will find the shopping lists and casserole-size specifications helpful. At any rate, many an aspiring epicure who has no intention of trying to duplicate Yockelson's level of administrative efficiency in the kitchen will enjoy the book as a source of ideas about what to have for dinner.
The Yockelson taste has been shaped by travel as well as by a healthy appetite. This graduate of the London Cordon Bleu school has been around the world several times, and there is almost no corner of the globe where she has not at least sampled the cuisine.
She characterizes her style as "refined country cooking." While her recipes are never self-consciously cosmopolitan, they possess a sophisticated simplicity, very much in tune with nouvelle cuisine concepts and the contemporary interest in healthful eating. They're mildly different, but not so different that they put off the mainstream food-and-drink person.
PORK IN RED WINE WITH PEARL BARLEY (4 to 6 servings) 4 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 3/4 to 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cubed Salt and freshly ground pepper 2 onions, chopped 3 large heads garlic, cloves separated but not peeled 1 1/2 cups red wine 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped 1 3/4 cups beef stock 1 bay leaf 1 1/2 cups pearl barley
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy 6-quart casserole. Brown the pork cubes in several batches in the hot oil. Remove them to a plate as they are done and season with salt and pepper.
Stir in chopped onions and saute' in the remaining oil for 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic cloves and pour in the wine. Bring wine to a boil, stirring the bottom of the casserole as the wine begins to bubble. Add rosemary leaves, beef stock and bay leaf. Put pork cubes back in casserole. Bring liquid to a simmer and cover the casserole. Cook the pork in the lower third of a 325-degree oven 2 hours or until the pork is tender. Alternately, simmer the pork on the stove top.
To store: Remove meat from casserole with a slotted spoon and place in a storage bowl. Put the liquid and all solids through a food mill to pure'e, and pour over the pork. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.
To serve: Cook the pearl barley in gently boiling salted water about 25 to 30 minutes until tender. Heat pork in a covered casserole. Drain barley and transfer it to a large saucepan, season with salt and pepper and pour on 1 cup of hot liquid from the pork and heat. Correct seasoning of both the barley and the pork. Transfer barley to a serving platter and top with pork, or put pork in the center of the platter and surround with barley.
ORANGES AND GRAPES IN HOT ORANGE SAUCE (4 to 6 servings) 6 seedless oranges, peeled and cut into segments 1 bunch grapes, stemmed, halved and seeded Superfine sugar or honey to taste 2 teaspoons lemon juice 5 egg yolks 5 tablespoons granulated sugar Freshly grated rind of 2 oranges (grated before you peel the oranges above) 1/3 cup orange liqueur
Toss orange segments and grapes in superfine sugar or honey to sweeten them. Sprinkle on lemon juice and toss again. Arrange fruit on serving platter or on individual plates. To prepare the hot orange sauce, put the egg yolks, granulated sugar and orange rind in the top of a double boiler or a large bowl. Beat until blended and thickly sticky. Place the top of the double boiler into the bottom, which contains a few inches of simmering water, or if you are using the mixing bowl arrangement, put the mixing bowl over a smaller saucepan of simmering water. The top unit holding the egg yolks should never touch the simmering water. Begin to beat the eggs and sugar slowly at first, then faster as the yolks begin to mound and swell in volume. After several minutes, add the orange liqueur in a thin stream, always beating the mixture. Continue to beat several minutes longer until the mixture is quite thick and inflated at least fourfold. Pour sauce into a serving bowl and spoon a thick band of it over each portion of fruit.