STOCKINGS COME IN various sizes, as do the purses of the persons doing the stuffing. If the wallet isn't stuffed, however, and a large stocking needs to be, consider paperback books.
The following selections may help fill not only stockings, but also certain niches for the cooking enthusiast. These are not new books, but dependable, handy references that will prove valuable resources for the recipient.
Laurel's Kitchen: This vegetarian handbook deals not only with meatless cooking, but the sound nutritional information that goes along with it. Despite the wealth of information and solid recipes, it can be found in stuffable paperback size. (By Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey, Nigeri Press, $4.95)
Tassajara Cooking: It's taken more than a decade for most of us to grow into this cookbook. First published in 1970, it chronicles the diet of the residents and visitors of a Zen monastery in northern California. What seemed bizarre several years ago now is recognized as prudent eating. For some reason, men have an affinity for this book and its sibling (see below). Perhaps men don't allow recipes to restrict them, and "Tassajara" makes no attempt. (By Edward Espe Brown, Shambhala Publications, $6.95)
Tassajara Bread Book: A companion book to the one above, this continues a trend popularized in the '60s that is now common -- whole grain breads in endless variations, including clunky loaves with brown rice and without yeast. Coffeecakes, pancakes and light-as-a-whole-wheat-feather muffins are included. The book may be worth the price just for its bran muffin and hikers' mix recipes. (By Edward Espe Brown, Shambhala Publications, $5.95)
Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine: Moving from down-to-earth to down-home, this book recalls the food heritage of the South in its purest form, from the recounting of 19th-century strolls to the soda fountain to recipes for wine, preserves and ice cream. Family specialties are faithfully recorded in re-creatable, southern-style recipes. (By Norma Jean and Carole Darden, Fawcett Crest, $2.50)
New Menus From Simca's Cuisine: It may seem strange to recommend a book that needs some interpretation. To be successful, Simca's recipes often require minor alterations, but nowhere does one find such a careful composite of original combinations of ingredients (for food) and food (for menus). From "Menu for Garlic Lovers" to "Le Montmorency" (a cake that registers 8 on the chocolate Richter scale), this book is as wonderful as Simca's first, and unlike some paperbacks, is almost as manageable as the hardbound. (By Simone Beck, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $6.95)
Cooking from the Caucasus: An easily overlooked paperback, this book provides unusual recipes that are often "just the thing." The recipes are exotic blends of ingredients -- lamb with quince and chestnuts, savory pumpkin with rice and apricots, eggplant and walnuts -- most of the ingredients common and most of the cooking directions straightforward and uncomplicated. (By Sonia Uvezian, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $3.95)
Summer Cooking: Elizabeth David is a doyenne of cooks; she seems to have inspired or advised nearly everyone we now rely on as an expert, and is probably the only cookbook author who treats summer cooking as if it's no contradiction in terms. The book fills a void by making the subject not only interesting but dignified, a cause that seems to have no other qualified champion. She writes of beach trips and the small, unhospitable kitchens of rental units, and talks of Czarist Russia, when soup was garnished with small ice chunks, with cold salmon, sturgeon or smoked meat to the side. (By Elizabeth David, Penguin Books, $2.95)