"The Whole Chile Pepper Book," by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach (Little, Brown, $16.95) is so serious it numbers 27 pages in its bibliography. In the first chapter, it defines 18 different kinds of pods, providing their nomenclature, botanical description, heat scale, horticultural history, agricultural aspect, legend and lore and culinary usage. If you're interested, great, if you're not, stick around for the recipes, which are top-notch and wander into all parts of the world.
"Peppers; Hot & Sweet" by Beth Dooley (Garden Way, $8.95), on the other hand, is itself short and sweet. The book jots down pepper nutrition, tips and measurements before launching directly into over 100 recipes, the best ones being those that use both kinds of peppers -- hot and sweet.
SPICY PUMPKIN BISQUE (4 servings)
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
16-ounce can pumpkin pure'e
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons dried ground small red chilies
1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 cup half-and-half
Grated nutmeg, for garnish
Saute' the onion and garlic in the butter until they are soft and transparent. Add the pumpkin, stock, peppers, allspice, sugar and sherry. Bring to a boil and cover. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes. Place the mixture in a blender and pure'e until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, add the half-and-half and simmer until heated. Garnish with nutmeg and serve.
Per serving: 210 calories, 9 gm protein, 17 gm carbohydrates, 12 gm fat, 7 gm saturated fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 846 mg sodium.
From "The Whole Chile Pepper Book," by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach (Little, Brown, $16.95)
Cooking With Beans "The Little Bean Cookbook" by Patricia Stapley (Crown Publishers, $12.95), with brilliant illustrations by Jennie Oppenheimer, is the perfect gift for bean and small book aficionados alike. Dishes like Xochitl Mountain Chili with Tomatillos and Nopales, and Spice-fried Bombay Beans with Mango Chutney remove it from the usual vegetarian medley. Caviar and Bean Salad de Medici -- a simple masterpiece -- is worth the price alone.
CAVIAR AND BEAN SALAD DE MEDICI (6 servings)
3 green onions
2 cups cooked navy beans, drained
1 hard-boiled egg, minced
2 tablespoons caviar, black or red (or a combination of both)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Parsley, chopped for garnish
Note: The navy beans should not be overcooked and must be thoroughly drained. This is important, since the caviar will not blend evenly if the beans are mushy or too moist. The beans should be at room temperature before you begin. Mince the green onions, including some of the tops.
In a medium bowl mix the beans, green onions and minced egg. Add the caviar, olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest. Toss gently to avoid bruising the caviar.
The salad may be served at room temperature or prepared in advance and chilled. For a buffet serving, transfer the mixture to a decorative shallow serving dish and garnish with a small amount of chopped fresh parsley. For an individual serving, arrange a palm-sized, bright-red radicchio leaf on a small plate and spoon the bean salad inside. Sprinkle a line of chopped parsley across the top.
Lean Bean Tip: Omit the yolk of the minced egg.
Per serving: 116 calories, 7 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, .5 gm saturated fat, 77 mg cholesterol, 96 mg sodium.
From "The Little Bean Cookbook" by Patricia Stapley (Crown Publishers, $12.95)