1 Stir-frying in the summer seems a torturously hot practice -- think Iron Chef comes to the Hamptons. But Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Asian-inflected cooking tends to be cooler -- and cooler. And unlike most other chef's tomes, his Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home With a Four-Star Chef (with an assist from Mark Bittman; Broadway Books; $40) delivers on the promise of his restaurant food, supplying a maximum of flavor (curried mussels; chicken with cloves; savoy slaw with citrus, ginger, and mustard) with a minimum of steps -- so you can devote your energy to sipping your gin and tonic.
2 Do you need a barbecue cookbook? Well, maybe, though barbecue is a technique so simple even a caveman could do it. The Barbecue! Bible, by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing; $19.95), is an extensive compendium of marinades, dry rubs, and how-to-cook-a-steak words of wisdom, all collected during a two-year tour of the grilling regions of the world, and served with a moderate portion of grilling machismo. You'll never need all of these recipes (Montevidean-style sweetbreads, anyone?) -- but it's nice to know they're there.
3 Mark Bittman's appetite is infectious; he's reminiscent of a modern-day James Beard -- without the girth. And his How to Cook Everything (Macmillan; $39.95) is the best basic cookbook available. True to its name, the book ranges from indispensable basics like muffins and shortcake all the way to tea-smoked duck (surprisingly simple), illustrated with useful line drawings. Its
cinder-block size might tempt you to leave it at home -- but if you do, you'll be sorry.
4 Summer is unimaginable without
the Mediterranean -- and its olives, thyme,
anchovies, capers, rosé wine, etc.
But what you don't want is a cookbook that suggests
that what you're cooking is a mere imitation of how it's done in the old country -- summer is no time to be wishing you were elsewhere. So leave your Marcella Hazans, excellent as they are, at home (and, needless to say, don't even think about Peter Mayle). The Cafe Cook Book, by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers (Broadway Books; $35), the proprietors of London's River Cafe, manages to channel the spirit of Italian cooking (wood-roasted lobster; zucchini carpaccio) without making a fetish of authenticity.