Though the idea of a sun-dried tomato cookbook may seem appallingly trendy, Chesman ( Salsa! ) does a fine job of coaxing a fad to yield its fruit. She gives the delicacy its due as a far more punchy stand-in for fresh tomatoes, and as one with a strong ``affinity for the ingredients that are the mainstay of Italian cuisine.'' Her recipes are original (vermicelli with no-cook tomato sauce); light (baked spaghetti squash with tomatoes); convenient (quick chicken paella, sun-dried tomato and provolone bread); and simple to prepare (leek and feta cheese pizza). And the author understands the needs of busy cooks--she includes instructions for freezing and thawing pizza dough and uses a selection of perfectly acceptable frozen ingredients. Acknowledging the fact that sun-dried tomatoes can soar in price, she discusses methods for home-drying (but, unfortunately, neglects to mention drying time for conventional oven preparation). All told, Chesman persuasively makes room in the average American kitchen for a onetime luxury. (June)
Chesman is the author of several other specialized cookbooks, including the popular Salsas! (Crossing Pr., 1985). Her sun-dried tomato recipes, especially those for pasta and salads, are interesting and appealing. Still, while it's true that sun-dried tomatoes are currently on the ``in'' list, whether they merit their own cookbook is debatable; larger collections might want the paperback. Day, a Texas writer, offers some 120 recipes, accompanied by history and anecdotes, for his chosen ingredient. Their sources and inspirations are diverse, and shrimp-lovers would certainly find some tempting dishes here. One drawback is the author's partiality to dried herbs, even to dried parsley, which seems at odds with his commitment to flavorful food. And, yes, this, too, is a narrow topic; an optional purchase.