Nester's Needs: Cookbooks include sandwich recipes, advice from chefs

Last week, Nester's Needs focused on the ever-expanding world of cookbooks. After looking at the latest and greatest the cooking world had to offer, I was inspired to attempt to overcome my aversion to these instruction manuals. While scanning the texts and admiring all the pretty pictures, I found a few recipes that looked do-able.

Once again, I found myself adding ingredients not listed, twisting the cooking methods to fit my own needs and basically reinventing the recipe to make it my own.

This week, I'm taking on a new batch of books, and I'm going to try it again - but no promises.

How hard could it be to follow a sandwich recipe? The "Roadfood Sandwiches: Recipes and Lore from Our Favorite Shops Coast to Coast" (Houghton Mifflin, $14.95) seems like a slam dunk. Authors Jane and Michael Stern explore innovative between-the-bread recipes used across the country.

There's the Monte Cristo from Baker's Cafe in Charleston, S.C., the Smoked Cajun Shrimp Salad from Hoover's Cooking in Austin, Texas, and even the Perfect Ham and Cheese sandwich from Georgia's own Blue Willow Inn. No, there are not pages of elegant images, but each recipe does come with a story about the sandwich and restaurant's origin. The cookbook is available at area bookstores and at Amazon.com and www.roadfood.com.

Maybe I'll have more success with baking. These recipes are much more regulated, so changing things a bit won't make a new dish, it'll just make a mess. There is no better way to practice this theory than with "The Complete Baking Cookbook" (Robert Rose, $34.95). Within the 400-plus pages are 350 recipes for pies, cakes, breads and baked goods galore.

Recipes are divided into eight categories, from cookies, bars and squares to holiday favorites and grand finales. The book also includes 10 pages of how-to advice, describing the best ways to use equipment and common ingredients. It's sold in area bookstores and online.

When thinking of Southern food, most people immediately imagine fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and sweet tea. But when Debra Zumstein and Wil Kazary think of Southern cuisine, they think of almond grouper and mustard-encrusted rack of lamb. More specifically, they think of some of the masterminds behind these dishes, all of whom hail from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

In their cookbook, "Carolina Cooking: Recipes from the Region's Best Chefs" (Gibbs-Smith, $19.99) Zumstein and Kazary have gathered these chef's most prized recipes alongside vivid images of the dishes. The book also includes suggested wine pairings and tips from the chefs. As an added bonus, every meal can be made in 30 minutes or less and is simple enough for the at-home chef, but fancy enough for a swanky dinner party. The book is sold at area bookstores and online at www.carolinacooking.tv.