New York Mother's Day tributes can run to flowers, candy, reservations for favorite restaurants, offers to cook for her and other treats.
But buying a cookbook for Mom has to have a thoughtful reason, something that makes the book reflect more than merely a hint toward the hot stove - for that one special day, at least.
Sometimes, the recipes are only a part of the story.
Here, for example, is a cookbook with a heartfelt purpose: "Ya Tibya Lublu: Recipes of Love for Orphans of Eastern Europe" edited by Lisa Finneran (Morris Press Cookbooks, 2006, $17 plus $3 shipping/handling), available online from www.arkangels.org.
The first part of the title means "I love you" in Russian. The second part points to the loving thought behind the book's genesis, which is being translated into some very practical help for orphans: the proceeds from the book.
Finneran and many of the book's collaborators and contributors have first-hand experience of adoption. Finneran and her husband adopted two children from a Russian orphanage in 2003. The book's celebrity coordinator, Jane Waldman, and her husband adopted their daughter from Russia in 2004.
One of the recipe contributors, figure skater and Olympic gold medallist Oksana Baiul, from Ukraine, lost her father when she was 2, and her mother when she was 13.
The book has stories and photos of happily adopted children interspersed with the 400 recipes. But, as Finneran explains, the reason the book exists is to help a few of the many other orphans with little chance of being adopted.
"Lisa and I were so moved by the plight of the children we left behind, we vowed we would do something to help them," Waldman says. The book is the result.
Among recipes shared by editors and celebrities, family and friends is this beet salad, from Denise Davis. She and her husband Gary adopted two children from Ukraine, a note with the recipe explains. Davis says this is a popular salad starter in Ukraine - "Root vegetables grow well in Ukraine's cold climate, and beets are the tastiest and most colorful."
3 to 4 beets
2 cooking apples
2 ounces walnuts
2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
Peel and cook the beets. Peel and core the apples. Grate the beets and the apples. Add chopped walnuts and crushed garlic and dress with mayonnaise.
-Recipe from "Ya Tibya Lublu: Recipes of Love for Orphans of Eastern Europe" edited by Lisa Finneran, Morris Press Cookbooks, 2006)
"The Family Kitchen" by Debra Ponzek (Potter, 2006, $25) would make a disarming present to Mom because it suggests everyone can have fun in the kitchen.
The book's subtitle makes the point, referring to the contents as "easy and delicious recipes for parents and kids to make and enjoy together." Ponzek, who worked as a chef in Manhattan, and now runs a specialty food chain, lives in Connecticut with her husband and three children - so she's learned from hands-on experience practical things the book passes on to other parents.
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- Because she love me
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- Mom-friendly cookbooks make great gift
- Mommy role begins long before delivery
- 'Fabulous journey' of parenthood brings Lawrence mother full circle
- Perfect Mother's Day was right there all along
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- Children share the meaning of mom
But, above all, she says, "this book is about the possibilities for connecting with your kids and enjoying your family by cooking together."
Beyond having a good time, she points out, children can feel proud of actually making something that people can eat - and they learn a lot, from math and nutrition to geography, history and the environment.
The recipes, grouped in chapters from breakfast to bake sales, by way of snow days and summer picnics, come with sidebars: "Call the Kids," lists of chores for which to recruit the children. The book is well-designed, enlivened with plenty of color photos, including some showing the author in the kitchen with assorted children.
From the chapter on summer picnics comes this shrimp salad that Ponzek says is good for lunch as well, with its refreshing alternative of lemon vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise that often is part of similar salads. To simplify things, you can buy the shrimp already cooked, she suggests, but be sure to "buy the freshest and the best shrimp you can."
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
24 large, cooked peeled shrimp (about 1 pound)
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1 scallion, white and green parts, sliced
12 grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon diced red onion
In a small bowl, whisk together all the olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Set aside until needed. Whisk just before using.
In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, avocado, celery, scallion, tomatoes, parsley and red onions. Sprinkle with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly. Toss the shrimp salad gently and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 4 servings.
Call the kids to:
l Measure the oil.
l Squeeze the lemon.
l Dice the avocado with a blunt knife.
l Mix the ingredients for the vinaigrette.
l Mix the ingredients for the salad.
l Toss the shrimp with the vinaigrette.
- Recipe from "The Family Kitchen" by Debra Ponzek, Potter, 2006, $25
A reminder that nobody ever has to run out of family recipes (even if they're from someone else's family) comes in cookbooks Reader's Digest has compiled from Taste of Home magazines.
Recent entries in the Taste of Home series are "Mom's Best Meals," "Family Collection Cookbook" and "Grandma's Favorites" (Reader's Digest, 2005, $24.95 each).
Recipe totals blast out on the covers: Mom's best meals add up to at least 250 recipes; for the family collection there are "438 treasured recipes from cooks across America"; Grandma's total is 350 "handed down through the generations."
"Mom's Best Meals" gives readers the whole menu for an affectionately recalled meal from mother's and sometimes from grandmother's table. These spreads range from French Cuisine for Christmas to A Birthday Meal To Remember, from Southern-Style Sunday Dinner to Nothing Beats a Barbecue.
The other books have individual recipes grouped by type, but what they all have in common is that each recipe has a personal attribution and descriptive headnote, with names and hometowns of the contributor - and lavish use of color photos.
The personal angles and stories are enough to persuade Mom to sit down for a pleasant browse, should anyone decide to present her with a copy on Mother's Day. Meanwhile, a recipe included in a Birthday Wish Come True meal is simple and good enough for a volunteer cook to make for the family's dinner that evening.
Dianne Esposite of New Middletown, Ohio, gives her recipe its pedigree. She writes that Swiss steak smothered in mushrooms was a birthday treat her mother made - "Now my family enjoys this entree when I make it for them."
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 to 2 pound beef round steak, trimmed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon steak sauce
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, salt and pepper. Cut steak into serving-size pieces; dredge in the flour mixture. In a skillet, brown steak in oil. Drain; place in a 2 1/2-quart casserole. Top with celery, onion and mushrooms. Combine water, garlic and steak sauce; pour over vegetables. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.
Makes six servings.
- Recipe from "Taste of Home: Mom's Best Meals," Reader's Digest, 2005, $24.95.