Cookbooks are meant to be used for cooking, but if it's just too hot to even think of spending any time in the kitchen, take one of these, stretch out in the backyard hammock, and dream up some delicious meals to make when the weather's cooler.
Sherri Zitron has been teaching New Yorkers to cook for company by forgetting the tried and true and preparing something new and delicious with the assurance of success on the first try.
In her book, ''Lessons and Recipes from the School of Contemporary Cooking'' (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95), there are 52 ''lessons'', each consisting of a complete menu.
Starting in January there are such hearty dishes as Navarin of Lamb and Chocolate Cream Roulade, with lighter fare coming along in the summer months with Poached Fish with Tarragon Mayonnaise and Plum Crisp.
''The Country Gourmet Cookbook'' by Sherrill and Gil Roth (Workman Publishing Company, $14.95) is a guide to fine, yet uncomplicated, cooking throughout the year using garden and farm-fresh ingredients.
The authors lived in Greenwich Village for several years and became accustomed to the accessibility of the best vegetable markets and a wide variety of ethnic foods. Moving to North Carolina, they quickly realized they had to be more self-sufficient, planted a garden, and made many foods from scratch.
Another new cookbook that is seasonally arranged is Elizabeth Schnieder Colchie's ''Ready When You Are'' (Crown Publishers, Inc., $15.95). All of her recipes conform to the ''no fuss when the guests are there'' principle, but most of her menus have an elegant touch and use the freshest ingredients.
Included in each seasonal catergory are topical menus, such as ''An Ice Cream Party for All Ages'' and ''The Last Outdoor Supper'', both with tempting recipes.
This summer pudding holds onto the fleeting moment when both raspberries and currants are ripe. Sumer Pudding 1 quart red currants, rinsed 2 tablespoons water 1 quart raspberries, rinsed About 2/3 cup sugar 1 loaf firm homemade or bakery white bread Creme fraiche, or a mixture of sour cream and heavy cream
Remove stems from currants and discard. There should be 3 to 31/2 cups. Combine in heavy enameled or stainless-steel saucepan with water. Bring to boil, covered. Lower heat and simer for 2 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking briefly, until soft.
Press currants and juices through fine disc of food mill. Discard seeds. Return pureed currants to saucepan. Add raspberries and sugar and bring to boil. Boil, stirring, for about 2 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved and raspberries have softened and lost some juice. Reserve.
Slice bread 1/4-inch thick and trim off crusts. Line a 6-cup souffle dish or bowl or mold the same size with bread slices. Cut pieces to fit together tightly and cover both bottom and sides.
Pour berries into mold, cover with more bread cut to fit, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Locate a bowl, pot top, pan, or dish with diameter about an inch less than mold's. Set this on top of plastic and place a 3- to 4-pound weight on it. Refrigerate for about 24 hours.
To serve, run knife around edge of dish. Set serving dish with rim on top of bowl, then quickly invert both. Cut into slices and top with cream. Serves 8.