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Fancy desserts, Southern cooking, ethnic recipes

VERY few of us are able to get up at dawn, rush to the backyard and gather a colander of golden-pink raspberries, make a dozen perfect tartlets, set them on a set of antique gold-rimmed Black Knight Bavarian china, and surround them with our very own Queen Elizabeth tea roses before we even brush our teeth in the morning. Whew! Martha Stewart not only can, she does it with what appears to be merely the wave of a wand.

With her latest -- and, we are informed, far from last -- cookbook in the Camelot collection, Pies & Tarts (Potter Inc., New York, $18.95), Mrs. Stewart offers another of the beautifully styled and photographed works that we have come to expect from her.

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And yes, Martha Stewart does get her hands soiled, even with a food processor, as the step-by-step, well-illustrated chapter on pastry techniques shows.

This is one book that will undoubtedly find its way on top of the coffee tables and under the pillows of almost every Yuppie in town. And, one hopes, into a few kitchens, too.

Bill Neal's Southern Cooking (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, $15.95) is a book as simple and unpretentious as its title.

Here are the down-home, everyday neighborhood recipes served next door rather than in the more tony antebellum-style restaurants. You may not be able to serve Neal's Roast Possum With Sweet Potatoes even if you want to, without some Southern connection, but most ingredients can be found locally, from the Deep South to Nome, Alaska.

Now that Americans are in the midst of rediscovering their own cooking roots, this book comes along just in time.

China's Food (Friendly Press, New York, $40) is a sumptuous photographic tour of the tables and tastes of the world's most populous country.

Internationally acclaimed photographer Reinhart Wolf and anthropologist Lionel Tiger, together with cookbook author Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, have put together a glorious pictorial journey to 13 of China's cities. We see everything from the harvesting of water chestnuts in Jiangsu Province to 600-year-old rice terraces in Zhuang. Although primarily a picture book, ``China's Food'' includes a number of recipes.

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For his 17th book, New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne has come out with The New York Times Food Encyclopedia (Times Books, New York, $24.95). It is a book of argument-solving information salted with Mr. Claiborne's personal tastes and prejudices. A garlic press, for instance, would not be an appreciated Christmas gift for the author.

But if you don't know, but care, that vesiga is the ropelike, gelatinous spinal marrow of sturgeon served in making a classic Russian coulibiac, you will find the book endlessly fascinating reading.

It takes a bit of doing to keep up with Alice Waters in her kitchen, but Lindsey Remolif Shere has managed. Since 1971 she has been pastry chef at Ms. Waters's Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. And if you're familiar with Waters, her restaurant, or her cookbooks, you know that what follows the entree will be more than a fig newton.

Chez Panisse Desserts (Random House, New York, $17.95) is full of many imaginative ways to end a meal. For chocolate lovers there is a recipe for Very Rich Chocolate Mousse, but it's the fruit, herb, and nut desserts that take the cake here. With recipes for Rose Geranium Ice Cream, Poached Spiced Figs, and Macadamia Cake, you don't need photographs to make you drool. And there aren't any. Just a few pen and ink drawings by Wayne Thiebaud.

The Tastes of Liberty (Stewart, Tabori & Chang Inc., New York) edited by Bob Betz, is a flag-raising tribute in food and photography to our immigrant families, kitchens, and the Statue of Liberty itself. It is available for a $20 tax-deductible donation. All proceeds go to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island restoration effort.

The book has small black and white photos of tired and doe-eyed immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, in contrast to glorious full-color spreads of the foods many of our relatives may have left behind or for which they had recipes tucked into the pockets of their long, woolen black coats.

The emphasis is on the major immigrant groups that arrived in the United States at the turn of the century. Italy, Greece, Scandinavia, Great Britain, France, and Iberia are represented, as well as the cuisine of our Jewish and Eastern European forefathers.

This timely book is rich in history and should grace many a coffee table and kitchen in Miss Liberty's 1986 centennial year.

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