With the holidays come feasts and fests—and a bumper crop of cookbooks. PEOPLE associate editor Michelle Green sampled them all and takes a look at the season's best.

by Mollie Katzen

Even in the dark of winter, Mollie Katzen can find something to celebrate. This time, the exuberant author of the Moosewood Cookbook—one of the 10 bestselling cooking guides ever—explores the glories of vegetables in a jauntily illustrated volume influenced by cuisines around the world. Sprightly and inspired, dishes like Asparagus in Warm Tarragon-Pecan Vinaigrette, and Coconut Rice with Ginger, Chiles and Lime are within reach of even harried home cooks. A bonus is the warm advice and commentary from Katzen, a Bay Area resident who always sounds like a talented chum sharing her family favorites. (And now, she's plying her trade on public television—in a 26-part series called Mollie Katzen's Cooking Show: Vegetable Heaven.) (Hyperion, $27.50)

by The Moosewood Collective

Although cofounder Mollie Katzen left the Moosewood Restaurant 21 years ago, the Ithaca, N.Y., landmark (a vegetarian haven founded in 1972) has continued to thrive. Behind the stoves these days are members of a collective whose latest book focuses on home-style desserts. Though the lineup includes some health-conscious curiosities like Tropical Tofu "Cheesecake," the authors put most of their energy into decadent fare like Apricot Baklava and Irish Whiskey Cake. Novices will be comforted by the trouble-shooting guide, and cooks in a hurry will appreciate the chart listing recipes under categories including crowd-pleasers and kids' favorites. (Clarkson Potter, $32.50)

by Steven Raichlen

Are dishes like Amazing Low-Fat Cannoli or slimmed-down Smoked Cheese Lasagne a cruel joke? Not in Raichlen's hands. A syndicated food columnist who lives in Florida and author of High-Flavor, Low-Fat Cooking (which won the prestigious James Beard Award in 1993), Raichlen takes as his motto the Italian saying, "To eat well is to be close to God." Though he trims the fat in dishes like manicotti and osso bucco, he never sacrifices flavor; instead, he focuses on the freshest ingredients, prepared with skill and savvy. (Viking, $29.95)

by Madeleine Kamman

A veteran teacher with experience as a restaurateur at Boston's Chez La Mère, Kamman has produced a 1,228-page treatise that reads like a college textbook. (In fact it's a revision of her 1971 opus, The Making of a Cook.) Rank beginners may find this volume intimidating, while more advanced cooks may grow impatient with Kamman's lectures on cooking tools and sauces in the Middle Ages. For those who take a desert-island approach to cooking guides, however, this may be the one to buy—aside from recipes for everything from Crayfish Fritters to Potatoes Dauphine, the author offers a useful bibliography and an extensive glossary. (Morrow, $40)

by Christian Teubner

A very serious book, indeed, and a useful one for the chocolate-obsessed. Along with his culinary team, master pastry chef and photographer Teubner offers a history of the cocoa bean, plus rich chapters on the production process and techniques for working with the fussy, fine chocolate called couverture. But the payoff comes in detailed chapters on patisserie, candies and desserts: The most demanding recipes in this oversized volume are accompanied by detailed photos illustrating each step, so that the intricacies of exotica including Passion Fruit Creams, Truffle Torte and Almond Gugelhupf become clear. While casual cooks may be intimidated, those who dream of turning out professional-looking delicacies will welcome this glossy tome. (Penguin Studio, $29.95)

by Christopher Idone

Author of beautifully crafted cookbooks, including Lemons, the Manhattanite Idone (the founder of the haute caterers Glorious Food) has collected his favorites in a compact volume that features updated comfort food like Stewed Apples with Macaroni and Cheese. His recipes are simple, and the text is blessedly chat-free; this is the book to scan when you want to focus on food rather than culinary anecdotes. Purists, however, should skip Idone's recipe for Lemon Cake, whose ingredients include Duncan Hines cake mix. Even if he makes this one at home, I'm not sure he should make a point of what's in it. (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $22.50)

by Alfred Portale with Andrew Friedman

It's hard to like a book from a chef as cocky as Portale. A self-congratulatory sort, he supplies patronizing commentary in which he raves about the brilliance of the kitchen at his critically acclaimed Manhattan restaurant and observes that "working a day" there would be "a great learning opportunity for anyone interested in cooking, if I do say so myself." Skip the prattle, then, and turn to recipes for stylish dishes like Roasted Corn Chowder and Farfalle with Prosciutto di Parma, Pea Leaves and Parmigiano. Though sophisticated, none of his creations seem daunting, and they're just right for an elegant little dinner—at home. (Doubleday, $45)

by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison

Fresh and clever, this is an updated version of the 1990 Chopstix, a distinctive cookbook by the husband-and-wife team of Carpenter (a Napa Valley cooking teacher) and Sandison (a photographer). In this volume, Carpenter shares shortcut techniques while exploring the intense flavors of the Pacific Rim: In his Thai Salmon Satay, he details a method for broiling skewers of savory salmon in just two minutes. Simple but sophisticated, his recipes for "crunchy, crispy, crackling salads" like Goat Cheese Salad with Ginger and Macadamia Nuts and his snappy soups (including Thai Bouillabaisse) are irresistible. Each recipe is more appealing than the last, so even jaded cooks will find this a treasure. (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35)

by Marcella Hazan

A definitive guide to Italian cooking by Hazan, a resident of Venice who brought authentic dishes like fricasseed rabbit to the New World, this volume is not for the fainthearted. Recipes for creations like Stuffed Whole Squid Braised with Onions, Tomatoes, Chili Pepper and White Wine go on for three pages, and Hazan (a rigorous and opinionated teacher) seems to have little interest in shortcuts. Her insistence on quality is inspiring, though, and she offers a wealth of useful hints for assessing the produce at your own mercato. (HarperCollins, $35)

by Marcia Adams

Though its title is a touch pedestrian, this evocative examination of Amish and Mennonite cultures is wonderfully engaging. Host of the PBS series Marcia Adams' Kitchen, the author has a real appreciation for the idiosyncrasies of regional cuisine; that, and a fine eye for detail. Aside from how-tos on distinctive dishes passed from one generation to the next, she explores traditional arts including canning and caring for linens (anything stained gets bleached in the sun). Recipes for homey fare like Brown Sugar Dumplings are unusually appealing, and Alexandra Avakian's photos of auctions and "haystack suppers" are enlivened by her sense of wonder. (Clarkson Potter, $30)

by Delia Smith

An ebullient home cook whose books sell by the millions in Great Britain, Delia Smith has yet to make her mark in America. This handsome volume, then, is likely to be a magnet for cookbook junkies eager to see what the fuss is about. They won't be disappointed; brisk but reassuring, Smith presents innovative versions of classic cold-weather fare: braised steak au poivre in red wine; a tarte tatin made with red onions, rather than apples; and mashed potatoes sparked with pesto. And lagniappes including Parsnip Crisps and Camembert Croquettes with Fresh Date and Apple Chutney are particularly amusing. Evocative and wonderfully readable, Smith's Winter Collection is a nice book to settle in with—even if you have no intention of re-creating her poached pheasant with celery or confit of cranberries. (Random House, $35)

>5 cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp. salt 1 Tbs. baking soda 2 tsp. baking powder 4 eggs 4 tsp. vanilla extract 1½ cups solid vegetable shortening 1 18-ounce jar creamy peanut butter (2 generous cups) 2 cups granulated sugar 2 cups dark brown sugar, packed ½ cup or more granulated sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs thoroughly and blend in the vanilla; set aside. In another mixing bowl, beat the shortening briefly, then gradually beat in the peanut butter, then sugars. Blend well. Add the beaten eggs a bit at a time, then gradually add flour mixture and incorporate thoroughly. The batter will be very crumbly, but do not worry.

Place the garnishing sugar in a small bowl. Using a heaping tablespoon, dip out batter and lightly roll each cookie in the sugar. Transfer cookies to an ungreased cookie sheet. With a fork, press each cookie down a bit in a crisscross pattern to flatten. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes or until brown. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the pan. Makes 8 dozen cookies.

Copyright New Recipes from Quilt Country by Marcia Adams. Courtesy of Clarkson Potter Publishers.

>1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil 1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped 1 small red onion, finely chopped 1 large garlic clove, crushed 1 1/8 cups lentils 1 bay leaf 1 heaping tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped Salt ½ bunch arugula 4 ounces firm goat cheese

The Dressing: 1 large garlic clove 1 tsp. sea salt 2 tsp. ground mustard 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar 2 Tbs. walnut oil ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil Freshly ground black pepper

First you need to cook the walnuts. Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan and when hot, lightly fry the chopped walnuts for about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. To the oil left in the pan, add onion and crushed garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Next, stir in the lentils, bay leaf, and thyme, making sure they all get a good coating of oil. Add 1¼ cups of boiling water (with no salt), cover and, turning the heat down, simmer for 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

While the lentils are cooking, make the dressing. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the garlic with the salt until creamy. Add mustard and work into a paste. Next, whisk in the balsamic vinegar, followed by the oils. Season well with freshly ground black pepper.

Once the lentils are cooked, add salt to taste. Empty them into a warm serving bowl and pour dressing over the hot beans. Give it a good toss and stir. Then crumble the goat cheese all over, and add the arugula torn in half. Toss again. Serve immediately with walnuts scattered over. Serves 4.

Copyright Delia Smith's Winter Collection by Delia Smith. Courtesy of Random House.