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For some people, the best reading comes in a cookbook. Here are some new kitchen classics for giving or keeping, most with a seasonal spin, all time-tested and handsomely illustrated.

“A Century of Flavor”
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, $28
Think beyond holiday sweets for a concise selection of vanilla-rich recipes for meats, fish, vegetables and baked goods. Vanilla history and lore, recipes for the novice or expert cook.

“The Best of Cooking Light”
Oxmoor House, $35
More than 500 recipes that made the cut from 10,000 of the magazine's archives. From appetizers to desserts, most with color photos, all with nutritional information. A healthy-eater gift idea.

“2008 Christmas with Southern Living”
Oxmoor House, $30
Make-ahead recipes, food gifts, holiday decorations and editor's favorite recipes from the magazine. Geared to the moderately skilled cook; color photos and how-to instructions make this a keeper.

“Apron Strings II”
Richmond Symphony Orchestra League, $23
Edited by Jan Carlton; illustrated by Jack Williams
Committee members Kristine von Ruffer, Peggy Boyd, Elinor Kuhn and Ann Tyler culled special and secret family recipes from very-Richmond sources. Benefits the Richmond Symphony. At book and gift stores or www.rsol.org.

Faster Indian
Fat Larry's claimed to have the best cheese steak in town, and sold quite a few good, and cheap, burgers to students over the past two years or so. But the Virginia Commonwealth University-area shop recently closed, making way for Ruchee India Express to open in early December. The owners of Ruchee Indian Cuisine on Midlothian Turnpike got a strong enough response to their monthly buffet in the campus dining hall to drive this uptown Main expansion.
The cafAc will serve a lunch buffet and dinner Monday through Saturday. Seating is limited to 20; carryout is a specialty and entrees are in the less-than-$9 range. 1201 W. Main St. 354-6011. www.rucheeuniqueindiancuisine.com.


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