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Williams-Sonoma: Cooking for Friends

Williams-Sonoma: <i>Cooking for Friends</i>
The best parties are the ones where everyone, including the hosts, feels relaxed and ready for fun. In Cooking for Friends, entertaining experts Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm share their strategies for showing guests a great time while keeping hosting duties to a minimum.

As two of New York City's most sought-after personal chefs and food stylists, the authors teach home cooks how easy it can be to create crowd-pleasing dishes with professional panache. Simple and seasonal are the keys. Many of the recipes offer sophisticated variations that customize presentation and flavors to suit the occasion.

Lobster sliders, inspired by an East Coast seafood shack favorite, are perfect as a starter or enjoyed on a picnic. The luxurious shellfish is enlivened with fresh tarragon, lemon zest and crème fraîche, then piled atop mini brioche rolls. The authors offer four imaginative interpretations of the classic seafood cocktail, from a shrimp and mâche salad to crab and cucumber canapés.

Make creative use of colorful produce with this refreshing salad: Chunks of crisp watermelon are sprinkled with Niçoise olives, cubes of feta cheese and purple basil, then drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. For a warming side dish that is sure to garner rave reviews, try sliced leeks baked with a medley of cheeses and fresh herbs. It is one of four enticing options for creamy vegetable gratins.

For an impressive main course, prepare a French-inspired dish of pan-seared duck breasts. Fresh Black Mission figs, roasted in a thyme-scented balsamic vinegar glaze, enrich the duck with irresistible savory-sweet flavors. Finish the party on a sweet note by serving rose and vanilla cupcakes crowned with pink buttercream frosting.

Making it easy to put together a memorable meal any time of the year, the book offers eight enticing menus for each season, from casual dinners and cocktail parties to elegant suppers. Also included is a seasonal guide to the best fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Designed for maximum fun with minimal fuss, this beautifully photographed book is the simple secret to hosting stylish gatherings that are as enjoyable for you as they are for your friends.