You’re down to the wire. Virtually hours left. And you still have to buy for an avid cook or two. Head out to your nearest independent bookshop. Or, try out one of the many vintage — or heirloom, or used bookstores, whatever the owners call them.

You’re down to the wire. Virtually hours left. And you still have to buy for an avid cook or two.


Head out to your nearest independent bookshop. Or, try out one of the many vintage — or heirloom, or used bookstores, whatever the owners call them — and ask for the cookbook section. You’ll be surprised by the selection.


You might unearth a dusty copy of the “Betty Crocker Cookbook,” circa 1948, the big red notebook that everyone’s grandma got for a shower or wedding gift at that time. Although the book has been updated and republished recently, the originals are more fun, filled as they are with old-fashioned casseroles that once thriftily used up leftovers.


Or you might discover a lovingly worn copy of James Beard’s “Hors d’Oeuvre and Canapes,” circa 1940, original price $3.95. The word hors d’oeuvre is spelled correctly here without the ending letter “s,” very likely for the last time in an American book, and the rarely seen “canapés,” also in the title, are well represented in the pages.


Neither book is in great demand these days, but both are lots of fun for cooks re-creating nostalgic times or to evoke memories in others.


More likely, you might find some fun volumes such as Ernest Mickler’s spiral-bound “White Trash Cooking” from the 1980s. The book is filled with tongue-in-cheek recipes such as tuna casserole with potato chip topping. A recipe for devil dogs brings back those high-flying days when restaurants took a night off from the serious menu, the bartender donned a bathrobe and curlers, and the waiters sported fat Elvis attire. And, rather than throwing a tantrum, the chef smiled.


Michael McLaughlin’s “Back of the Box Cooking” is a catalog of everyone’s favorite staples, such as baked chicken parmesan dipped in mayonnaise; cream cheese-frosted loaf sandwich filled with ham and hard-boiled eggs; and gorp bars made with M&M’s candies. Anyone who gets this book opens it immediately to a childhood memory and decides to cook.


If a road trip is part of your giftees’ annual summer vacation, then “Roadfood” by Jane and Michael Stern will help them navigate their way to good eats along the highway or off the beaten track. It’s recently updated with many new listings, so it might be a good idea to get the 2011 edition so that your friends or relatives don’t pull up to a used car lot instead of that nostalgic diner. It might be fun to cross-check the listings with Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” website before packing their bags.


A few others are more up to date, but not brand-spanking new. Hurried cooks will be inspired to get dinner on the table without opening cans using Mary Ann Esposito’s “Five Ingredient Favorites.” Readers who’d rather have someone else prepare the food while they relax might enjoy “Waiter Rant,” a hilarious compilation of object lessons for rude customers from an old blog.


Another blog book, “The Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg, is packed with lovely essays on food and cooking. Chapter titles, such as Heaven, Happiness and Like Wildflowers, provide hours of good reading as well as inspiring good cooking.


Good reading is also key to Laura Shapiro’s “Julia Child: A Life.” Find the slim, red paperback volume tucked between thicker, denser versions, the perfect size for plane or train travel. Carefully researched at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard, the narrative takes the reader from California to Paris to Cambridge and back to California, bringing Julia to life on every page.


You might find the big, fat, bright yellow early edition of Mary Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything” on the shelf. Impressive in size, it has been recently updated, but the original is still hanging out there at discounted prices.


Hopefully, you’ve avoided the frantic crowds by shopping in these less-populated corners. If you’re already at the mall, get out and head to the stand-alone bookstore across the road or in the parking lot. Find economical treasures in the pyramids of books by the front door.


Now, dash away, dash away, dash away home. And enjoy the fast and easy recipes here from Beard and Bittman.


GREEN MAYONNAISE                                                          


Makes about 2 cups  


James Beard meant this recipe for a cold seafood platter, but it turns good old tuna salad sandwiches into a real treat. And, if you pulse it in the processor or blender, you can spread it on sliced, toasted French bread and call it a crostini or canapé. 


Fresh tarragon is not widely available at this time of year, but I find that dried tastes just as delicious if I chop it in with fresh chives, parsley, and dill. Note: I usually skip the chervil.


2 cups mayonnaise                                                                  


1 tablespoon chopped chives                                                          


1 tablespoon chopped tarragon                                                          


2 tablespoons chopped parsley                                                          


1 teaspoon chopped chervil                                                            


1 teaspoon chopped dill  


Fold the chopped herbs into the mayonnaise and let it stand for 2 hours before using.


-- “Hors d’Oeuvre and Canapes”


ROASTED EGGPLANT DIP                                                       


Makes at least 6 servings                                                          


Bittman’s recipes, while simple, assume the cook knows the way around a kitchen.


2 medium or 4 small eggplants, about 1 pound                                                   


1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice                                                     


1/4 cup olive oil                                                                    


1/2 teaspoon minced garlic                                                           


1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese                                                 


salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste                                             


minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish 


1. Turn the oven up to 500 degrees. Pierce the eggplant in several places with a thin-bladed knife or skewer. Roast, turning occasionally, until the eggplant collapses and the skin blackens, 15 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant. Remove from the oven and cool.


 2. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, slit the skin and discard, scoop out the flesh, and mince it finely. Mix it with the lemon juice, oil, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings, then garnish and serve, with bread or crackers.


-- Adapted from “How To Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman                           


Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by e-mail at KitchenCall@aol.com