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If vanilla is your idea of plain, Medrich will revolutionize your thinking. In her vocabulary, vanilla is a flavor; she distinguishes among the nuances of Bourbon, Mexican, and Tahitian extracts, powders, and beans. Plain means tasting the milk, butter, flour or fresh cheese that defines a cake or custard. She describes 10 different sugars, from "neutral" granulated white to slightly "smoky" dark brown piloncillo. Her three previous cookbooks (including BitterSweet) won awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and her new book is sure to attract the new generation of cooks devoted to elaborate simplicity. Readers should be aware, however, that the brevity of ingredient lists may mislead; some gardens and markets may lack such nonfungible items as lemon verbena, chestnut flour and muscovado sugar. But all will welcome the ultimate summer pudding recipe-berries, bread, sugar, whipped cream-and the liberating range of frozen desserts.
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