Goodfellas

Good food, approached from two directions

Some cookbooks are lofty and ambitious.

They frequently inspire us, but rarely on a practical level that lends itself to daily use.

It seems that lately the recipe gods we admire recognize this, as the cookbooks in heaviest rotation this month carry the simplest conceit: food that is "good."

For Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, cofounder and blogstress of Apartment Therapy, that word is best expressed when cooking for a crowd. In Good Food to Share ($30), she builds a skeleton of fundamentals for entertaining at home, then outlines the musculature with nonchalant recipes ideal for enjoying communally.

Particularly useful: Many of the recipes include tiers of variations so that you never have to worry about repeating dishes for your guests. For instance, amp up a traditional deviled-egg recipe with the flavors of Caesar salad (click here to see the recipe).

From further afield comes The Good Life ($60), the second work from Australian chef Adrian Richardson. In a fascinating contrast, the recipes veer between the Mediterranean flavors of Richardson's Italian roots and the Asian influences that stem from geographical proximity. The mix works: We're equally apt to make a cauliflower-and-carrot curry as the eggplant pizzaola that follows it.