Chronicle (Feb.), $22.95
On a glorious Saturday at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, when the purveyors are out in force and your string bag is heavy with Easter Egg radishes, green garlic, fennel, blood oranges, and goat cheese, and you're standing in line at Primavera anticipating toting your paper plate laden with chilaquiles over to a bench and enjoying the matchless bay view, it's hard to imagine anything that could improve upon this primal San Francisco experience. But there is: this small but dense, highly portable book. It's cleverly arranged into seasonal chunks, within which are alphabetically organized paeans to produce (and meats) offering a few excellent recipes and tips on which stands will be likely to have the best specimens available. It's what the French call a mode d'emploi, aka instructions for use: No matter how well you think you know the market, this nifty, charming tome will teach you new tricks. There's the obligatory (and welcome) introduction by Alice Waters; a pithy history of the market by founding director Sibella Kraus; and seductive, beautiful photographs by Hirsheimer. The simple yet inspirational recipes seem eminently doable: 'Tis time for fresh peas and morels, chili butter for corn, and lamb stew with artichokes. Can stone fruit (peach ice cream, plum galette) be far behind? Then there's fall's persimmon pudding, and winter's beef stew with carrots. The Farmers' Market is, as Waters quotes from poet John Hollander, "the slowly turning Lazy Susan of the seasons." Gather ye Easter Egg radishes while ye may.