This rendering of the New York Times Cookbook by the food editor of the Times is a valuable public service for the beginner in the kitchen. Cooks may have grumbled from time to time at this or that in the parent volume -- not enough time allowed for vegetable cooking in a few dishes, too damn much fancy stuff in the hors d'oeuvres section, etc. etc. but the TC, like the giant among cookbooks it is, continues to be an urban staple with its beautifully clear directions, emphasis on tasty but not overly exotic, generally Continental dishes, and solid background information. Here is the sound base for the galatines of later years: equipment (a beautifully handled section of illustrations in which even a toaster is carefully drawn); a table of measurements (1 stick of butter equals (apple) cup of melted butter -- amazing how often neglected this information is); how to chop, cut and prepare various ingredients. Mr. Claiborne then goes on to basics with attendant recipes -- sauces, soups, entrees, vegetables, baking. A sure guide to overcoming obstacles mentioned in the introduction -- lack of proper equipment and fear of failure, this is a necessity for the novice and, for the experienced cook sure of her basics, it's still nice to know it's all there.