"Dishing: Great Dish — and Dishes — From America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist" is written by Liz Smith, who has been dishing about celebrities since the '50s.

She was the entertainment editor of Cosmopolitan magazine for 11 years and still writes a syndicated gossip column, so she probably knows more stars than a planetarium. Most of the names she drops are from an older generation, such as Kate Hepburn, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Malcolm Forbes, Dan Rather and Elvis, although she does include in the book a photo of herself with Julia Roberts.

Understandably, the publication is part gossip column, part biography, part cookbook and part food diary. Her chapters don't appear to be in any particular order — the details of the Burton/Taylor food and drink obsessions during the '60s; Hepburn's brownies; Elaine's, the famed Manhattan restaurant; and entertaining with cookbook author Lee Bailey, with whom Smith had a long romantic relationship.

One amusing chapter tells of a dinner at the home of writer/movie director Nora Ephron, whose works, such as "Crazy Salad" and "Heartburn," are tied to food. Smith wrote a story detailing the experience.

"I sent it to her thinking she'd burble her thanks and mutual admiration. Instead what I got back from Nora was her usual high-minded attention to detail, a literary tongue-lashing for my carelessness and pages of corrections and chiding."

So the chapter gives Smith's write-up, interspersed with Ephron's long, peevish comments.

Smith tells how Hepburn was asked by a neighbor to intervene in his daughter's decision to quit college. Hepburn obligingly had tea with father and daughter, and she advised the girl to stay in school. Later, Kate admonished the father that the brownies he'd delivered to her had too much flour. "They should be moist, not cakey," she told him.

Smith was raised in Texas and often refers to dishes she grew up with. A whole chapter is devoted to C.F.S. (chicken-fried steak, for the uninitiated.) She writes that she's been to posh parties where little morsels of C.F.S. were served on toothpicks as an hors d'oeuvre.

She claims a C.F.S. dinner rarely fails, although she said Mary Ann Madden of New York magazine told her it "tasted like burnt nurse's uniforms," and Smith's late agent, Gloria Safier, termed it "burnt shoe leather."


KATE'S FAMOUS BROWNIES

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Melt 2 squares unsweetened chocolate and 1/4 pound butter over very low heat in a heavy saucepan.

3. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup granulated sugar.

4. Beat in 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

5. Quickly stir in 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

6. Spread the batter in a well-greased 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

7. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the pan to a rack to cool. Makes 12 brownies.


ELVIS' UGLY STEAK

"We can't begin to give all the various approaches to C.F.S., but here's an odd one that is famous all over the South and wherever they still worship The King," writes Liz Smith.

1 pound sirloin steak, pounded with a meat tenderizer

1 garlic clove, cut in half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Mazola or other vegetable oil

Rub the steak with the garlic halves and discard the garlic. Sprinkle the salt, pepper and onion powder on the steak. Dredge both sides of the steak in the flour. Heat the oil in an iron skillet, using enough to cover the steak. At 350 degrees, throw in the steak. Fry until brown, then turn and brown on the other side. Remove to a warm platter. For Elvis, cut the steak into tiny bite-size pieces.


E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com