Giving your partner chocolate and roses is a fine gesture on Valentine's Day, but the real secret to the heart of another is a home-cooked...

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Giving your partner chocolate and roses is a fine gesture on Valentine’s Day, but the real secret to the heart of another is a home-cooked meal. That’s right men, without pulling a cardboard box from the freezer, it’s entirely possible to make a home-cooked meal from scratch.

Many men are great cooks, but too many still don’t know the difference between a skillet and a strainer. A couple of recently published cookbooks have set their sights on men but are worthy of a much broader audience.

“Dad’s Own Cookbook” by Bob Sloan, first published in 1993, was recently rereleased by Workman ($13.95). That should tell us something about the value of this book.

Much like a wise uncle dispensing advice and assistance, Sloan takes his readers through those first awkward moments of acquaintance with the kitchen. The book includes short primers on everything from seasonings to buying a good bottle of wine and furnishing the kitchen with the small kitchen appliances that make cooking easier and more efficient. He even shows how to set a proper table.

Each of the book’s 150 recipes includes easy-to-follow instructions and a list of kitchen tools needed for the dish. Basics like roast beef, mac ‘n’ cheese and chocolate-chip cookies are covered, but the author doesn’t forget about those who’ve ventured into more ambitious territory. A menu for “a light summery supper” featuring salmon with an herb crust, wild rice with grapes and a strawberry mousse is certainly tempting.

If Sloan is the wise uncle, then Tucker Shaw is the trash-talking hipster of a nephew. But they share a common goal.

“I believe every man should know how to cook,” writes Shaw in the introduction to “Gentlemen, Start Your Ovens: Killer Recipes for Guys” (Chronicle Books, $16.95). With a mix of witty writing and practical advice, the author sets out to prove that any guy who puts his mind to it can learn how to cook. Except for a few short lessons, Shaw is a self-taught cook, devouring cookbooks and watching the Food Network for answers as well as inspiration.

He’s written a personal book, so instead of the usual “essential” pantry list printed in many cookbooks, Shaw supplies a complete inventory of his own pantry, his own tool drawer and his own fridge. The lists are pretty impressive, but he makes clear that there are few must-haves in his kit, and that experimentation is not only accepted but preferred.

Although some of the recipe instructions aren’t as complete as they could be, Shaw knows a thing or two about putting a recipe together.

Some of the recipes — Re-Fried Donuts with Cream Cheese Dip, for one — seem to have been added for “guy” appeal. But refried aside, Shaw has packaged together a good selection of recipes that most cooks or wannabe cooks can master. A nicely spiced stew, thick with chicken, white beans and collard greens, would make the perfect meal for chasing away the chill. And a simple but satisfying ramen soup is surprisingly tasty.

“Make it for yourself, and you’ll be happy. Make it for someone else, and they’ll always come back for more,” writes Shaw. And if that doesn’t win the heart of another, what will?

CeCe Sullivan: