A far cry from the unconvincing microwave cookbooks of just a few years ago--and usable for all sorts of non-microwave help. Like Marcia Cone and Thelma Snyder in their sound but less ambitious Mastering Microwave Cookery (1986), Kafka doesn't pretend that the gadget can do everything. But she does take it into new territory. After a brief introduction to the actual use of the machine, she launches in spirited, talky style into about 600 lucid, numbered-step recipes that explore both the familiar (fish, simple soups and stews, lightly cooked vegetables, vegetable purÃ‰es) and the surprising (patÃ‰s, codfish brandade, gefilte fish, shrimp tempura, and walnut torte). The emphasis is on Kafka's trademark: inventive, au courant combinations of effects. Some are a bit overbearing, like linguine and mussels with both pesto and a chili-accented bell pepper relish. But characteristically, she also provides rediscoveries of simple, neglected pleasures like smoked tongue, apple butter, turkey Ã la king, hot cereals, and old-fashioned chocolate pudding. A whopping bonus: a hundred-page ""Dictionary of Foods and Techniques"" with not only many microwave rules of thumb for common items but also one of the best glossaries and guides to ingredients in any cookbook. In the microwave field, this will probably be THE one to beat for some time.