The Well-Filled Microwave Cookbook


Microwave ovens are in over 90% of American kitchens but more often than not are relegated to the role of reheater, defroster, popcorn maker. Its potential as a creative culinary tool is overlooked and misunderstood. All that is about to change. Thanks to The Well-Filled Microwave ($14.95, trade paper; June 1996), microwave cooking has finally come of age.

Authors Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman, alumnae of Chez Panisse, have honed their combined expertise and understanding of the microwave medium to produce a cookbook that is user friendly and ushers microwave cooking into new realms. After 3 years of exploring the potentials and possibilities of microwave cooking, they have created 350 innovative and flavorful recipes that take full advantage of the "magic box."

"We started this book as a challenge," says Victoria Wise. "Could the microwave turn out food to meet our standards as professional chefs? We fell in love, not merely with the microwave's ease and versatility, but with the utterly splendid dishes you can make in it. We now rely on our microwaves as the best cooking help we have ever found."

Microwave technology has improved since its inception and the first wave of cookbooks on the subject. In The Well-Filled Microwave, the authors offer up a full spectrum of made-from-scratch recipes. Perfectly cooked fish. Creamy no-stir risotto. Crunchy pickles and relishes in a twinkling; chewy, intensely flavored dried fruit in a flash; soups with unexpected depth of flavor. Hasty puddings and delectable candies.

Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman explain which foods work in the microwave and which don't. They demonstrate how certain flavors are actually enhanced by microwave cooking and give you tips on how to avoid disappointment.

Contrary to popular belief, the real advantage of microwave cooking is not necessarily in how fast it cooks but in how recipes can be made with less mess, fewer pots and pans, and less cleanup. With the proper recipes, microwave cooking can actually give you the freedom to create dishes that might have previously seemed daunting. It can be a fabulous, flexible kitchen tool that can turn out small amounts to accommodate a single person or larger amounts to feed a family.

Micromunchibles (finger foods), dazzling hors d'oeuvres, and sumptuous snacks can be made in a flash. Asian-Style Chicken Wings. Warm Brie with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Pine Nuts. And, of course, Nachos. And, pickling and canning, relishes and condiments, which once required hours of boiling and toiling, mess and bother, can be done in only moments. You can whip up Kumquat-Red Chili Relish or satisfy a single Bread and Butter Pickle craving.

The Well-Filled Microwave tempts you to discover the joys of making and giving homemade candy. Fabulous Maple Walnut Fudge, Chocolate Coconut Caramels and scrumptious Butter Rum Toffee are now a breeze. And with microwave cooking, the heat of the kitchen need not hamper summer cooking. Corn on the cob without the caldron of boiling water. An effortless array of fresh vegetables, delectable sauces and refreshing dips. Summer Squash and Sweet Pea Ragout. Tangy Tomato Salsa. You can even use the microwave as a prep kitchen for the grill to speed up cooking time.

The new microwave revolution is just beginning and The Well-Filled Microwave is here to lead the way.

About The Authors
Victoria Wise who opened Pig by the Tail, the first classic French delicatessen in the United States, is the author of American Charcuterie: Recipes from Pig by the Tail and The Vegetarian Table: Mexico. Susanna Hoffman is a cook and working anthropologist, as well as author of The Classified Man. Wise and Hoffman met while working at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, where Wise was the restaurant's first chef. They later co-founded the Good & Plenty Cafe in Oakland, California, and coauthored Good & Plenty; New American Cooking and The Well-Filled Tortilla. Victoria Wise lives in Oakland, California. Susanna Hoffman divides her time between New York City and Telluride, Colorado.


Bread and Butter Pickles

The old classic, now easy to make in a twinkling.

Total Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Standing Time: Overnight
Makes 6 cups

  • 2 pounds medium pickling cucumbers, ends trimmed, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 medium onion, quartered, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups cider vinegar


Place the cucumbers and onions in a 3-quart dish. Add the salt and toss to coat all the pieces. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes, or until the cucumbers start to sweat. Transfer to a colander, rinse with cool water, and set aside to drain 5 minutes or so.

Using the same dish, mix together the mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric, cloves, brown sugar, and vinegar and stir to dissolve the sugar a bit. Add the cucumbers and onion and toss to coat. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 8 minutes, or until the liquid is hot but not quite boiling. Remove and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Transfer the pickles and liquid to a storage container. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving. They will keep in the refrigerator for several months.


Corn on the Cob


When the stove top or grill is full with other fair-weather food, or you're just not in the mood to fire either up, stick the corn in the microwave. For the best tasting corn on the cob, cook it still in its husk-peel back the husk, pull away the silk, and reposition the husks to enclose the cobs-but you can also microwave it husked.

Total Cooking Time: 8 to 10 minutes
Standing Time: None
Serves 4

  • 4 ears of corn (see Note)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

Rinse the ears, with or without husks, to moisten them well. Place in a dish and microwave, uncovered if still in the husks or covered if husked, on HIGH for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the freshness, or until tender. Serve right away, with a stick of butter on a plate for everyone to roll the cobs in.

Note: We call for 1 ear of corn per person, but for big eaters or early in the season when you have a true hankering, 2 or more ears may better suit the appetite. For best results, cook no more than 4 ears at a time.


Strawberry-Orange Sauce

Finish a summer meal with this delicious sauce served over strawberry ice cream, or if you're feeling ambitious, on strawberry shortcake or brownies.

Total Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Standing Time: 30 minutes
Makes 1-1/4 cups

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar


Select one fourth of the nicest strawberries and slice them length-wise about 1/8 inch thick. Set aside.

purée the remaining strawberries and place the purée in a medium-size bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH for 5 minutes, or until starting to boil.

Whisk well and microwave on HIGH for 15 minutes more, or until the mixture is starting to brighten in color and is thick enough to coat a spoon thickly. Stir in the sliced strawberries and set aside for 30 minutes to thicken more before serving. Or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.


Recipes from:
The Well-Filled Microwave Cookbook
by Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman
Publication date: June, 1996
$14.95, trade paper; 435 pages
ISBN: 1-56305-177-X
Reprinted with permission

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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