BOOK REVIEW: A cookbook that sizzles!

Thanksgiving Day, also hailed as "Turkey Day," is dominated by great food and wide-screen plasma TV football. Traditionally, families and friends gather to feast and cheer their favorite teams on to victory.

Besides football, only one thing takes center stage on Thanksgiving Day – the glorious food. Every family has a dining ritual and in my family, the meal begins with, "Who made that?" It's more of a declaration than a question, and the reply determines if a particular dish is devoured or avoided.

The main course is always a huge success and just as impressive are the delicious desserts. At some point between gobbles, comes the big question, "What are you thankful for?" This usually elicits giggles at first and then a variety of answers, from downright silly to serious. Adults wait impatiently as youngsters attempt a cool response, but in the end, they simply answer, "I'm most thankful for the food."

Well, one thing I'm most grateful for this year is not just a great feast, but a really good cookbook.

The title, "Cooking: 600 recipes, 1500 photographs, one kitchen education" adorns the cover of a fabulous cooking manual with everything a beginner needs to prepare an edible or elaborate meal. Author James Peterson begins with the basics and touches on the smallest details.

How-to photography is stunning. Glossy pages, easy-to-follow recipes and detailed photos make even challenging dishes fun to create.

"The 10 Basic Cooking Methods" are outlined in the first few pages. For those who can't boil water, "Recipes to Learn" is a great place to start. Learn to prepare tasty treats like cheese straws, tartlets and crab cakes.

Categories include: Starters; Broth and Soups; Salads; Eggs and Cheese; Shellfish; Fish; Beef; Veal; Lamb; Pork; Chicken and Turkey; Duck and Small Birds; Vegetables, Beans and Herbs; Sauces, Salsas and Chutneys; Pasta, Rice, Couscous and Polenta; Quick Breads and Flat Cakes; Breads; Cakes; Pies and Tarts; Pastries; Custards, Souffles and Mousses; and Cookies.

Chapters detail steps from food purchase to hassle-free preparation. Shopping lists are easy to tackle with this hands-on, instructional guide. For example, "Beef Cuts" photography is priceless, a great page to scan before a trip to the store.

The "Turkey" section deserves a bookmark ... it's just that useful. You will learn how to roast a turkey, prepare turkey gravy and hopefully master the art of carving a perfect turkey. Conversion charts and cooking terms occupy the remaining pages.

Cooking instructions from author and photographer James Peterson are simple and easy to follow. It's the next best thing to watching a Rachael Ray creation on Food Network!

Karla Mass is a content producer with McClatchy Interactive. You can reach her at

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