My favorite way to use the microwave oven for a basic cooking step: I use it for cooking vegetables in a jiffy. IMHO, the microwave oven cooks vegetables in a jiffy, saving much time and fuel in the bargain, and results in vegetables that are cooked to just the right tenderness, with a lot of the flavor, color and nutrition preserved. Here are three vegetables that I often cook in the microwave oven, with an easy recipe for each.
Note: The power of different microwave ovens varies wildly, and the power of a microwave oven reduces significantly as it ages. Mine is a relatively new one, and cooks food in very little time. The only thing to do is play with your microwave and standardize cooking times for yourself.
First up, emerald-green broccoli: I know, I know, none of the cool kids like broccoli. I happen to love it, but V, who is astonishingly non-fussy otherwise, makes it a point to wrinkle his nose at broccoli. But he does love Broccoli-Cheese soup. Here is a simple recipe for this delicious soup; I start by cooking the broccoli in the microwave oven. The soup gets made as usual on the stove-top, but with the cooked broccoli, it gets made in minutes.
Broccoli Cheese Soup
1. Wash a bunch of broccoli and cut it into florets (2-3 cups in all). Sprinkle with 1 T water.
2. Microwave the broccoli for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Set aside.
3. The rest of the recipe is made on the stove-top. To make the soup, heat 1 T butter in a saucepan. Saute 1/2 C chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlic in the butter until fragrant.
4. Stir in 1 T flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add 3/4 C milk and stir to make a sauce.
5. Now add the cooked broccoli and 2 C water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat.
6. Stir in 1 C loosely packed cheese (I tend to use cheddar or Monterey Jack), salt to taste (remember cheese is salty, so go easy), pepper and red pepper flakes (optional). Blend the soup using a blender/ food processor/ immersion blender. Reheat before serving.
The humble potato: Sometimes, especially by the end of the work-week, I am almost out of vegetables but tend to have some potatoes handy. This is a side-dish that goes well with any Indian meal, or also as an off-beat accompaniment to sandwiches.
Dahi Batata (Potato in Yogurt)
1. To cook potatoes in the microwave, I simply wash them, prick each potato 3-4 times with a fork, then place it on the microwave turntable and cook for 2 minutes. Then it turn it over and cook it for 2 more minutes. In my microwave, this results in tender, delicious, non-soggy potatoes every single time (Microwave-cooked potatoes are ideal for potato parathas because they you are sure the parathas won't turn out soggy).
2. To make this easy side-dish, dahi batata, peel the potato (or don't) and cut into medium cubes.
3. In a bowl, whip together some yogurt, salt, red chilli powder and cumin-coriander powder. Stir in the potato cubes. Garnish with cilantro if desired.
The gorgeous sweet potato: I am always looking for new ways to cook this delicious and nutritious vegetable. Tarla Dalal's "Chaat" cookbook has a chaat involving sweet potatoes. That recipe involves several chutneys and a long list of ingredients, and looks nothing like this, but it inspired me to make this easy and tasty side dish/ snack. I used whole baby sweet potatoes here, but one could use the big ones and simply slice them.
1. Prick 6 baby potatoes/ 1-2 medium sweet potatoes with a fork 2-3 times each. Place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 2 minutes on each side, or until knife-tender (time will depend on the size of the sweet potato, as well as the number being cooked at once).
2. Split the sweet potatoes open, then sprinkle with salt, red chilli powder, chaat masala, and a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature. Peel and eat!
The next use of the microwave oven: Roasting Papad. A few types of papads can be roasted, but most require deep-frying. Here are two that I regularly microwave for a delicious crunchy accompaniment to dal-rice suppers. I microwave papads one at a time, directly on the microwave turntable (I tried placing the papads on a plate, but they seem to roast unevenly and take much longer). After each one, I wipe down the droplets of condensation from the turnable, which ensures that the next papad does not stick on.
Lijjat papad, which are made with urad dal and are available in lots of flavors- garlic, cumin, black pepper- need about 25 seconds of nuking in my microwave to go from this...
This one is a traditional Tamilian appalam, one of my very favorite papads. It take about 35 seconds to go from this...
Other ways I use my microwave oven: to boil water quickly for single servings of tea, or when I need a small amount of hot water for, say, soaking tamarind to make tamarind pulp. I toast nuts and spices in the microwave, which works beautifully, but needs a close watch to prevent them from burning.
Here is another use of my microwave: to disinfect kitchen sponges: I regularly get the sponges sopping wet, then microwave them for 1-2 minutes on HIGH. The heating of the wet sponge kills off a lot of the bacteria that kitchen sponges invariably collect. While it is effective, this technique can pose a fire hazard so consider yourself warned! Once microwaved, the sponge will be very hot, so let it cool down before removing it from the microwave, or handle with tongs.
Got any clever microwave tips? Leave a comment if you would like to share them. I'll be back on the weekend!