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Microwave . . .

Delight in the Variety of Fresh Produce

August 13, 1987|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN

A few years ago, while working with contestants in a nationwide microwave cooking contest, I realized that many people associate microwave ovens with fresh foods. To these contestants, use of the microwave meant they had the time to peel and chop fresh vegetables.

While preparing the vegetable recipes that follow, I thought of those people. Although the recipes require preparation time, the finished results, after a speedy cooking time, make them worth the trouble.

Planning the cooking steps for microwaving vegetable combinations depends on the ingredients themselves. With microwaving, the usual technique is to precook the onions because you want their flavor to be mellow.

On the other hand, carrots are frequently precooked just because they're hard and crisp and take longer to to become tender than other vegetables. Tomatoes and zucchini, high-water-content vegetables, cook quickly.

The recipes that follow both have something of a sauce, but not one thickened with flour or cornstarch. Fresh okra helps thicken the Creole corn melange, which also is enhanced by tomatoes, chiles, onions and peppers. This attractive dish is seasoned with cumin, cayenne pepper and oregano. If desired, add the suggested butter and whipping cream, which are traditional with country-cooked vegetables, to enrich the final dish.

Either of these recipes serves as many as eight people. If you don't need that much at one sitting, remember that microwave-reheated vegetables are almost as good as the first time around.

COUNTRY CORN CREOLE

2 cups slices of peeled fresh onions

1/3 cup diced, seeded fresh green or yellow chiles

2 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped

3 cups sliced fresh okra

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups fresh cut corn (about 5 ears scraped with dull side of knife to capture all corn and juice)

1 1/2 cups large diced green peppers

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup half and half, optional

In 3-quart microwave-safe casserole, place onions and chiles. Cover and microwave at HIGH (100% power) 3 to 4 minutes, until tender. Add tomatoes, okra, salt, oregano, cumin and cayenne.

Stir well and continue microwaving at HIGH 4 to 7 more minutes, until tomatoes and okra are very tender. Stir well. Add corn and green peppers. Cover and continue microwaving 8 to 11 minutes, or until corn is tender-crisp.

If desired, stir in butter or half and half just before serving. Makes 8 servings.

HERBED ZUCCHINI AND CARROT CASSEROLE

3 cups white bread cubes (about 6 slices)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup sliced onions

1 cup julienne strips of carrot

3 cups sliced zucchini

2 cups sour cream

In 12x8x2-inch microwave-safe dish, place bread cubes. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 4 to 6 minutes, until dried and almost crisp. Push bread to one side and add butter to unoccupied area in dish. Return to microwave at HIGH 1 to 2 minutes, until butter has almost completely melted.

Stir butter with bread cubes, thyme, basil, salt and garlic. Continue microwaving at HIGH 4 to 7 more minutes, until cubes are very dry. (They will continue to crisp after being removed from oven).

In 2-quart microwave casserole, place onions and carrot. Cover and microwave at HIGH 3 to 5 minutes, until onions are tender and carrots are slightly cooked. Add zucchini, cover and continue microwaving 4 to 7 more minutes, until zucchini is tender-crisp. Stir in sour cream along with about 1/2 the croutons, which have been crumbled slightly. Top with remaining croutons (also crumbled slightly) and continue microwaving at MEDIUM HIGH (70% power) 7 to 10 minutes, until hot throughout. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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