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Cinco De Mayo : Making the Microwave Speak Spanish and English


Traditional Mexican cookery brings to mind stews and sauces patiently simmered in clay cazuelas over charcoal--not zapped in a microwave oven. Yet the microwave can do a surprisingly effective job with these foods.

A bilingual cookbook that presents a wide range of Mexican dishes is "The Way of Microwave Cooking" ("Como Trabaja El Microonda") by Claudette Harshberger of Coronado. A home economist, Harshberger has taught microwave cooking and consulted with microwave manufacturers. She now teaches consumer education classes for San Diego Community College and conducts an occasional microwave class.

Harshberger's book first appeared in 1981; she says it was, at the time, the only Spanish-language book in its field. The recipes, gathered from Mexican and Mexican-American friends, range from simple chile con queso to an ornate stuffed beef roast.

A few recipes are not Mexican. And some that appear typically American are, in fact, popular in Mexico. One of these is oyster stew ( estofado de ostras ), which Harshberger says is served in some Mexican households on Christmas Eve. Another is pineapple upside-down cake, which has become a favorite Mexican dessert.

Other recipes in the book include burritos stuffed with chorizo and potato, Mexican-style rice and beans, chicken in mole poblano, fish adobo , fish Veracruz, flan and rice pudding.

Harshberger also provides general advice on using the microwave. Translated into Spanish by Alfredo Borunda of San Diego, her book is now in its second edition. Copies ordered by mail are $9.45, which includes tax, postage and handling. Make checks or money orders out to pan Productions and mail to 1217 Alameda Blvd., Coronado, Calif. 92118.

In addition to the following cheese enchiladas, the book provides a recipe for chicken enchiladas with green chile sauce. The meatballs have a surprise filling--an olive--and a sauce flavored with ancho chile.


Enchiladas Con Queso

6 ounces Jack cheese, shredded 1 (4-ounce) can green chiles, diced

1 green onion, diced

6 corn tortillas

2 cups Enchilada Sauce

1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup sour cream

Combine Jack cheese, chiles and onion, mixing well.

To soften tortillas, stack all 6 on paper towel and cover with another paper towel. Microwave on HIGH 30 seconds. Dip each tortilla in Enchilada Sauce. Place 1/2 cup filling in line down center, roll up and place seam side down in 9-inch-square glass oven-proof dish. Repeat until all tortillas are filled.

Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas. Microwave on HIGH 8 to 9 minutes. Sprinkle Cheddar on top of hot enchiladas. Garnish with spoonfuls of sour cream. Microwave on HIGH 1 minute. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Enchilada Sauce

2 cups water

3 chicken or beef bouillon cubes

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1/2 cup diced onion or 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

Place water and bouillon cubes in 4-cup glass measure. Microwave on HIGH (100%) 4 minutes. Add tomato sauce, onion, chili powder, cornstarch, garlic powder, cumin and salt. Microwave on HIGH 5 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes. Makes 4 cups.

Note: 14 1/2-ounce can chicken broth can be substituted for water and bouillon cubes. Canned broth does not need to be heated before other ingredients are added.



1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork or lamb

2 ounces ham, diced

1/2 cup diced onion

15 olives, green or black, pitted or stuffed


Place bread crumbs in large bowl. Add egg, milk, marjoram and cumin. Stir well. Add beef, pork, ham and onion and stir well.

For each meatball, wrap heaping tablespoon mixture around 1 olive. Place meatballs in 3 rows in 11x7-inch microwavable baking dish. Pour Sauce over meatballs.

Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH 6 to 8 minutes. Rotate dish half turn. Microwave on MEDIUM HIGH 5 to 6 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


1 (16-ounce) can tomatoes

1 dried ancho chile

1/4 cup vinegar or wine

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon chopped parsley

1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules

1 clove garlic

Combine undrained tomatoes, chile, vinegar, coriander, parsley, bouillon granules and garlic in blender. Blend 1 minute.

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