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MICROWAVE

Is This the Best Way to Cook Vegetables?

June 25, 1992|MARCIA CONE and THELMA SNYDER | Cone and Snyder are cookbook authors. and

Anyone familiar with the microwave oven knows that it treats vegetables with great respect. It never drowns them in huge volumes of water, bubbling away the flavor and texture. And it offers all the advantages of steaming--but it takes less time.

The combination of rapid cooking and minimal use of water allows vegetables to retain both their bright colors and their water-soluble vitamins. The average cooking time is about 10 minutes--which gives you just enough time to set the table.

Some guidelines for cooking vegetables in the microwave:

* Add two tablespoons of liquid (water, butter, oil, margarine, broth or juice) for every two cups sliced or chopped vegetables. Some exceptions are: For one pound green beans, add 1/2 cup liquid; for 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, add 1/4 cup liquid.

Greens (collard, kale, mustard, spinach, chard and beet greens) need only to be washed well and placed in the cooking dish without being dried. No additional liquid is necessary.

Mushrooms, eggplant and tomatoes require no liquid and no cover.

* Don't sprinkle salt on the surface of the vegetables. Since salt attracts microwave energy more than water or vegetables, it could cause them to become tough. Stir any salt into the liquid.

* Cover vegetables (except those mentioned above) with a lid or plastic wrap turned back slightly on one side. This traps moisture to help speed up the cooking.

* Stir at least once during cooking to redistribute the heat that builds up on the vegetables around the outside of the cooking dish.

* Standing time varies from vegetable to vegetable. Green beans and potatoes require the most, from three to five minutes. Most others need only one minute or two minutes--about the time it'll take you to bring them to the table.

PEAS AND CARROTS

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 cup shelled fresh or frozen green peas, broken up

1 cup thinly sliced or diced peeled carrots

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves or 2 teaspoons dried, for garnish, optional

Combine butter and onion in 1 1/2-quart microwave-proof casserole. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 1 to 2 minutes or until onion is tender.

Stir in peas and carrots. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, turned back slightly on 1 side. Microwave on HIGH 4 to 7 minutes or until all vegetables are tender, stirring once. Stir in mint. Makes 4 servings.

SAUTEED GREENS

2 pounds spinach, chard or beet greens

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper or to taste

Remove stems from spinach. Wash leaves well and cut into 1/2-inch strips while still wet. Set aside but don't drain.

Meanwhile, combine butter and onion in 3-quart microwave-proof casserole. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 1 to 2 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in leaves. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, turned back slightly on 1 side. Cook on HIGH 7 to 10 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

JULIENNED ROOT VEGETABLES

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions

1 1/2 pounds parsnips, carrots or other root vegetable or combination, peeled, trimmed and cut into matchsticks

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon orange juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine butter and green onions in 1-quart microwave-proof casserole. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 1 to 2 minutes or until onions are slightly tender. Stir in vegetables, sugar and orange juice.

Cover with lid or plastic wrap, turned back slightly on 1 side, and microwave on HIGH 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Let stand, covered, 2 to 3 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

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