Fresh vegetables can be cooked to perfection in your microwave oven. This method gives excellent results as it retains flavor, nutrients and color giving a fresh and appetizing appearance. It has been said by some to be the most nutritious way of preparing vegetables as very little (if any) of the nutrients are cooked or fried "off". To keep any more of the nutrients in your vegetables you would need to eat them raw!
They can be cooked in casserole dishes with lids, stirring once through the cooking period. Roasting or boiling bags can be used for some vegetables with the ends just loosely closed, allowing a degree of steam to escape. The
bags should be shaken once during the cooking. Alternatively cling film can cover a dish but it must be pierced to allow some steam to escape. Minimal if any, liquid or butter is required.
A brief standing period is desirable after cooking time to finish the cooking and develop their full flavor. Seasoning can be added to the water needed for cooking but minimize on this, for the very fresh natural flavor of the vegetables requires little additives. Alternatively, seasoning can be added after the cooking. Delicate vegetables such as broccoli, spears or asparagus should be arranged in the container with the tender parts towards the center.
Corn on the Cob can be wrapped in buttered greaseproof paper, or cooked with the husk on during cooking. Larger types of vegetables should be cut into even shaped pieces for faster and even cooking in the oven. Small new potatoes should be scrubbed and cooked in their skins. Any fresh vegetables which are left over can be reheated afterwards. They should be covered and a knob of butter added after heating. If the quantities are small use the defrost power level. This method of reheating is far superior to conventional methods as they still retain a fresh flavor and appetizing appearance.
All frozen vegetables can be thawed and cooked to serving temperature in your microwave oven. Several varieties whether home frozen or commercially frozen produce, can be cooked in their plastic pouches, without the addition of any water. The bag should be slit or pierced on the top with a sharp knife, and the contents should be shaken once during the cooking. Bulkier vegetables can be transferred in their frozen state to a suitable size casserole dish with a lid and stirred once during the cooking.
Blanching and Freezing of Vegetables.
Small quantities of freshly picked vegetables can be blanched in your microwave oven. This is particularly advantageous to people who grow their own vegetables, as they can pick in small quantities as they reach the peak of perfection.
The vegetables should be washed or scrubbed, trimmed cut and diced to a uniform size, just as you would for cooking in the microwave oven.
Method for 1lb. weight.
Rinse them, place in a deep dish with 45ml (3 tablespoons) water, stir or arrange so that the water evenly coats the vegetables, cover and heat for 3-5 minutes dependent on the density. Stir the vegetables halfway during this period. Immerse the vegetables in ice cold water, then drain, pat dry, pack and freeze.
Method for half quantities 225 g 0/2 lb).
Prepare the vegetables in the same way making sure that a small degree of water still adheres to them. Place in a small freezer bag and loosely secure with a rubber band. Heat for 1/2-2 minutes, shake the bag halfway through this period. The rinsing water creates the steam for blanching. Remove from the oven and immerse the bag in ice cold water keeping the sealed end just above the level of the water. This will chill the vegetables and expel the air in the bag at the same time automatically creating a vacuum pack for the freezer. Dry the outside of the bag. seal and freeze in the normal manner.
Canned vegetables can also be transferred to a suitable size dish, covered and heated in very short period and they too give excellent results. On no account heat vegetables in the can! This can cause the can to explode or in some microwaves, have a serious reaction to the shiny metallic metal of the can.
Ideally the herbs should be clean and dry when picked, but if they need washing, gently squeeze as much water as possible from them and pat dry between pieces of kitchen paper.
Pick the leaves from the stems and place a good handful on a double thickness of kitchen paper in the microwave oven, cover with another double sheet and heat for approximately 3-4 minutes. A small degree of vapor will occur but this is absorbed by the kitchen paper. Turn the kitchen paper and the herbs over once during the cooking, allow to cool and make sure they are thoroughly dry before crushing and storing in an airtight jar. Herbs preserved by this method keep a good color and aroma and are particularly useful during the winter months when fresh herbs are extremely difficult to purchase.
The microwave oven can speed the time of soaking pulses if this is a critical factor. Cover the pulses with cold water. bring them to the boil and cook for 4 minutes. Allow them to stand for 1/2-2 hours, during which time they will swell and soften. Rinse thoroughly before cooking. With the exception of split lentils all pulses must be soaked before cooking.
Dry weight quantities of up to 225g (8 oz) can be successfully cooked in the microwave oven, and on completion will yield about three times the quantity. Large quantities are best cooked by conventional methods. To cook by microwave, place the soaked and rinsed pulses in a dish deep enough to allow for boiling. Pour boiling water from the kettle over the pulses and cover the dish. Bring to the boil and continue cooking until tender. Timings vary considerably as the age of the pulses determine the cooking time necessary. A general guide for the quantities mentioned would be 40-60 minutes for large varieties and 20-25 minutes for lentils. Pulses if cooked conventionally and stored, heat very successfully both from the freezer and
refrigerator. For heating from the freezer use Defrost power initially and as a little moisture appears switch to Full power to bring them to temperature. Heat covered.