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Be a microwave gourmet: Make simple, tasty meals in no time |

Be a microwave gourmet: Make simple, tasty meals in no time

Home cooked meals are an endangered species. I have friends who have given up cooking and rely on prepared, fast foods and occasionally doggie bags from restaurants for their main meals. I have younger friends who can barely muster up enough energy for a quick sandwich when returning home after a day at work. Why? Here are some of their reasons and my solutions:

• Too much effort and time needed. Really? Stopping for fast food or buying prepared foods at the market takes more time than preparing dinner for one or two at home.

• Complicated recipes for too many portions. If seventh-grade fractions and division are too troublesome, try cookbooks that cater to singles or couples.

• Cleanup is a chore! I’ve never enjoyed cleanup. Try shortcuts, including one-pot meals, using fewer utensils, and easy to clean, non-stick pans and silicone cookware.

• Why bother when you’re unhappy with your kitchen efforts? Studies show that people who prepare meals at home are more selective in their food choices; menus include more fruits, veggies, less sugar and fewer processed foods. The result? Higher energy levels, better physical and mental health. Findings from a recent scientific study in Norway, which included more than 11,000 people over 65, concluded “healthier food patterns were associated with less anxiety and depression.”

Cooking can be empowering and improve your self-esteem. Don’t be afraid to substitute, omit or add ingredients/seasoning you like to a recipe. Be aware that even the best cooks occasionally prepare an item that does best in the compost heap.

Cooking for one or two takes a bit of organization – a great recipe loses its appeal if you’re stuck with leftovers for a week. The freezer is your friend – unless you forget to list what you stashed and when. Slow cookers and crock pots now come in smaller sizes. Just place ingredients inside in the morning before leaving for work and come home to a ready-to-eat dinner.

Microwaving is one of my favorite quick and easy methods for preparing delicious meals for me and my feinschmecker – that means gourmet – husband. I’m always surprised to meet people who use the microwave only for reheating or melting. My love affair with microwaves took off after I purchased Barbara Kafka’s first microwave cookbook, “Microwave Gourmet,” published in 1987. The book includes 600 recipes plus detailed methods, times and portions for almost any food you might consider microwaving. Kafka explains that, unlike conventional cooking and baking, you can’t multiply or divide cooking times for different portion sizes when microwaving. Not to worry! Kafka does the arithmetic in simple and succinct prose.

Kafka’s recipes were based on a 700-watt oven. These days, 1200-watt ovens are more common and some recipes need adjustments. When in doubt, use fewer minutes/seconds; you can always add more.

We eat fish at least three times a week. This favorite fish recipe works well with salmon, sole, tilapia, trout or other flaky fish.

Veggies thrive in the microwave. They retain more vitamins, color, texture and shape. For this meal, I served microwaved broccoli with the fish. Cooking fruit in the microwave is fabulous. I’ve rescued unhappy or overripe apples, pears or stone fruits, and plumped up dried fruits hiding in my pantry. After the fish entrée, I poached a delicious Bosc pear in the microwave. My live-in feinschmecker topped it with a scoop of coffee ice cream. Not bad for an ordinary weekday evening meal!

Bon appétit! 


Two 1/4-pound Atlantic salmon fillets in sauce, ready for microwaving, with some fresh herbs.

Microwaved Fish in Mustard-Honey Sauce – Serves 2

– 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

– 2 teaspoons Dijon style mustard

– 1 teaspoon rice vinegar

– 1 tablespoon honey

– Two ¼-pound fish fillets, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste

(I usually use Atlantic salmon)

Mix sauce ingredients in a microwaveable container. If the container doesn’t have a tight-fitting lid, cover with microwaveable plastic wrap and microwave on High for 1 minute. Remove and uncover. Place seasoned fish in the microwaved sauce. If desired, add sliced onion, cut cherry tomatoes, sliced mushrooms or fresh herbs. Cover dish tightly with silicone cover or microwave plastic wrap and microwave on High for 2 minutes 25 seconds. Uncover, let rest a minute or two and enjoy.


Broccoli florets covered in plastic wrap cook quickly in a microwave oven.

Microwaved Broccoli Florets – Serves 2

– 5-6 ounces washed broccoli florets

– 1-2 tablespoons water

– ½ teaspoon light soy sauce

Spread florets in microwave dish. Add water and soy sauce. Cover dish tightly with silicone cover or microwave plastic wrap. Microwave on High for 3 minutes. Remove, uncovering carefully. If desired, sprinkle a few capers and lemon juice on florets before serving.


A Bosc pear, cut in half, ready to be covered and microwaved for dessert.

Microwaved Pear – Serves 2

– 1 pear, peeled, halved, cored. Choose a firm pear,

like Bosc

– Pinch of cloves, pinch of cinnamon

– 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Place pear halves in microwaveable dish, sprinkle with cloves and cinnamon, add lemon juice. Cover tightly with microwaveable plastic wrap or silicone cover. Microwave on High for 3-4 minutes depending on your oven’s wattage. Serve hot or at room temperature. Top with ice cream or a few drops of your favorite liqueur.

Ruth Taber is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Email

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