Yesterday was the hottest day of 2014 in NYC…the day after Labor Day. It was a day when the stove and oven were not options for cooking food; a day when microwave cooking prevailed. I’ve wanted to share this favorite Summer recipe for a few years but feared you would all call me crazy. That’s somewhat because of this:
The microwave’s limited size suggests that you can only cook for one person – removed from the socialability of the family table. It also debuted at a time in American culinary history where everything was moving towards Hungry Man and Hot Pockets: frozen, convenient, and unhealthy. The microwave does more than reheat; it a surprisingly safe and effective cooking option.
There is a whole mythology surrounding the (poor) health of microwave. The term “nuking” is unfair as microwaves have extremely stringent standards that limit the frequency the radiation they give off to a level that does not have enough energy to damage our DNA. No, you don’t want to heat in plastic containers that could leach harmful chemicals in your foods. But that is not the microwave’s fault.
Compared to other methods of cooking, microwaves can actually be a boon to health. As Marion Nestle dispels from a recent Journal Agricultural and Food Chemistry study, “microwaving was the best cooking method for retaining color and vitamin activity.” Microwaves cause the fat, sugar, and water molecules especially in food to vibrate producing thermal heat. Vegetables with high water content essentially steam and cook very quickly before those colors and vitamins are broken down. You can decrease that cooking time even further by cutting vegetables into small pieces as microwaves only penetrate food by around to 4 to 5 cm and spread by conduction, similar to a frying pan (Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork).
With that said, this dish is perfectly suited for the microwave. I’ve been making this zucchini and tomato casserole for a few years and each time I surprise myself with just how elegant and easy it is. All you have to do is thinly slice the vegetables, add a little flavor, put a lid on it and let it steam in its own moisture. You can make a family meal in a casserole dish or even set a ceramic plate over a bowl to make a single portion. And it looks and tastes restaurant-quality. Enjoy it as a side dish or make it part of the main dish by serving over whole grain toast with a bit of Manchego cheese. For a short break from eating raw through the summer the microwave is a secret weapon to keep your home crisp and cool.
|I don’t give any portions or ratios for this recipe because, honestly, there are no rules. If you have even just one tiny zucchini you can make this in a cereal bowl with a plate on top and enjoy it at once.|
|Believe it or not, this is a before shot of the terrine. With quick cooking in the microwave all of the colors (and vitamins) remain just as vibrant when the dish is cooked.|
|This is pretty enough for a crowd, but since it only takes 10 minutes to make be sure to treat yo’ self from time to time.|
|This dish keeps really well in the fridge or freezer. Just use the microwave again to reheat.|
|What do you think? Will you give this microwave cooking a shot?|
- Red Onion
- Garlic (optional)
- Olive Oil
- Fresh Herbs such as flat-leaf parseley, thyme, rosemary or oregano
- Salt and Pepper
- Thinly slice zucchini, tomato and red onion with a mandoline or knife. Add a small amount of olive oil and minced or sliced garlic to the bottom of a casserole dish or ceramic bowl. Layer zucchini, tomatoes and onion in vessel, seasoning each layer with olive oil, fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Cover tightly with a lid or plate and microwave for 4 minutes on high. Add more time if needed. Terrine keeps very well in the fridge for a few days.