Saturday, July 12, 2014


Microwave--quick way to prep tomatoes for peeling.

From the first of June until the first of September, I don’t turn on the oven. It’s just too damn hot. In keeping a cool kitchen, I use the good old microwave to fill in for the oven.

My ancient gas stove/oven (an American-made Magic Chef, purchased 30 years ago, second-hand, at the American naval base at Rota) runs on bottled butane gas. I used to hump gas tanks into the trunk of my car in the village and bump them down the steps to the kitchen. Now the delivery guys bring them to the door. The microwave cuts down on my gas consumption, another plus.

The microwave was a late addition to my kitchen. I got my first computer in 1987; an internet connection in 1995, but I did not get my first microwave until 1996. By then my kids were grown and not living at home. I began cooking differently. No more big roasts in the oven, nor huge pots of slow-simmering soups and stews. Microwaved meals are perfect for one or two people. I’m not ashamed to say that I use the microwave a lot, especially in summer.

VEGETABLES. The microwave really is great for cooking vegetables.

Tomatoes. I use the microwave to quickly scald tomatoes for peeling. Sure beats heating a pot of water. Cut out the stems, arrange tomatoes on a plate, microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Turn the tomatoes over, microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes longer. Allow to cool. Slip off skins.  I package them in bags and freeze for winter soups, stews and sauces.

Tender eggplant, ready to puree.
Quick baba ghanoush.
Eggplant. Make a quick puree, for terrines, patties or baba ghanoush. Cut medium eggplant in half lengthwise. Score the flesh with a knife. Place the halves on a plate, flesh-side down. Cover with vented microwave-safe lid. Microwave on HIGH 4 minutes. Reposition the halves, but leave them flesh-side down. Microwave on HIGH 4 minutes longer. Allow to stand 10 minutes. Scoop and scrape the flesh out of the skins into blender container.

If making baba ghanoush, use ½ teaspoon of smoked pimentón (paprika) along with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt. The smoked pimentón adds a char-roasted flavor.

Easy to skin peppers. 
Peppers. Use the microwave to “roast” red bell peppers for salads. Cut them in half, remove stems and seeds and place skin-side up on a plate. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Allow to stand until cool, then peel off skins.

Easy side dish--zucchini and tomatoes with basil.

Calabacín Rápido
Quickie Zucchini

Important: Do not salt the vegetables before cooking!

3 cups sliced or cubed zucchini
1 plum tomato, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
Fresh basil leaves
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the zucchini, tomato, oil and garlic in a microwave-safe bowl. Add a few shredded basil leaves. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Remove and stir the vegetables. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes more. Allow to stand 5 minutes.

Stir the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add fresh basil to garnish. Serve hot, room temperature or cold.


Mussels. Put 6-10 mussels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of water and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Remove any mussels that have opened. Microwave 1 minute more. Discard any mussels which have not opened.

Sea bass, peppers and capers en papillote (parchment).

Sea Bass en Papillote

1 (10-12-ounce) sea bass per person
Sprigs of parsley
Sliced lemon
Strips of red bell pepper
Olive oil

Salt the cavity of the fish very lightly and place a few sprigs of parsley in it. Cut gashes in the skin on both sides of the fish. Insert half lemon slices on one side.

Fold over edges to seal.
Fold a square of parchment paper in half. Place a fish on it at the fold. Arrange strips of red pepper on top. Sprinkle with a few capers. Drizzle with oil. Fold the other half of paper over the fish. With scissors, snip off the top corners of the paper on a diagonal. Starting at the lower corner, fold the edges together. Continue around the perimeter, sealing in the fish. Place the packet on a plate (you can cook two at a time). Microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes. Serve fish in the parchment packets or snip the packets open with scissors and serve the fish, peppers and all the juices onto plates.

Both fish and vegetable side dish are cooked in the microwave.

Pechuga de Pavo en Adobo
Marinated Turkey Breast

This makes great cold cuts, so much better than buying packaged turkey “lunch meat.” I used to prepare it in a plastic zip-bag. However, some experts say that you shouldn’t use plastic bags or wrap in microwave cookery if they are touching the food. The recipe works fine in a bowl with a vented lid.

Important: Do not add salt before cooking. I know, that sounds contrary to your best instincts, to keep the meat juicy by brining. But not for microwave cooking.

Pierce plastic wrap to make steam vents.

1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless turkey breast
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
Pinch of dry oregano
Fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
Coarse salt

Place the turkey breast in a microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle with half the pepper, oil, vinegar, oregano, thyme and pimentón. Turn the turkey over and add the other half. Cover and refrigerate 6 to 8 hours.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (it should not touch the food) or use a lid. Use a skewer to pierce the plastic in two places (as a steam vent). Microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes. Very carefully (escaping steam can burn) remove the wrap and turn the turkey breast over. Microwave on MEDIUM-HIGH for 4 minutes. Allow to stand 5 minutes. (Temperature should come up to 150ºF.)

Allow to cool completely. Slice thinly to serve.

Marinated turkey breast cooks in less than 10 minutes.

CAKE. Microwave cakes don’t have the light crumb of oven-baked cakes. But, they are moist, sweet and fast!

Zucchini-chocolate cake, baked in a microwave, is moist and sweet.

Zucchini-Chocolate Cake

This was inspired by the recipe for Chocolate and Zucchini Cake in the book, Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier. For this microwave cake, you need a 6-cup microwave-safe ring mold.

Bake in a ring mold.
1 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup olive oil
½ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups grated zucchini
Powdered sugar or chocolate glaze

In a bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Use a little of the oil to lightly coat the ring mold. In a mixing bowl, beat together the oil and two kinds of sugar.until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Beat in the dry ingredients, little by little. Batter will be very thick. Stir in the zucchini. Pour into the ring mold. Cover the top with a paper towel.

Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Reposition the pan. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes more. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Remove from mold and cool on a rack.

Place on a serving plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or dribble with chocolate glaze.

Microwave cake seems to cry out for a dollop of vanilla ice cream!

Use the same ring mold to make this zucchini timbale in the microwave. That recipe is here.

Got more ideas for summer cooking in the microwave? I'm open to new ideas. Leave me a comment. 


  1. A unusual way of using a microwave, I've seen the cake previously but the vegetables are new for me. Aren't you afraid that it's removing the nutritional value? Well, if it comes to cooking I'm still a beginner but my mentor Karen (from Viva Tastings, I think she is a real professional) told us that it's better to avoid using microwaves and it can be also dangerous. As I googled a bit, there are different information but I still think that it is better to be careful, especially with the vegetables as I wrote above. On the other hand, cooking fish in the microwave sounds pretty interesting :)

    1. Clairie: The zucchini in the cake helps keep it moist.

  2. That's unbelievable! I never thought of using a microwave I such a way. I have always had a weakness for Spanish food and these options for vegetables are great! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Spanish food: I'm glad you found the microwave tips useful.

  3. Wow, this was very eye opening. One of my most-hated tasks is peeling tomatoes (using the boiling water + ice bath), so this was great! Thanks.