Microwave is perfect kitchen sidekick for conventional oven

June 02, 1993|By Marie Bianco | Marie Bianco,Newsday

Here are a variety of ways to use your microwave in conjunction with a stove top or conventional oven. Unless indicated, all cooking is done on high power. These times are for a 700-watt oven; smaller ovens will take longer; higher-wattage ovens will cook faster. Use microwave-safe dishes; cover with glass lids, plates or vented plastic wrap.

* To melt chocolate: Place 6 ounces chocolate chips in a bowl and microwave on medium for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring twice. Use for cake, brownies and frostings.

* To hard-cook eggs: Break an egg into a custard cup that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Prick yolk and cover. Microwave on medium for one and a half minutes per egg. Cool and use for egg salad.

* To cook chicken breasts: Arrange thickest parts on outside of dish. Cover and cook 6 to 7 minutes a pound, turning once. Use in salads and casseroles.

* To make white sauce: In a 4-cup measure, microwave 2 !B tablespoons butter 30 seconds, or until melted. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour, slowly whisk in 1 cup milk. Microwave 3 to 5 minutes until thickened, stirring twice. Use with vegetables, for cheese sauce or soups.

* To cook vegetables individually: Place 1 1/2 pounds vegetables in dish, cover and microwave, stirring once. Green beans take 9 to 14 minutes; beets take 18 to 25 minutes; broccoli takes 9 to 12 minutes; carrots take 6 to 8 minutes; green peppers take 4 to 5 minutes; onions take 6 to 11 minutes and zucchini takes 6 to 8 minutes. Use for ratatouille, casseroles or purees.

* To toast nuts: Place 1 cup almonds, walnuts or pecans in a 9-inch pie pan; microwave 4 to 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. For sesame seeds: Cook 1/4 cup 3 to 4 minutes, stirring twice. For pine nuts: Cook 1/4 cup 2 minutes, stirring once. Use in cakes and cookies.

* To make caramel: In a 4-cup measure, stir together 1 cup granulated sugar and 2/3 cup water until sugar is dissolved. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave 5 minutes for soft-ball, 6 minutes for hard-ball, 7 1/2 minutes for hard-crack. Be careful removing measure from oven. Poke plastic wrap with the tip of a knife to allow steam to escape and release wrap away from your face. Use for candy, desserts or on popcorn.

* To get more juice from fruit: Prick 1 orange, lime or lemon with a fork; microwave 20 to 30 seconds before cutting.

* To plump raisins: Place 1/2 cup raisins in 2-cup measure; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons water, cover and microwave 1 1/2 minutes. To soften dried fruit: Place 1 cup fruit in a pie pan, sprinkle with water, cover and microwave 40 seconds. Use in baking and compotes.

* To marinate meat: Place marinade in glass bowl and microwave 1 to 2 minutes for each cup. Pour over meat and let stand 30 minutes. Use for grills or stir-frys.

* To bake pies: Bake double-crusted pies in microwave 10 minutes and finish off in conventional oven until crust is golden brown.

* For pasta primavera: Arrange vegetables in a circle on a dish, beginning at edge with those requiring the most cooking time, such as carrots and broccoli, and placing softer vegetables, such as mushrooms and asparagus, in the center. Cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes. Combine with sauce and pasta.

* To par-cook potatoes: Cut 1 1/2 pounds potatoes into chunks. Place in 2-quart casserole with 1/2 -cup water. Cover and microwave 6 to 8 minutes. Finish off in conventional oven with olive oil and rosemary or place in oven with a roast. Cook completely (11 to 13 minutes) for potato salad.

* To par-cook vegetables for the grill: Slice eggplant, red and green peppers, zucchini, sweet potatoes, onion, 1/4 -inch thick. Cover with wax paper and microwave 2 to 3 minutes; brush with olive oil and place on grill.

* To soften avocados: Cut avocado in half lengthwise and remove pit. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and microwave 1 minute. Immediately run under cold water to stop cooking. Remove wrap. Use in guacamole.

* To melt butter: Cut a stick of butter into pieces, place in a custard cup, cover with paper towel and microwave 2 minutes. Use in baking and for vegetables and for dishes such as lobster.

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