What Your Microwave Can Do for You

After years without one, I’m learning to love this appliance.

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By Tejal Rao

Some personal news: I got a microwave this week! I haven’t had a microwave since my sophomore year of college, when I shared a tiny kitchen with a roommate, and we used it exclusively for popcorn and warming up cold coffee about 10 times a day. I didn’t see the point in owning one after that.

But after my parents visited over Thanksgiving, they went ahead and got me one as an early Christmas present. The first thing I did was whisk together some eggs with kombu dashi to make Eric Kim’s microwave-steamed eggs, topped with a bit of maple syrup and soy sauce. They were gorgeous, with the cheeky jiggle of Chinese zheng shui dan, Japanese chawanmushi or Korean gyeran jjim. And I was so excited to get that delicate consistency in just five minutes without dirtying any extra dishes.

I don’t know how often I’ll be using my microwave, but it’s been fun digging around in the archive, where there are plenty of endorsements for it from cooks I trust. Nigella Lawson uses the microwave to melt chocolate evenly and quickly, and Julie Sahni turns to it for perfect rice and gajar halwa, a carrot-based sweet I grew up eating around the holidays, packed with sliced almonds and golden raisins.

Harold McGee has a gorgeous brittle recipe (you can use any raw nut or seed in it that you like) made in the microwave, and Martha Rose Shulman uses the appliance to make a quick breakfast grain bowl of oatmeal and teff, full of dried fruit, toasted nuts and a bit of cinnamon. With all of these recipes, particularly delicate ones like the steamed eggs, I’ve learned how important it is to pay attention to wattage and power levels — a small adjustment can make a big difference!

Barbara Kafka wrote “Microwave Gourmet” back in 1987, documenting the ways a microwave could make excellent lemon curd and stuffed tomatoes. After reading her old recipe for a simple salad of broccoli rabe and white beans, I’m ready to microwave-steam some vegetables, though I’d probably add some lemon zest, chile flakes and crunchy bread crumbs fried in butter right at the end. Can you … fry bread crumbs in the microwave? To be determined.

Microwave-Steamed Eggs

Go to the recipe.

Microwave Nut Brittle

Go to the recipe.

Oatmeal and Teff With Dried Fruit

Go to the recipe.

One More Thing!

I want to point you toward my team’s amazing collection of holiday cookie recipes. This is a joyful, instructional, sweeping project, and I can’t get enough of it. I’ve got my eye on the brown-butter toffee sandwich cookies and the torticas de Morón full of lime zest — I do love a citrusy cookie — but wow, I want to make them all. (Sign up for our Your Daily Cookie newsletter if you want to get a new cookie recipe in your inbox every day until Christmas.)

Thanks so much for reading the Veggie, and see you next Thursday. If you don’t already subscribe to New York Times Cooking, I hope you’ll consider it. Subscriptions support my work, and the work of my colleagues — writers, editors, recipe developers and testers, photographers, stylists and more.

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