A word of warning: This is the first of a series of messages which will thoroughly and entirely bereave you of any and all excuses to skimp on your daily rations of vegetables. These tasty recipes are so easy you can literally set them up while cooking spaghetti with canned tomato sauce and not lose any time. (And before you ask: no, canned tomato sauce does not count as a serving of vegetables…)
Microwaving is not only a convenient and quick way of preparing vegetables, but also a particularly healthy one, since the cooking time is minimal and there is no loss of nutrients from drained-off cooking water (see Wikipedia).
Source public domain Difficulty trivial does not even begin to describe it Time 2–5 min for preparation; 3–7 min for microwaving Serves 1–2 as a side dish
- 1 large zucchini or 4 tomatoes or an equivalent volume of cherry tomatoes
- grated cheese
- (optional: garlic)
If you have access to Swiss cheese, I heartily recommend Gruyère. It may be called Greyerzer or Graviera depending on where you buy it. In the Netherlands, we make do with Dutch cheese (Gouda, Jong Belegen), which works well too. The recipe should work with almost any kind of grated cheese, though (or solid cheese that you grate yourself). Be aware that some cheeses (like Parmesan) are very salty; don’t overdo it with those.
As for pepper, I recommend getting whole black peppercorns and grinding them fresh. Stores often sell peppercorns in little jars with convenient built-in mills.
Depending on where you live, it might be hard to get good tomatoes. The big ones in particular may be bred for size and shelf life at the cost of taste. If you can, buy tomatoes with the green stalks still attached; those are usually fresher and tastier. Cherry tomatoes may also be a solution if you can’t find tasty regular-sized ones.
If you’re going for the zucchini, peel it and quarter it lengthwise. Chop the zucchini sticks into slices or keep them whole as you prefer. The former lets you get away with less cheese if you’re watching your calories, whereas the latter lets you get away with more cheese if you love cheese like I do. ;o)
If the zucchini are from organic production or you have other reasons to trust they’re not covered in pesticides, you can just wash rather than peel them. They retain more of their taste that way, and look prettier, too.
Arrange the zucchini on a microwave-proof plate (or use an oven form to be on the safe side), cover it with grated cheese, and grind some black pepper over it. Depending on your choice of cheese, you might also need some salt.
Put it in the microwave for 5–7 minutes until the zucchini is cooked and the cheese is melted and a little browned. Not only does the cheese add delicious flavor, but it also protects the zucchini from drying up in the cooking process. Ding — you’re done!
With tomatoes, the recipe pretty much stays the same. Just wash them, cut out a wedge from the top to remove the green spike, and proceed at before. If you like, peel a clove of garlic, cut it into thin slices, and place them into the exposed tops of the tomatoes. I like to cut two wedges cross-wise into each tomato so as to spread around the garlicky goodness. Put on the cheese after the garlic so it won’t dry out in the microwave.
For tomatoes, it’s important to use a soup bowl or an oven form, since they’ll lose some coherency and leave a soggy (albeit delicious) mess around them. They also require less cooking time than zucchini; 3–5 minutes should be enough.
Of course, you can combine both tomatoes and zucchini if you like.
This dish works as a tasty, vitamin-rich side for just about any main dish.
We’ve been nuking these veggies for years and never tire of them, but I’m sure there’s plenty more combinations that work. Eggplant perhaps, or squash…? As usual, go forth and experiment, then tell us your findings!