Oriental cooking, as most cooks know by now, is among the world's most healthful.
In the Far East, chicken is preferred to red meats, polyunsaturated oils are used in place of butter, and garden-fresh vegetables are whisked in and out of a wok so fast most of their nutrients and crunch (read fiber ) remain intact.
What few people realize, however, is that they can prepare many of their favorite Oriental recipes in a microwave oven. The two following recipes prove the point.
The microwave speeds things up, intensifies natural flavors and preserves even more vegetable vitamins and minerals than stir-frying in a skillet or wok.
1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, about
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 to 2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger root
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt, at room temperature
Combine flour, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and cumin in bowl. Dredge chicken in mixture.
Place oil in 2-quart glass or ceramic casserole at least 10 inches across or in large skillet over moderately high heat. Add chicken and saute 5 minutes, or until chicken is brown.
Remove chicken to platter and saute onion in drippings 2 minutes. Blend in curry powder, ginger and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, over low heat 30 seconds. If skillet was used, transfer onion mixture to casserole.
Arrange chicken, skin-side down, over onion in single layer with thickest parts toward outside. Add chicken broth and coconut milk, cover with lid and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 9 to 10 minutes until boiling, rotating casserole 180 degrees at half time.
Reduce power to MEDIUM (50% power) and microwave, covered, 5 minutes. Turn chicken over and rearrange pieces, then microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM 4 to 5 minutes longer.
Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken to heated platter, skim fat from casserole liquid and stir in yogurt. Cover with lid and microwave on HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until hot, stirring at half time (don't boil or mixture may curdle).
Adjust seasonings, if needed. Pour sauce over chicken and serve with boiled rice. Makes 4 servings.
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, tough stem ends removed
1 medium sweet red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 2x1/8-inch strips
2 tablespoons vegetable or sesame oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced water chestnuts
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sugar
Liquid drained from vegetables plus enough chicken broth to total 1/2 cup
Snap tips off asparagus ends and set aside. Slice stems slantwise 1/2-inch thick. Arrange asparagus tips in center of 11-inch round platter, cover with pepper strips and wreathe asparagus stems around edge.
Sprinkle vegetables evenly with oil, cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 4 minutes. Toss vegetables well, re-cover and microwave on HIGH 1 to 2 minutes longer until just tender-crisp. Mix in water chestnuts and pepper, re-cover and let stand 2 minutes.
Blend cornstarch, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and 1/2 cup liquid in 1-quart measure. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, whisking after 1 minute, until sauce boils and thickens. Pour over vegetables and toss well. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Note: In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.