With summer gardens producing a bounty of beans, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini, it's good to know that a microwave oven can turn some of this green-thumb bounty into quick classics.
Making Ratatouille, that Provencal culinary tour de force, the long-winded French way takes hours. Our shortcut microwave version can be made three times as fast and is, we think, equally delicious because of the way the microwave intensifies the just-picked flavor of the zucchini, eggplant, green peppers and tomatoes.
You'll also like this unusual recipe for garden-fresh lima beans. It's an old Portuguese classic updated for the microwave and ready to serve in minutes.
1 large onion, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 (1- to 1 1/4-pound) eggplant, peeled, sliced 1/4-inch thick and each slice quartered
2 medium green peppers, cored, seeded and cut into strips 2 inches long and 1/8-inch wide
2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cups peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped vine-ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine onion, garlic and oil in microwave-safe 5-quart casserole at least 10 inches in diameter. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 4 minutes until onions are transparent.
Add eggplant, green peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper. Cover with lid and microwave on HIGH 18 to 21 minutes, stirring at half time, until zucchini is barely tender.
Stir again, cover again and microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 10 minutes. Stir, cover with paper towel and microwave on MEDIUM 13 to 15 minutes, stirring at half time, until almost all juices have evaporated.
Cover with lid and let stand 10 minutes. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold. To reheat refrigerated ratatouille, cover with lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 9 to 11 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes, until uniformly hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Variation: To make Ratatouille Nicoise, prepare ratatouille as directed, but mix in 1/2 cup sliced black olives before final 15 minutes of cooking. When ratatouille is cooked, remove from microwave, mix in 3 minced anchovy fillets, if desired, cover and chill 24 hours. Serve cold as appetizer spread.
PORTUGUESE LIMAS WITH FRESH CILANTRO
3 slices lean bacon, cut crosswise into julienne strips
1 small onion, minced
3 cups shelled fresh lima beans
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or Italian parsley
Arrange julienned bacon in doughnut shape around edge of microwave-safe 2-quart round casserole at least 10 inches in diameter. Cover with paper towel and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 4 1/2 to 5 minutes, stirring at half time, until bacon is crisp. Lift bacon, using slotted spoon, to paper towel and reserve.
Add onion to casserole drippings, cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH 3 minutes until onions are transparent. Stir in lima beans and water. Cover with lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 17 to 20 minutes, stirring at half time, until beans are tender.
Let stand, covered, 3 minutes. Drain well, add salt to taste, pepper, cilantro and bacon. Toss well and serve. Makes 6 servings.
Note: In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.