By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: Mar. 4, 2018 | 4:35 p.m.
After sharing recipes for decadent desserts for the last couple of weeks, today’s column is all about simplicity, as this is a favorite – and ridiculously simple – side dish. Or soup. Or vegetarian main dish! Intrigued? Well, I certainly was. Here’s what happened.
A few years back when I was overseeing a photo-shoot for a gourmet food catalog, the photographer and I were discussing how I grew up on a peanut and cotton farm and she grew up on a truck farm, raising and selling fresh vegetables. As I was bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t time to make up lunch with the fresh tomatoes and green peppers on hand, she laughed and said, “Oh yeah? Just watch!”
She grabbed a knife and a bowl and in almost literally the blink of an eye, Mary Beth had the best, freshest-tasting vegetable dish ever on the table! Honestly, she just basically rinsed, sliced and microwaved those veggies with a little salt and pepper. But I kid you not, it was SO delicious that it makes my mouth water even now to think about what a taste revelation that was.
After about four minutes, you’ll have a perfect fork-tender veggie delight!
OK, there’s a LITTLE more to it than that – but very little. The secret is to microwave your vegetables in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap – with just the tiniest opening on one edge to let out the steam. After that, you’re only limited by your imagination. I’m providing a “recipe” today for one of my favorite variations – layered fresh tomatoes, green peppers, sweet onion, and potatoes – because some people aren’t comfortable with “just throw together some of this and a little of that” cooking directions. And that’s fine. But I almost feel guilty calling it a recipe, as it’s more about a quick and easy cooking method. Her tip did open up a whole new world of quick and easy – and delicious – cooking for me, and hopefully it will for you. I soon tried her “recipe” – adding onions and potatoes – and discovered that if I stopped the cooking process when everything was fork-tender, it made a perfect side dish for grilled, fried or roasted meats of any kind. But with just a few more minutes of cooking time, the juices from the vegetables turned it into a delicious, pure, “instant” vegetable soup – or stew, depending on the vegetables! For a “soupier” – and heartier – dish, you can even add some chicken broth at the end, and maybe throw in a bit of leftover chicken.
As for the specific recipe attached today, don’t like green peppers? That’s an easy fix. Don’t use them. Not a fan of onions? Leave them out! And if you leave out the butter, there are so few calories left that this recipe works for nearly any diet as well. However you make it, just be prepared for the amazing FRESH taste, because the other “secret” is that you get so much more of the actual flavor of the vegetables. You can also skip the potato and throw in some leftover rice for the last minute or two or serve it over pasta.
The only constants are that I always add a little salt and I absolutely always microwave it in a bowl with the top very nearly sealed off. And one of my favorite things is that you can make enough for just one – or a family – simply by varying the amounts and the cooking time.
Continue cooking for about four minutes more and you’ll have the most delicious and nutritious fresh vegetable soup or stew you ever tasted!
So the next time unexpected company drops in – or you just feel more like reading or playing with the kids (or grandkids) than cooking – try it! You can go from decision to devouring in five minutes. Literally. And if there’s ever been a “recipe” that was made for experimenting – playing – having fun – this is it. I’ve recently discovered that yellow potatoes made this way with a little olive oil and sea salt butter make the BEST potato dish ever. Bet it will work with your favorite veggies, too. For a variation, top them with cheese! Toss in some hot peppers. Sprinkle on some herbs! Hmmmm… bet an “almost instant” sweet potato and raisin dish would be good….
Oooh, now I’m getting excited about experimenting some more! And hey! If you come up with your own variations – or if you’ve already been doing this yourself for years and have other suggestions, please write to me at email@example.com and tell me about it! I’d really love to hear from you. Enjoy!
Queenie’s “Almost” Instant Veggie Delight
- ½ medium size bell pepper, cut into strips
- 1 medium white (or yellow) potato, peeled and sliced in ¼ inch slices
- 2 slices sweet onion
- 1 medium tomato, sliced same thickness as potato and onion
- Fresh ground pepper
- Olive Oil and Sea Salt Butter
Layer the vegetables in a medium size bowl, sprinkling with salt and pepper among the layers. Top with a pat or two of olive oil and sea salt butter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, leaving just a very small sliver along one edge open to allow a little steam to escape. Microwave on high for 4 minutes or until fork-tender for a side dish for two. Continue to microwave for four more minutes and stir for an excellent, healthy, fresh-tasting soup for one!
NOTES: Increase as needed for more, and adjust microwave times by testing vegetables for doneness, but BE CAREFUL when lifting the plastic film as the steam will be HOT! If you use yellow potatoes, as I did for this batch, you’ll end up with more of a mélange or stew than soup. Plain butter works just fine – or you can omit it altogether. Adjust the pepper and salt to your taste, and this is great with all varieties of salts, so don’t be afraid to use your own favorite. Also, you can omit any of these vegetables if not to your taste, or add others. Enjoy!
Look for Queenie Cooks weekly for recipes that are generally simple to prepare, require relatively few (and easy to find) ingredients, and usually budget friendly as well. We all have to eat. Let’s have some FUN with it!