Keep veggies at their best


VEGETABLES ARE A natural for microwaving. While boiling often drains vegetables of their natural bright colors, crisp textures and nutrient content, a well-timed zap in the microwave oven can improve results.

Pat Baird, in her book "Quick Harvest" (Prentice Hall 1991, 271 pp. $21.95) demonstrates how the microwave can be used to cook vegetable-centered meals from scratch. Ethnic influences from Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and Mexico give many of the dishes special interest. Garlic, vinegar, lemon and spices all contribute to making the vegetable dishes taste like main courses.

The book has a nice range of types of dishes, from main-coursstuffed vegetables and baked muffins to soups, curries, salads and side dishes. Kids could follow the recipes for quick quesadillas or mini-pizzas. Time-saving recipes such as No--Sweat Lasagne, which layers uncooked noodles with cheese and sauce, are particularly enticing. There's also a section that tells how to make fruit butters, chutneys, preserves and jams in the microwave. An appendix at the end of the book gives information about health needs and recommended daily food allowances. There is also a helpful chart listing basic vegetables, grains, and their ideal microwave cooking times.

Hot Greens and Corn

2 pounds kale or collards

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium leek, white park only, thoroughly washed and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 ear corn, cooked and kernels removed or 1 cup drained canned corn

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 small tomatoes, quartered, for garnish

Rinse greens under cold running water. Strip the leaves from the thick bottom stems, keeping the tender top stem and leaf attached. (Discard the bottom portion or reserve for stock.) Gather the leaves, stack them, and slice into one-quarter-inch strips. Set aside.

In a five-quart microwavable casserole, combine the vegetable oil, garlic, and leek. Microwave on high for two minutes. Add the greens, stock, vinegar, pepper and salt, tossing until combined. Cover with a lid or vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high for five to seven minutes, or until the greens are wilted, stirring once during cooking.

Stir in the corn (and additional liquid if the casserole is very dry). Re-cover and microwave on high for three to six minutes, or until the greens are tender. Stir in the rice vinegar. Re-cover and let stand for three minutes.

Transfer the greens to a large platter and garnish with the tomatoes.

DTC Makes four to six servings.

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