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Zippy vegetarian meals made easy with a microwave


There are lots of excellent vegetarian cookbooks out there -- have been for years. And great microwave cookbooks, a more recent trend, also abound. But until now, no book that I'm aware of has combined both culinary worlds.

Pat Baird's recently published "Quick Harvest: A Vegetarian's Guide to Microwave Cooking" couples the ease of microwaving with the health and flavor of delicious vegetarian cookery.

None of the more than 150 recipes contains any red meat, poultry or fish. Many do call for dairy products (cheese, milk, eggs), but many are suitable for vegans (those who avoid all animal products). So there's something here for microwaving vegetarians of all stripes.

And for you omnivores, too. You know that a vegetarian diet is healthful, but isn't it boring? Big green salads accompanied by a bowl of rice and maybe a slice of tofu on the side? Not hardly.

Ms. Baird's array of recipes shows the influence of a variety of international cuisines: Vegetarian Paella, Lasagne Florentine Rolls, Caponata (eggplant appetizer with olives and capers), Couscous and Spicy Vegetable Stew, Basmati Rice Pilaf, Greek Spinach Pie.

But it's the exotic Asian recipes that sound the most intriguing to me: Tofu and Cellophane Noodle Salad, Thai Vegetable Curry, Vietnamese Pho (a soup flavored with, among other things, mushroom stock, lemon grass, jalapeno peppers and red chili paste).

Unusual offerings include the likes of Pumpkin-Tofu Pie, Shocking Pink Pasta Sauce (whose color derives from red wine and a cooked beet), Amasake Pudding, Cinnamon-Scented Kabocha Squash, Key Lime Speckled Butter Beans and Spaghetti with Japanese Eggplant.

If you thought that vegetarian cooking was less than sophisticated, think again.

Ms. Baird cooks up elegant combinations like Poached Pears with Red Wine and Cassis, White Bean Salad With Sage and Fresh Mint, and Risotto with Asparagus, Mushrooms and Fontina. Then again, some recipes sound like plain, down-home American comfort food: Peach Pandowdy, Southern Grits Casserole, Hattie's Cranberry Sauce, Molasses Corn Pudding.

Certain recipes call for ingredients you may be unfamiliar with. The quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) of Minted Quinoa Salad is a high-protein, nutty-flavored South American grain. The tempeh of Tempeh and Napa Stir-Fry is a high-protein pressed soy cake from Indonesia.

Most ingredients called for here can be easily obtained at your regular market, though some, like quinoa and tempeh, may require a trip to a health food store.

The following recipes come from Pat Baird's "Quick Harvest"; Prentice Hall Press; $21.95, cloth; 256 pages. (Recipes have been tested in 625- to 700-watt microwave ovens.)

Linguine with fresh vegetables and herbs

Makes 4 servings.

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, minced

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons water

1 medium yellow squash, diced (about 6 ounces)

1/2 cup shelled peas or frozen peas, defrosted

1 pound thin linguine, cooked

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

3 tablespoons chopped chives or 1 tablespoon dried chives

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste

Place oil and shallots in 1-cup glass measure. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir in mustard and set aside.

Place asparagus in 2-quart microwave-safe casserole and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons water. Cover tightly with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Add squash and fresh peas (hold frozen peas to toss in at final stage and stir to combine. Re-cover and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Let stand, covered, 2 minutes.

In large serving bowl, toss cooked linguine with dressing, vegetables (including frozen peas, if using), parsley, chives and pepper. Season with salt to taste and additional pepper, if


Indian cauliflower and peas

Makes 4 servings.

1 medium head cauliflower (about 1 1/4 pounds)

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 cup water

1 cup fresh peas or frozen peas, defrosted

2 teaspoons lemon juice

salt to taste

Break cauliflower into florets and set aside. In 3-quart microwave-safe casserole or oval baking dish combine oil and garlic. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir in mustard seeds, turmeric, cumin, coriander and pepper. Microwave on high 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until mustard seeds start to pop.

Add cauliflower to casserole in batches, stirring well to coat with oil and spices, and pour in water. Cover tightly with lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in peas. Re-cover and microwave on high for 1 minute. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and salt to taste and serve.

Crunchy glazed nuts

Makes 2 cups.

1 egg white, lightly beaten

2 cups walnut or pecan halves

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

In 10-inch glass pie plate, combine egg white and nuts, tossing until nuts are moistened. In small bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Sprinkle over nuts and toss well until they are completely coated. Spread out in single layer. Microwave on high uncovered 4 to 6 minutes, or until nuts are heated through and glaze is bubbling, stirring every 2 minutes. (The nuts will crisp as they cool.) Stir again after removing from oven.

Let cool in pie plate for about 15 minutes. Using spatula, stir to remove any nuts on sides and bottom of plate. Gently separate any that are stuck together.

Serve or store in airtight container.

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