Casserole for the '90s is processed, microwaved


The word "casserole" all too often calls to mind the image of dated and tired dish, but that doesn't always have to be the case. Casseroles can be updated to be simple, elegant, fast and tasty enough to satisfy the changing eating habits of the '90's.

This very fresh and fast dish can be completed in less than 20 minutes with the use of a food processor and microwave. In fact, the entire meal can be microwaved following some very progressive techniques.

Items you should have in your pantry are: fresh garlic, scallions, 4 slices fresh bread, fresh or dried basil, Parmesan cheese (fresh preferred), 1 large tomato, brown sugar, 1 cup sour cream.

Your ten item or less shopping list:

2 (10 oz.) bags fresh spinach

8 oz. smoked turkey (from deli counter)

4 ears corn on the cob

4 nectarines

Corn on the cob retains a sweet flavor when microwaved in thhusk for 4 minutes for a single ear. Simply place (for this menu) four ears of corn on a dinner-size microwavable plate, sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon water and cover with microwavable plastic wrap. Microwave 8-10 minutes, rotating once. The corn will stay warm and continue to steam while the entree is cooking. Be careful when removing the husks, for the corn gets very hot (you may want to use a towel or an oven mitt).

The nectarines can also be prepared while other dishes are cooking. Halve the fruit and remove the pit. Place each half skin side down on 1 dinner size microwavable plate and sprinkle each with 2 teaspoons brown sugar. Microwave four minutes rotating once.

Smoked turkey and creamed spinach gratin

Serves four.

2 (10 oz.) bags fresh spinach

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

3 green onions, finely minced.

4 slices fresh bread of choice, pureed into 2 cups breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 cup sour cream (or light sour cream)

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese plus 2 tablespoons for the topping

salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces smoked turkey, cut into 1/4 -inch thick slices

Poke 2 holes in the top of each bag of spinach. Microwave both bags for five minutes, rotating once. Remove carefully from bag, place in a colander, rinse with cool water, drain and press gently to dry.

In a food processor, pulse garlic, then green onions and then add spinach and remaining ingredients except smoked turkey and reserved Parmesan. Process to mix well.

Lightly grease a quiche dish or microwavable 9-inch pie plate. Place half the spinach mixture on the bottom, layer with the smoked turkey and then top evenly with the remaining spinach mixture. Sprinkle the outer rim with the reserved Parmesan. Microwave for six to eight minutes rotating once while cooking.

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