Which is the kitchen gadget you just cant do without? is a question that has been posted on my Facebook account. The answers to it are varied. Theres a set of good knives to can openers to electric rice cookers,dishwashers and food processors that I can list. A fraction of my sample even rated their phones to be their favourite kitchen tool for ordering in! The majority however voted hands down for the controversial microwave.
In our dimensionally challenged kitchen spaces we are in the grip of the gadget obsessive syndrome. We are used to cramming our kitchen work tops with the everyday in use and once in a life time use kitchen gadgets. New innovations are out in stores such as the arthritis-friendly kitchen gadgets that make many tasks easier and eliminate the strain for someone with arthritis leaving very little scope for making genuine effort in combating bone disorders and diseases. Our respiration stops mid passage just at the thought of going about one day without the microwave. Even though my microwave cooking skills have always been a bit hit and miss,failing me invariably when there are unexpected guests and they must be served in a jiffy,there are people who swear by the efficacy and efficiency a microwave can offer to people on the run like us. But is it safe to cook in a microwave? Are we intentionally paying a price by putting our health at stake for the convenience of super fast cooking? We have come a long way from the traditional means of cooking by our ancestors on direct source of fire to modern-day stove tops and electric ovens. It is believed that the conventional cooking methods heat food very slowly from the outside in,but a microwave oven uses high-powered dielectric radio waves to cook food from the inside out. The heating however is fairly uniform,leading to food being adequately heated. However,microwaves penetrate the food to a depth of a couple of inches. In thicker pieces of food,the microwaves dont reach the centre. In a microwave oven,the air in the oven is at room temperature so the temperature of the food surface is cooler than food in a conventional oven where the food is heated by hot air. Therefore,food cooked in a microwave oven doesnt normally become brown and crispy.
Microwave ovens agreeably save energy,because cooking starts immediately without waiting for the oven to heat up to a high temperature first. Bacteria will be destroyed in microwave cooking and especially when it comes to thawing frozen foods minimizing the time for the multiplication of bacteria. Studies have shown that because microwave cooking uses little water and is ten times faster than the conventional methods promotes the retention of vitamins and minerals,especially water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and thiamin. Food gets cooked uniformly and while reheating the leftovers there is no change in the flavour and texture of food. But where food and health safety are concerned there have been issues largely connected to microwave cooking leading to the cellular structure within vegetables getting deformed,structural changes in proteins posing toxic health hazards or leakage of microwave radiation into the food and outside the microwave have been talked about. It is quoted time and again that microwaved foods cause stomach and intestinal cancerous growths and that the human body cannot metabolize the unknown by-products created in microwaved food.
While researchers are going overboard trying to prove the harmful effects of microwaves and scientists are deep into hibernation for improving and replacing this detrimental technique of microwaves with better technology more in accordance with nature,let us do our bit for retaining our good health. Let us not prolong our use of microwave oven for cooking an entire meal,instead use well-timed fast to cook recipes or for steaming veggies in a covered dish. Let us not expose young children and most importantly little babies to microwaves by heating their milk bottles in microwaves which all fathers are threatened to do in the middle of the night. Cut the food into uniform pieces to expose more edges during cooking. Stir the food half-way during cooking time. This is the best way to ensure even cooking and death of bacteria. Avoid re-reheating food for each family member at different times. Regular brisk walks in the mornings,regimented lifestyle,controlled binging once in a while and regular mind,body and soul cleansing will take care of the ills of the rat race.
RATATOUILLE IN A JIFFY!
2 medium zucchinis
2 medium yellow squash
1 green pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp parsely
1 tsp basil
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Slice all veggies thinly and drain diced tomatoes. Whisk olive oil along with garlic and herbs. Then add onions. Spread half of this mix in shallow microwaveable dish. Layer 1/2 of veggies on top of onion mixture. Sprinkle 1/2 of parmesan cheese on top. Repeat layering,using other half of ingredients. Microwave covered with casserole lid and cook on HI,6 minutes. Check for doneness. If required,microwave more. As an alternative you can use an oven-safe dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes.
(The writer is a city-based food and diet consultant who can be contacted at email@example.com)