This question comes up every year: What's the best way to microwave corn on the cob?
The answer: There are several ways. All work well -- if the corn is cooked covered and if it's given standing time for a few minutes after cooking.
Another question I'm asked this time of year: How can I microwave green beans so they aren't crunchy?
The answer: Green beans cooked in the microwave will never be completely tender like when they're cooked on the range. However, there are techniques you can use to tenderize them beyond the crunchy stage. Corn microwaves to perfection -
Corn-on-the-cob needs a tight cover to steam evenly. Plastic wrap or a tight lid is the choice when corn is cooked in a dish. Normally waxed paper is not a tight cover, but when it's wrapped around the corn several times and tightly twisted on the ends -- as in the Wrapped Method (below) -- it holds in heat and steam. The corn husk also holds in moisture in the Husk Method.
Rearranging the ears and turning them over during cooking aids in even cooking and actually means less total cooking time. After cooking, standing time of 5 to 10 minutes is essential to even out cooking. Without standing time, corn will have some undone, starchy-tasting spots and some overcooked, shriveled, tough spots.
Allow space between ears for even cooking. Do not salt during cooking or corn will toughen. When done, corn will turn bright yellow throughout. After that, it still needs the few minutes of standing time to become evenly and fully cooked.
Choose the method you prefer. (When cooking just one ear, I like the Wrapped Method because there's no cooking dish to wash and no hot husk to struggle with.) Follow these directions as to covering, rearranging and standing time for perfectly cooked corn with a fresh just-picked taste. Corn-on-the-Cob 4 medium ears fresh sweet corn (about 1 inches in diameter)
Allow 2 to 3 minutes on High for each medium-size ear (1 to 1 inches in diameter) or 3 to 5 minutes for each large ear. Just-picked sunshine-warm corn will cook slightly faster.
Dish Method: Husk corn and remove silks; place corn in a microwave-safe 12x8-inch dish. Add cup water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave (High) 6 minutes. Turn corn over, re-cover and rotate dish. Continue microwaving (High) 3 to 6 minutes or until corn is bright yellow throughout. Let stand, tightly covered, 5 to 7 minutes before serving.
Dish Method for Larger Amounts: Use more water and a 3-quart casserole. Break ears in half. Cover with lid. Rearrange several times during cooking. Let stand, tightly covered, 5 to 7 minutes.
Wrapped Method: Husk corn and remove silks. Wrap each ear individually in a 12-inch sheet of waxed paper, rolling waxed paper around corn several times and twisting ends tightly. Follow microwave times and standing time as above.
Husk Method: Place corn in husk in microwave. Follow microwave times as above, allowing 30 to 60 seconds more per ear. When done, wrap in foil or leave in microwave for 5 to 7 minutes of standing time. Be careful when removing husks. Hold corn with paper towel and pull back leaves carefully to avoid steam. Microwaved beans need not be crunchy -
If you like green beans tender-crisp with fresh-from-the-garden flavor, you'll like them microwaved. If you like them very soft and tender, conventional cooking on the range-top should be your choice.
There's a difference between tender-crisp and crunchy or tough and rubbery. Tender-crisp means beans are cooked tender with a slight crispness. Crunchy means beans aren't cooked enough, while rubbery means they've been cooked too long.
Green beans should be cooked with more water than other fresh vegetables. This lets them cook slower and promotes increased tenderness. They may be cooked on High, but it is better to cook them on Medium or Medium High -- again to slow cooking and promote tenderness.
A tight cover is necessary to hold in steam. Choose plastic wrap or a tight lid. Do not sprinkle with salt before cooking or beans will toughen. Stir once during cooking, especially if using High power. Standing time is necessary to allow beans to continue to tenderize without overcooking.
Another way to promote tenderness is to cut beans French-style. You can buy a special cutter or use your food processor. (To French-cut with your food processor, hand-cut beans into 1- to 2-inch lengths. Insert medium slicing disc into food processor. Place beans lengthwise in feed tube opening and slice.) Green Beans 3 cups cut-up fresh green beans (about pound) cup water
Place beans and water in microwave-safe 1-quart casserole. Cover with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid. Microwave on Medium (50 percent power, 325-350 watts) 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once, or until beans are tender-crisp. Let stand, tightly covered, 5 minutes. Makes about 4 servings.
Hint: If desired for less-tender results, microwave on High for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring once or twice. Let stand as above. This sauce enhances many vegetables - Tomato-Basil Butter for Vegetables cup peeled chopped tomato cup butter 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil* Freshly grated black pepper
Place tomato in a small microwave-safe dish. Microwave (High) uncovered 2 to 3 minutes or until tomato is tender and thick. Add butter and microwave (High) 45 to 60 seconds or until butter melts. Stir in chopped fresh basil and pepper. Serve warm or cold with corn-on-the-cob or baked potatoes. Or pour over hot, cooked, whole-kernel corn, green beans, zucchini or new potatoes. Makes cup.
Each 1 tablespoon serving: 105 calories, 0 protein, 12g fat, 0 carbohydrate, 140mg sodium, 36mg cholesterol.
*If fresh basil is unavailable, substitute 1 to 2 teaspoons dried basil leaves. Add to tomato before cooking. Questions for Joyce?
Do you have a question about microwave cooking? Send it to Microwave Minutes, % Extra Newspaper Features, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903. Please include a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope.
Recipes in this column are tested in 600- and 650-watt microwave ovens. With an oven of different wattage output, timings may need slight adjustment.
Joyce Battcher is an independent home economist microwave specialist. She is author of ``Microwave Family Favorites'' and editor of ``A Batch of Ideas'' newsletter.
/ 1989 Extra Newspaper Features