Gary Weinstein, a retired lawyer, has lived in Manhattan for 30 years, and for most of that time, he has used his oven for storage. “It stares at me with mockery,” he said, gesturing to the forsaken pans inside.
His relationship with his microwave, however, is far more collegial. Mr. Weinstein relies on it to cook fresh food, particularly fish, for himself and his girlfriend. “I never really learned how to cook,” he said, “but I got where I could whip up a decent ginger flounder with snow peas, steamed salmon with leeks, and even a mushroom risotto.” Yes, he does all that in the microwave.
Since its introduction for private use as the “science oven” in 1967, the microwave has become nearly ubiquitous: Over 90 percent of American households now own one. And while it has been long relegated to reheating leftovers and making popcorn, it is undeniably the most unsung method of cooking fresh fish, particularly salmon. After a gentle learning curve, it is foolproof: Add salmon, water and salt to a microwave-safe dish, cover, cook for 3 or 4 minutes and let it rest for the same amount of time. What emerges are buttery flaky fillets, rich in flavor, that require no oil or messy cleanup, at the touch of a few buttons.
The best part? From start to finish, it takes about 10 minutes. You can even swap water for wine or stock, or throw spices or aromatics into the liquid to give the fish restaurant-quality seasonings without adding any time to the cooking process.