By Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (TNS)
Maybe your oven is on the fritz. Maybe you don’t even have an oven. Maybe you’re trying to conserve energy. Maybe you just like a challenge.
In any case, you don’t need an oven to cook. You don’t even need one to cook food that is ordinarily cooked in an oven. All you need is an appliance you already own.
If you’re like me, you tend to forget about the oven part of a toaster oven. You use it for toast, or maybe a bagel. But while a toaster oven does not necessarily make the best toast, it does make for a marvelously efficient oven.
Obviously, a toaster oven does have certain limitations. You can’t use it to cook a whole turkey, for instance. But anything that is small enough to fit in a toaster oven can be cooked in one. You can use it to make breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
You can even use one to hard-cook an egg.
I know. I’d never heard of that either. But it truly works. You get a perfect, hard-boiled egg without having to boil it. There may be no reason why you would ever actually want to do this, but you have to admit it is pretty cool.
For breakfast, I made a frittata. But I didn’t want any old frittata, so I made a Greek frittata.
A Greek frittata is just any old frittata with spinach and Feta cheese added. But these two simple ingredients, along with halves of grape tomatoes, provide plenty of extra pop.
The ingredients also help to create pockets amid the eggs, so the dish is tantalizingly light and not dense. It’s just right for breakfast or brunch.
For lunch, I used the toaster oven to make a salmon sandwich. The genius of this dish is that the salmon is sliced thin before it is laid on a piece of flatbread or naan. The thin slices allow it to cook in just 3 minutes under the broiler.
The other bit of genius in this dish is the amount of herbs and spices it requires. For a single sandwich, the recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds, 1/4 teaspoon of dried sumac and a tablespoon of chopped green onion.
I felt certain that would be far too much seasoning for just 3 ounces of fish, but I tried it as written, anyway. And, to my surprise, it was just right. Even if it had been a little strong, the flavors would have been tempered by a final dollop of yogurt and cucumber, which gives a nice breezy freshness to the whole sandwich.
For dinner, I went with kebabs, Moroccan-spiced pork kebabs.
No, they don’t generally eat pork in Morocco, but the spices work great with the slightly sweet meat.
This recipe has an easy answer to the time-honored question asked by kebabbers everywhere: How do you get the meat and the vegetables done at the same time? When the meat is ready to be eaten, the onion and other vegetables are still almost raw. If you cook them until the vegetables are done, the meat has become chunks of crispy cinders.
The solution is obvious, though for some reason I had never thought of it before. Put the meat on some skewers and the veggies on the others. Start cooking the vegetables first. Then, after the appropriate amount of time has elapsed, add the meat skewers.
And yes, this is easily done in a toaster oven, though to make a full-sized meal for a family you’ll have to do it in a couple of batches.
Dessert, naturally, came last. I made a simple apple crisp. I tossed chopped apples with lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon, topped it with more brown sugar, cinnamon and oats, then dotted the top with butter.
It turned out fine. It may not be the best dessert you’ll ever make, but you can make it in a toaster oven. That has to count for something.
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AMY’S TOASTER-OVEN APPLE CRISP
Yield: 4 servings
4 medium apples
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oats
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1. Preheat toaster oven to 350 degrees.
2. Peel and chop apples. Toss with lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of the brown sugar.
3. Mix remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar along with the flour and oats. Spread apples in a baking dish that fits inside the toaster oven. Spread topping on top.
4. Sprinkle water over crisp, then dot with small pieces of butter. Bake until top is browned and apples are soft, about 45 minutes.
Per serving: 183 calories; 4 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 8 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 39 g carbohydrate; 24 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 20 mg sodium; 35 mg calcium.
Adapted from a recipe by Amy Johanna, via Calorie Count.
MOROCCAN-STYLE PORK KEBABS
Yield: 4 servings
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks, see note
1 small eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges
Pita bread or flatbread, for serving
1/2 pint store-bought tzatziki, optional
1/2 small cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Note: This dish would also work well with lamb, and would be more authentically Moroccan. If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak in water for at least 30 minutes.
1. Preheat toaster oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the orange juice, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Add the pork or lamb and toss. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the eggplant, onion and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the vegetables on skewers, alternating eggplant and onion.
4. Transfer the vegetable skewers to a foil-lined baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the vegetables.
5. Place the pork on skewers and add them to the tray. Bake until the vegetables are tender and the pork is cooked through, turning pork and vegetables once, about 25 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, wrap the bread in foil and place on top of the pork during the last 5 minutes. Transfer the skewers and bread to individual plates. Spoon the tzatziki, if using, on the side and sprinkle with cucumber and mint.
Per serving: 399 calories; 25 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 90 mg cholesterol; 32 g protein; 13 g carbohydrate; 7 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 791 mg sodium; 43 mg calcium.
Recipe from Real Simple, by Frank Mentesana.
TEN-MINUTE ROLLED SALMON SANDWICH
Yield: 1 serving
1 (3-ounce) salmon fillet
1 piece of flatbread or naan
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1/4 teaspoon dried sumac, see note
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon plain yogurt
1/4 English cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon fresh mint, optional
Note: Sumac is a spice popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is available at international grocery stores.
1. Cut the salmon on a 45-degree angle into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Lay the slices flat toward the center of the bread. Add a pinch of salt.
2. Sprinkle the salmon evenly with the green onion, sumac and thyme, finishing with the sesame seeds. Turn the toaster oven to the broil setting and allow it to get hot. Place the bread in the toaster oven and broil 3 minutes or until salmon is cooked to the desired temperature (3 minutes will yield a pink salmon). While salmon is cooking, combine yogurt and cucumber.
3. Carefully remove bread from the oven and lay on a plate. Spoon the yogurt and cucumber mixture evenly across the salmon and sprinkle with the mint. Roll into a sandwich or eat open face.
Per serving: 315 calories; 10 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 56 mg cholesterol; 25 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 3 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 477 mg sodium; 68 mg calcium.
Recipe by Jeffrey Saad, via The Dr. Oz Show.
TOASTER-OVEN ‘HARD-BOILED’ EGGS
Yield: 1 serving per egg
1. Preheat toaster oven to 350 degrees. Fill a bowl with ice water and set aside. Place eggs directly on the toaster-oven rack; if they are parallel to the grate they won’t roll around. Don’t cook too many at once; leave plenty of room around the eggs. Bake about 25 minutes.
2. Remove eggs from oven and immediately immerse in the ice water. Leave them until cold, about 15 minutes.
Recipe by Ashley DIY.
Yield: 5 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces baby spinach
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1. Preheat toaster oven to 350 degrees.
2. Add the oil to a 2-quart casserole (make sure it fits) and transfer to toaster oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the spinach, tomatoes and scallions.
3. Remove casserole from oven and pour in egg mixture. Sprinkle feta over top. Bake until the frittata is browned around the edges and slightly puffed, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Per serving: 280 calories; 20 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 392 mg cholesterol; 17 g protein; 8 g carbohydrate; 3 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 637 mg sodium; 203 mg calcium.
Adapted from a recipe in Real Simple by Frank Mentesana.
©2015 St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: Salmon Sandwich prepared in a toaster oven on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in St. Louis. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Disapatch/TNS)