Microwave mastery

When the dining hall is closed, you're strapped for cash, and your auto-owning friend is holed up in the library, the omnipresent dorm-room microwave will be there to help you out of a culinary jam. And I'm not just talking popcorn, frozen dinners, and ramen — there's a whole menu of microwave eats that cover the late-night trifecta of cheap, fast, and reasonably healthy.

Southwestern Dorm Tuna Melt
Whip up a can of tuna, and spread its contents evenly over three flour tortillas. Sprinkle some pepper packets over the tuna, add a dash of hot sauce and place an appropriate amount of extra sharp cheddar on top. Microwave for 30-45 seconds. If you've got the money or space in your fridge, try tomatoes, cucumber, celery, or pickles for added flavor.

Place a heap of cheddar and whatever else sounds tasty (bell peppers, tomatoes, black beans) onto a large tortilla and nuke until melty. When compared to a grilled quesadilla, the microwave version lacks desperately in crunchiness. But if a fashion-conscious friend has a clothes iron, there's a damn crunchy quesadilla — or grilled cheese sandwich — just waiting on the ironing board. Just wrap the meal in tin foil so that next time the iron is used for the intended purpose everyone's clothes aren't bathed in cheese.

Even when I've had access to a conventional oven, I prefer the speed of the microwave for cooking potatoes. Give it the old wash 'n' poke, then wrap the spud in a wet paper towel or brown paper bag so that it retains moisture. Heat on high for 5 to 10 minutes — the larger the spud the longer the cooking time. Remove, add butter, sour cream or cheese, and add another minute. To supplement this quick meal, micro-boil some veggies at the same time. Wash and place in a microwave-friendly bowl with a few plastic spoonfuls of water and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a nearby plate. Cook for 2-6 minutes, depending on the vegetable (again, larger veggies mean a longer wait).

In the fine art of microwave dining, the chef is limited only by their creativity. Once the basics are mastered, microwave cooking becomes a creative process in which simple spices and unexpected combinations create a surprisingly large menu. So large that you could probably give up entirely on late night taco truck visits. Not that you'd want to.

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