How do you reheat tortillas in a microwave? It's usually done in a strainer placed over boiling water, but now that I am cooking by radio frequency, I'd like a more convenient method.

Wet a cloth or paper towel, place the tortillas inside and set on a plate. Fifteen seconds on a cook cycle should be long enough.

Canned hominy is incredibly inexpensive. I bought some once, heated it in the microwave and served it with scrambled eggs. Do you know of any other, more creative uses for hominy? What exactly is hominy, anyway?

Hominy is cooked white field corn (as opposed to sweet corn, which is lower in starch and higher in sugar). The corn kernels are treated by boiling in a 2-percent lye solution for 30 minutes, dehulled, washed and canned in a light brine; the cans are then steamed.

Hominy lends itself to cooking with bacon fat and ground cumin -- a la Mexicaine. Here are two recipes using hominy:


8 strips bacon

2 flour burritos

1 medium onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

16-ounce can hominy

Salt to taste

1/2 cup grated mild cheddar

1 cup diced, ripe tomato

Canned jalapenåo strips to taste

1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

Fry strips of bacon until golden. Remove bacon. Fry burritos on both sides until crisp and drain on paper towel. In residual fat (should be only a tablespoon or 2), saute' onion until soft. Add garlic, cumin, hominy and its juice. Cook until juices have reduced and mixture has thickened. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.

Place hominy mixture in center of each burrito. Sprinkle with cheese, tomato and jalapenåo strips. Bake in 375-degree oven for 10 minutes -- until cheese has melted. Shred iceberg lettuce with a knife and arrange around each burrito. Serve. Guacamole is a very nice accompaniment.


8 breakfast links

1 large onion, sliced

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds

16-ounce can hominy

Hot pepper sauce and salt to taste

Fry links in cast-iron skillet until light brown. Add sliced onion and saute' in the residual fat until onion has softened. Add tomato, cumin and coriander. Cook over low heat until moisture from tomato has mostly evaporated. Drain hominy and add. Heat to boiling, season and serve. Tastes very nice with steamed corn or flour tortillas.

We grow lots of herbs -- mainly dill, parsley and coriander. I have been very unsuccessful in freezing them for winter use. No matter how careful I am, they turn wet. Recently, I purchased a grinder. Could I grind the herbs, seal them in jars and microwave them? Or what do you recommend?

Herbs contain flavor compounds that are very ethereal. Food scientists discovered long ago that the boiling points of some of these compounds are far below zero and that they will evaporate from the plant tissues just as soon as the plant cell walls are broken. Heating fresh herbs in a microwave is not going to do any better than plunging them in boiling water which, of course, evaporates off all the flavors associated with the fresh product.

Food scientists also discovered that flavor-degrading enzymes in these tissues make them very hard to freeze successfully. Ice crystals that develop inside the plant cells tear the plant membranes. When thawed, the cells' contents leak out, cause the wet texture you have observed, and release enzymes that produce off flavors even at temperatures well below zero.

Drying herbs remains just about the best method of preservation. In fact, drying herbs in a turned-off or slightly warm oven produces a product better in quality than what you can buy in jars at the supermarket.

There are a few other alternatives. Some herbs such as dill, which is quite strong, can be canned in vinegar. The low pH of vinegar inactivates the enzymes in dill and the herb can be used. I wouldn't recommend using it in a gravlax, however. But it's all right in a sauce, a stew or a marinade.

You can make compound butters with fresh herbs and freeze them. Being almost pure fat, butter seals off oxygen and prevents volatilization of the more ethereal compounds, which are either trapped in their little pockets of pure, herbal essence or dissolve in the surrounding butter. To make a compound butter, grind the herb or herbs first and then add softened, lightly salted butter. Compound butters are very nice on grilled meats and fish and can also be incorporated into stews and saute's, as well as placed on steamed vegetables.

Some herbs lend themselves to canning. A chef I worked for had us pack tarragon leaves in jars as tightly as possible. We then boiled the jars for about an hour, replaced the boiling water with cold, and let the jars cool off in that water for about 15 minutes. We then refrigerated them. The product was actually quite good. Growth of contaminating bacteria was not likely, because the jars were refrigerated afterward. The French call such a product a "demi-conserve" because it is preserved enough to last some time in the refrigerator.