Chop the onion finely into pieces about the size of a pencil eraser. (You could chop the onions a few hours earlier and keep them in the fridge if you don't want to cry in front of your date.) Mix the onions and the olive oil in the glass dish and microwave uncovered for three minutes. Without removing the dish from oven, pour in the rice from your measuring cup. Reach in with a long spoon and mix the rice with the onions and olive oil. Cook for another three minutes.
Pour in the broth and stir. Cook for 12 minutes. Stir in all of the artichokes and cook for six more minutes.
Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice through the strainer into the measuring cup. Rinse, dry and slice the basil leaves, if you're using it. (Fresh basil is expensive, but it will add another layer of flavor and a nice pop of green to an essentially beige dish.) Wait for the ding, then stir in the lemon juice and basil; cook two more minutes.
Using oven mitts, remove from oven and set on a hot pad. Taste and stir in a teaspoon of salt, or more if there's no salt in the broth: check the label.
Stir in the Parmesan. Let rest for five minutes.
Snip a few leaves of basil over the top and serve.
(recipe adapted from Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet)
Malted Milk Panna Cotta
Panna cotta is a chilled, creamy Italian dessert with the richness of gelato and the jiggle of Jell-O. If you follow food trends, you know that "cereal milk," popularized by New York's Momofuku Milk Bar, is the latest cool-kid flavor, but without an oven, it will be tough for you to recreate that toasted-and-infused depth. Luckily, malted milk and brown sugar (easily found at the supermarket) give the same effect. Or just use the leftover milk from your morning cereal ... cooking is all about experimentation, right?
Makes four desserts
Equipment: both glass measuring cups, measuring spoons, mixing bowl, spoonula, ramekins
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons malted milk powder
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 packet powdered gelatin
4 tablespoons cold water (in mixing bowl)
butterscotch sauce for ice cream
malted milk balls
Heat the heavy cream and sugar in the larger measuring cup in the microwave for five minutes. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from oven and gently stir in the malted milk powder and brown sugar. Try to eliminate any lumps of milk powder.
Lightly oil four ramekins with vegetable oil: Pour in just a drop and spread it over the inside surface with your fingers or a paper towel. You don't want to taste the oil; it's just there so the panna cotta doesn't stick to the cup.
Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the surface of the cold water in your mixing bowl. (Don't just dump in the packet or it will clump up and it won't all dissolve.) Let stand for five to 10 minutes. It will make a soft, solid disc of gel.