Make a meal … in a toaster oven

These Moroccan pork kebabs were prepared in a toaster oven.
These Moroccan pork kebabs were prepared in a toaster oven. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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 a meal for any time of day.

So for one dinner, I decided to make 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.

Moroccan-style pork kebabs

Serves 4

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. Recipe from Real Simple, by Frank Mentesana.

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 above

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

Preheat toaster oven to 425 degrees. 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.

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. Transfer the skewers to a foil-lined baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the vegetables.

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.

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.