June in Baja Arizona should officially be Solar Cookery Month– time to not add any more heat in the house. Thanks to some fabulous Baja Arizona “solarizers,” namely Technicians for Sustainability (www.TFSsolar.com), our house is now blessed with a PV array–yet despite this “free” electricity we still don’t want any extra BTUs loose in the kitchen.
Tia Marta here encouraging you to take your cooking OUTSIDE!! A great project to do with kids is to make your own solar oven with a cardboard box and lots of tinfoil. (The internet has easy do-it-yourself plans.) Or you can purchase a ready-made solar oven online. Check my website http://www.flordemayoarts.com under the menu “Native Foods” to buy one of the most efficient and least expensive solar ovens you’ll find anywhere!
Wild desert fruits and orchard fruits will be coming on aplenty, and when solar-dried, they make wonderful snacks and trail mix. As seasonal veggies come available in your garden or at farmers markets, you can slice and solar dry them for winter soups and stews.
We cook such a variety of great dishes–from the simple to the complex– out on our patio table. I stuff and bake a whole chicken and set it in the solar oven after lunch. By suppertime, mouth-watering aromas are wafting from the patio.
For fall harvest or winter dinners, I like to stuff an heirloom squash or Tohono O’odham pumpkin (Tohono O’odham ha:l) with cooked beans and heirloom wheat- berries to bake in the solar oven. It makes a beautiful vegetarian feast.
A solar oven is a boon on a camping trip or in an RV on vacation for heating dishwater as well as for cooking. It was a God-send for us when power went out. Solar ovens in emergency situations can be used for making safe drinking water. (Hurricane-prone areas– take heed!)
For one of my favorite hot-weather dishes–marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad–the solar oven is a must. On stove-top, wheat-berries take an unpleasant hour20minutes to fully plump up. That’s alot of heat. Outdoors in the solar oven they take about 2 hours while the house stays cool, keeping humidity low. Hey–no brainer!
Muff’s Marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad Recipe
1 cup washed heirloom wheat-berries (available from NativeSeeds/SEARCH, grown organically at BKWFarms in Marana)
4 cups drinking water
Simmer wheat-berries in solar oven until round, plump and softer than al dente, and have absorbed the water–approximately 2-2 1/2 hours depending on the sun. Drain any excess water.
Chill in frig. Marinate overnight with !/2 cup balsamic vinegar or your favorite citrus dressing. Add any assorted chopped veggies (sweet peppers, I’itoi’s onions, celery, carrots, pinyon nuts, cholla buds, barrel cactus fruit, nopalitos….). Toss and serve on a bed of lettuce.
While cooking with a solar oven, it will help to “visit” your oven every 1/2 hour or hour to adjust the orientation to be perpendicular to the sun’s rays. Think about it–You gotta get up that frequently anyway from that computer or device where you’ve been immobile–just for health and circulation’s sake! Think of your solar oven as part of your wellness program.
A solar oven is so forgiving too. If you need to run errands, just place the oven in a median position to the movement of the sun. Cooking may take a little longer, but, you are freed up to take that class, get crazy on the internet, texting or whatever. And if you should get detained, good old Mr. Sun will turn off your oven for you. No dependency on digital timers. Happy cooking with the sun this summer!