My wife has been taking a legume-based soup/stew with her to work. I’ve decided to cut costs by solar cooking dry legumes. Cooking beans and lentils in a solar cooker is my favorite way to cook legumes. Some people often mistakenly believe that legumes will not soften in a solar cooker. Not true. Some people also mistakenly believe that legumes never soften fully at 7,000 feet elevation. Not true either! While it’s possible to sauté in a solar oven, I didn’t have time until later in the evening. My wife did the sautéing and added the lentils and herbs and spices to suit her taste.
Yes, solar cookers really do get hot and cook food! My Sun Oven reaches 350°F easily. The boiling point at sea level is 212°F. The boiling point at 7,000 feet elevation is 199°F.
At this time of year, the south-facing area in front of my front door and side garage door is the best location for solar cooking. In fact, it’s quite a bit hotter than the microclimate on my south-facing balcony in Flagstaff was, so everything cooks significantly faster and I am having to adjust some of my cooking times and adding extra liquid to the cooking pot.
I cooked garbanzo/chick pea flour (besan in Hindi) polenta in the Sun Oven, and then baked the French fry-like slices in my indoor oven after it cooled; I basted the slices with olive oil before baking. After cooking the polenta, I cooked some brown rice and wild rice to go with the fries. The “fries” were a hit with my wife, LynnAnnRose, a relatively new vegan.
I’m in the process of packing for our move to Santa Fe, New Mexico. One thing I’m doing is cooking remaining foods in storage so that there is less stuff to move. I found this several-year-old jar of brown lentils in the pantry. Lentils last forever, at least in terms of human lifetimes, making them good for long-term/emergency storage.
I decided to cook the entire jar. Now that the summer solstice is fast approaching, the rod at the back of my solar cooker is adjusted so that the cooker face is almost horizontal to capture the most sunlight during the middle of the day when the sun is almost directly overhead. Lentils are quick-cooking legumes and don’t need pre-soaking.
Lentils are cool season legumes that grows well at high altitudes. In hot climates like the Middle East, Ethiopia and India, where they are staples of local cuisines, they are grown during the cooler months. In my climate, however, they are grown during the summer.
Well, a few days from the start of spring. I solar cooked some long grain brown rice with turmeric to eat with stir-fry leftovers. Afternoon temperatures have been in the mid-60s, so I’m putting the fig tree on the balcony for a few hours every day. I also baked another loaf of whole wheat bread and soaked soy beans for making soy milk in the evening.
Normally, my cooking and baking is spread out throughout the week. I bake two loaves of bread and one batch of cookies a week, and make two batches of soy milk and two dinners with leftovers each week. Sometimes, however, there is a confluence of events and I have a day spent largely cooking and baking. I had to bake a loaf of my 100% whole bread for myself, make milk, make cookies, and cook a pot of chili for dinner. I had spent an hour the day before grinding flour so I wouldn’t have to grind flour on baking day. I’ve been using a cup of whole wheat flour in my cookies lately, so I ground extra for that purpose.
I solar cooked pinto beans with dried whole red chiles I grew on my south facing balcony. Recently, I bought a copy of the new book The Homemade Vegan Pantry, which provides homemade alternatives to commercial staples like milk, cream, butter, bacon (really) and much, much more. I learned that the beany flavor of homemade soy milk can be removed by quick-soaking the beans by pouring boiling water over them and letting them sit for as little as an hour, rather than letting the soak in cool water for eight hours. I tried it; it does work as the author says but we are so used to our homemade soy milk that it didn’t really make a significant difference in taste to us. I will probably only use the quick-soaking method when we forget to soak the beans overnight or in the morning to make milk in the evening.
I made the milk, strained out the okara (Japanese word for soy pulp) and let it cool in the refrigerator, then baked my loaf of bread. I ran some errands on foot during the afternoon. In the evening, I baked my peppermint chocolate chip okara cookies and added the beans to a pot of vegan chili with diced tomatoes, corn, and fresh cilantro. The next day, Dan packaged some of the chili into individual serving portions and put the bags in the freezer.
It is possible to use a solar cooker for everything from simmering to blanching, poaching, steaming, sautéing, braising, baking, roasting, toasting, grilling, barbecuing and pan frying. Most of these methods can be done in a box cooker. A few require the extra high temperatures only achievable with a parabolic reflector.
The foods above include chocolate tofu pie with a gluten free almond crust, baked kabocha squash, barbecued tempeh made with home canned barbecue sauce, minestrone soup with beans precooked in the solar oven, steamed corn on the cob, home grown rhubarb crumble, and whole wheat sourdough raisin bread. Enter “raynersolar” into my “Search Lisa’s Blog“ search box to see all of my original solar cooking blog posts (not reblogs). Use my Google search box to look up specific foods and dishes.
Nov. 18, 2015