What does solar cooking mean to you? SCI supporter Maria Tait shares her story

5:03 PM on Sep 25, 2020

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Screen Shot 2020-09-25 at 5.10.59 PM (2).pngI began solar cooking nearly 10 years ago when I first introduced the activity to my high school freshmen science students.  My enthusiasm for solar cooking has grown significantly along with my concern for climate change and desire for a more sustainable lifestyle.  I live in Sacramento, California, USA, where our sunny and hot summers are ideal for solar cooking.  

On summer mornings, especially when I feel the triple digits looming, I love setting up a couple of CooKits.  For example, the other day I set out a solar cooker containing chicken thighs and rosemary, another with polenta, and the third solar cooker with sautéed squash and kale.  Eight hours later I had a lovely summer dinner that tasted delicious, was fun to cook, and did not add a kilowatt to my energy bills. 

I wonder what would happen if everyone did this?  Could this simple technique of converting the sun’s energy to cook food transform our world?  As a science teacher and concerned citizen, I wanted to find the answer to this question.  

So, I posted a couple of my culinary successes on Facebook and shared some solar cookers to those who showed interest.  There are now eight more people in my community experimenting with solar cooking, sharing their successes, and reducing their carbon footprints.  Now that more of us are home because of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to use this technology even more.

I still don’t know exactly how much my solar cooking efforts can impact our world. I hope my friends will continue to use their solar cookers and even convert some of their friends.   At least I know this simple and powerful technology is a move in the right direction.  Here is a recipe for my favorite solar baked chicken.

 

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Solar Baked Chicken

6 chicken thighs, skinned

1 small tomato, chopped

½ onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 t salt,

¼ t pepper

2 T marjoram (or other Italian herb)

2 T olive oil

¼ cup white wine

I like to use chicken with the bone in because the result is a more moist and flavorful product.  I also try to avoid adding too much liquid to the cooker.  Otherwise the dish tastes too “soupy.”

1. Lay chicken in roaster. I use a simple black metal circular pan.

2. Sprinkle olive oil on the thighs. Lightly salt and pepper each.

3. Mix tomato, onion, garlic, herbs and white wine.  Pour over chicken.

4. Put lid on the pan, enclose with an oven bag and place in the solar cooker. 

5. I leave out for at least 4 hours (from 10-2).  I have left it for as long at 7 hours (from 10-5.)  The chicken should be tender and will easily fall off the bone by the end of the cooking time.

6. Serve with solar cooked polenta and sautéed squash/kale.