We get a lot of sun in Edmonton. In fact, I've heard that we have as many sunny hours as Miami. Moving into the uncertain future, that's an asset.
On May 6, I decided to leverage that asset into a sun-cooked potato salad.
The concept of a solar oven is very simple: a black, insulated box with glazing (plastic or glass) is aimed towards the sun. It's amazing how the simplest concepts can be so powerful. It's a cinch to get my solar oven up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and during the hottest months it will hit 300 degrees.
Cooking with the sun is easy: add the ingredients to the oven, and walk away. It's so risk-free because food will not burn at 200 degrees. It's a very slow cooking process, which increases taste and decreases the need for human attention.
Solar ovens have a huge potential. In my perfect future, Edmonton's electricity demand would drop drastically on sunny summer, spring and autumn days due to a proliferation of solar foodism.
The two cooked components of potato salad are eggs and potatoes. I cut up the potatoes and added them to two black pots that came with my solar oven:
Since eggs cook quicker than potatoes, I added water to the pot with the eggs with the smaller potatoes. The thermal mass of the water slows the cooking process. This way, I didn't have to take out the eggs after two hours.
I then put the pots in the solar oven and placed it in my backyard:
The white, circular object in the middle is a thermometer. It's fun to see how hot the oven gets.
About five hours later, even though the sun was sporadic throughout the afternoon, everything was well-cooked.
The potatoes are soft, and the eggs are hard "boiled".
I love doing potatoes in the solar oven, because even if I don't have a plan for dinner, I can toss them in the oven in the morning when I see that it's going to be sunny. Then, I can refrigerate them, and make hashed browns, potato salad or soup at a later date.
In Edmonton, you can buy books about solar cooking, plans to build a solar oven, or an actual solar oven at Earth's General Store. You can also take out the book "Cooking with sunshine" from the Edmonton Public Library.
Cooking a meal with zero pollution, zero coal burning (even zero combustion!) is very rewarding. To reduce your impact, cook with the sun.
As the great Ferris Bueller once said, it is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.