Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New food policy? or more insanity?

The Times attempts to signal a season of hope with the question Is a New Food Policy on Obama’s List? They go on to say:
Parents want better public-school lunches. Consumer groups are dreaming of a new, stronger food safety system. Nutrition reformers want prisoners to be fed less soy. And a farmer in Maine is asking the president-elect to plow under an acre of White House lawn for an organic vegetable garden.

But quickly caution-
Although Mr. Obama has proposed changes in the nation’s farm and rural policies and emphasizes the connection between diet and health, there is nothing to indicate he has a special interest in a radical makeover of the way food is grown and sold.

Politics is the means to access resources. Subsidies may have a bad connotation, but, subsidies mean government. Without subsidies there is no government. What do we want to subsidize? Food systems that make up healthy local economies should be first, because we know that killer spinach and obese diabetic kids and oceanic dead zones and Monsanto death seeds and the death of the bees are the wrong mad cow sacrifice for our present subsidies.

What kind of change could we expect in the way subsidies should be allocated? And what is the source of the Times caution? When Obama and McCain were talking about drilling toward energy independence they were clearly insane- defined as doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results. And when Congress removed the restriction on coastal drilling they clearly were part of the same insanity. And the insanity is subsidizing the fossil fuel economy. And looking for fossil fuels solutions like fossil fuel generated ethanol as a means out of our pickle. People who don't participate in the insanity, like solar cookers, are seen as abnormal. The crisis may be a means to a solution but no one recognizes the role of fossil fuels in the crisis: that the crisis was recognized after it affected people's pocket books by snowballing in from the margins of the driving economy (Tracy, Merced, Stockton, etc.)

So first we have to see the problem of local government in building the infrastructure, commute roads etc., to facilitate resource consumption. Second we need to see the feasibility of what a local economy, progress, can mean. Third we need to recognize the source of our problems. Only then can be see the benefits of change. Change is hard- Exxon is not going to let Boxer give oil subsidies to solar panels. Change needs to be communicated from within a broad, not necessarily cohesive, coalition.

And it certainly doesn't happen by consensus. As the Times article notes:
Mr. Obama appointed Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, which grows much of the nation’s corn and soybeans. Mr. Vilsack has talked about reducing subsidies to some megafarms, supports better treatment of farm animals and wants healthier food in schools. But his selection drew criticism because he is a big fan of alternative fuels like corn-based ethanol and is a supporter of biotechnology, both anathema to people who want to shift government support from large-scale agricultural interests to smaller farms growing food that takes a more direct path to the table.

At the end of the day change needs to be a win win for all. Otherwise we are just waiting for the Sarah-Palins to take their turn at the same insanity. And the goals of peace and health and independence remain wishful thinking. Our children cannot escape the yoke of OIL- Operation Iraqi Liberation.

Monday, December 22, 2008


One bottle chilled cheap red wine.
Two chilled oranges squeezed. Lujan from Hughson was selling them for 0.85c a pound yesterday.
We've been chilling stuff by leaving it on the north facing deck outside for four hours.
One sweet apple peeled, cored and cut small.
Dash of cinnamon.
Five teaspoons sugar.

Mix with a wooden spoon and serve.

Spicy dandelions and brussel sprouts and arugula.

Happy New Year. Yesterday was the winter solstice and at 4:10 AM the earth stopped its outward swing and was pulled back in orbit toward the sun. As the sun heads north our days will get longer. Today was a glorious sunny morning. However not trusting the fervor of the rain god to supply water for our crops, I put on the reflector and used the oven in the winter position. Good thing, because just ofter the food was cooked (I started at 9:00 AM) the clouds moved in.

Yesterdays at the farmers market our suppliers from Calderon, Hollister, had celery, dandelion (no chard this far north) and large pretty looking brussel sprouts. Barbagelata Farms from Linden had peppers, onions, garlic, beens, cauliflower, nuts, apples, and tomatoes. Bill Ferry Ranches has a mix of nuts. J&M Farms from Fresno had chard, arugula, and red peppers. Sonoma Oil Company doesn't come around this time of year so you better have stalked up on supplies of vinegar and oil. Spring Hill had a variety of cheeses about a month ago. They still come to the San Mateo Farmers Market.

Chop one bunch dandelions thin and then soak in water. Drain.
In the 5" oval pot layer:
Half a red onion chopped small.
Two stalks celery chopped small.
Two cloves garlic chopped tiny.
One jalapeno chopped small.
Two tablespoons Olive oil.
Sea salt crystals to taste.
Black pepper to taste.

Cook for 90 minutes.
Squeeze half a lemon. Sprinkle one tablespoon vinegar.
Mix, drain and set the liquid aside for stock.
Mix in a tablespoon of nuts.
Let cool and serve as a side.

Brussel Sprouts.
Cut in half six to eight sprouts.
Chop one clove garlic tiny. Mix with one tablespoon olive oil.
Dip cut sprouts in the oil and layer in the 5" round pot.
Salt with the sea salt grinder.
Cook for 90 minutes with the oval pot (see Dandelions above.)
Sprinkle with ground black pepper and serve hot.
Remaining liquid can be added to stock.

Chop one stalk celery small.
Chop one small apple small.
Chop one red pepper small.
Chop one sweet pepper small.
Drizzle one tablespoon vinegar toss and mix.
Salt and pepper toss and mix.
Top with Arugula.
Pour two tablespoon olive oil and mix, then mix through the whole salad.
Grind pepper to taste.
Shred generously a salty goat cheese like feta over before serving. Since the Spring Hill feta was not salty I salted the Arugula instead.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lentils with goa curry powder

Layer in 5" oval pot
Half a large red onion cut small
one cloves garlic chopped small
Two stalks celery cut small
Two tablespoons Olive oil
Black pepper.
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, cumin, and coriander
1/8 teaspoon turmeric, and ground cloves.
One cup brown or red whole lentils.
Three cups water.
Bake in the solar over for four hours in the winter position. You can also use the reflector and cook for two hours.
If the winter sky is overcast bake in the over at 250 deg for an hour and a half. If you use convect drop the temperature 25 deg and lower the shelf.
When done-
Chop one cup cilantro and mix.
Squeeze half a lemon.

Most of the ingredients came from Calderon Farms who were back at the Belmont Farmers Market after a two week break. The organic lentils are from Whole Foods. The olive oil is from the San Mateo Farmers Market.

The LA Times reported that with land repatriation in South Africa the nation has become a net importer of food. This doesn't make sense if the smaller farms are growing food for local consumption. The smaller farms must be part of growing cash crops for the global market. Given many of the positive policies like taking down the fences and friendship parks in South Africa I think they'll figure this out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brussel sprouts

At Calderon Market the Brussels sprouts are sold on their stalk for $4/-

Clip about 20 sprouts and cut in half.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Cook in the winter position for 90 minutes in the 5" oval pot.

Arrugula Romaine salad

The farmers market has shrunk for the winter but there's still summer produce available, especially from the vendors south of San Jose.

Four chives of green onions (green portion only) cut small. Put into a small bowl. Pour three tablespoons vinegar over and add 1/4 tablespoon mustard. Mix

Two cups arrugula
Two cups chopped romaine
Four carrots cut small
Two tomatoes cuts in half inch cubes
One red pepper cut small
Salt and pepper to taste.
Two tablespoons olive oil.

Mix with chive-vinegar-mix.

Top with one apple cut small, one jicama cut small, and (optional) one cup brown rice.
Shred feta cheese to cover before serving.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fresh fish with chile verde sauce

Two steaks fresh fish, or thawed Mahi Mahi etc.
Its difficult to buy fresh fish in Belmont even though fishing is a major part of the economy in Half Moon Bay 12 miles over the hill. The problem is consumption and its related claw of distribution. Buyers at restaurants, grocery stores etc are locked out of "consumers want" like Alaskan Salmon, Chilean Sea Bass, Thai prawns etc if they buy local fish and don't take everything that the distributor has to offer. We can go to Half Moon Bay and buy off the boats but other buyers don't have the same option nearby- and this certainly needs definition.

Place in 5” oval pot. Salt and dust with hot new mexico chile.
Cook for 35 minutes uncovered in the winter position.
Top with thin layer of chile verde sauce and cook for 15 minutes more uncovered.
Top with chopped cilantro and serve with tortillas and beans. Beans are back at the market.

Chile verde sauce made earlier.
Twelve tomatillos. Calderon Markets has them right now. Peel and toss in pot.
Two cloves garlic peeled.
One small yellow onion peeled (optional)
One or two jalapenos or to taste.
Cook in the 5” round pot for one hour.
Remove, add a fist full of cilantro, two table spoons olive oil and blend.
Bottle for later use, let cool, and refrigerate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chinese string beans

One bunch string beans cut in six inch lenghts.
Two cloves garlic chopped rough.
One large tomato chopped large.
One poblano chile cut in thin strips.
Salt and pepper.
One tablespoon olive oil.
Cook in the 7" round in the summer position for two hours.
Mix and break up before serving.

SF Mayor Gavin Newsome on water: Coca Cola and Pepsi can put tap water in a bottle charge you ten thousand more than you would spend buying municipal water without any of the regulations to ensure that its clean and then use a third of a bottle of gasoline to ship it around. Demand more from your local governments instead of worrying about Bush about another way to approach the distribution of our food chain. Realize that you can do more to get change.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cauliflower eggplant curry

At the Belmont Farmer's Market Calderon has most of the item, the table across has the rest.

Layer in the 7" round
One small cauliflower with flowerettes roughly removed.
One large tomato quartered (if you don't use a tomato squeeze half a lemon after the pot is cooked.)
One serrano chile cut in thin strips
One clove garlic chopped fine
one half inch ginger chopped fine
One small red onion cut in thin strips
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
two teaspoons cumin
Two large Japanese eggplants cut into one inch cubes
two teaspoons hot curry powder
two tablespoons Olive oil
salt to taste

Cook for two hours (longer after the fall equinox.) in the summer position. Top with a handful fine chopped cilantro and mix breaking up the now soft cauliflower and tomato (remove the skins which come right off) into small pieces.
Let sit for ten minutes covered before serving with rice.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


At the northern end of the Belmont Farmers market one of the Asian farmers had peanuts. These are as easy as brocolli to cook.

Rinse to get the mud off.
Place in the 7" round pot in the summer position and cook for an hour.
Let cool, shell and eat.

For variety place some shelled nuts back in the pot but without the lid. Salt, dust chili powder like Cayenne and drizzle with a teaspoon of olive, or sunflower, or any vegetable oil. Cook for 40 minutes (without the pot lid!) in the summer position and serve.

Jackfruit seeds

At the San Carlos Farmers Market one of the farmers had mangos, jackfruit, and various kinds of small bananas and other exotic fruits grown in Palmdale, the desert east of LA . I bought a tiny segment of jackfruit. The fruit was delicious and the glue that gets on the hands difficult to remove. This glue was also not disolvable in water. It had to be rubbed off the knife.

The fruit encases a large seed.

Wash the seeds then put them in the solar oven for an hour. After they have cooled cut them in half and shelled the outer layer. Salt and serve. They have the texture of peanuts and the taste of a potato. In India they used in curries.

The mangoes and bananas were delicious too. The fruit table was located near the southern end of the market on the west side.

Chard with corn

Tie the bunch together, then cut the leaves about 1" in width. As you get down to the stalks cut the leaves about 1/8" in width. Discard stalks. Wash and rinse carefully then place in the 7" round or 5" oval pot.

Cut half a red onion thin and place on top.
Shred one large dried poblano or guajillo chille and place on top.
Chop leaves of one small twig oregano fine and place on top.
Drizzle two tablespoons olive oil on top.

In the other pot place one cleaned cob of summer corn.

Cook for an hour and a half in the summer position.
Cut and scrape the corn off the cob and add to the chard.
Top with one tablespoon lemon and one tablespoon white wine vinegar. Salt and then pepper generously and mix well before serving. Will stay to serve at room temp as a starter.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

cherry tomato pasta salad

This is a fun tasty light pasta salad for a summer evening.
Pasta is complicated and time intensive to cook in the solar oven.

One pint cherry tomatoes each cut in half.
One tablespoon olive oil.
One table spoon balsamic vinear.
Three tablespoons basil cut fine and chopped.
Salt to taste.

In one 7" pot combine
One red onion chopped small.
One large garlic clove cut fine or crushed.
Olive oil.
Salt to taste.

In the other 7" pot put three cups water.

Place the solar oven in the summer position.
After half an hour remove the onion/garlic and combine with the cherry tomatoes.

Add 6 oz small elbow or gamine pasta to the pot and return to the oven with the water.
After a half hour put the hot pasta in the now hot water. Stir and leave in the oven in the summer position for twenty minutes. Unlike other things in a solar oven DON'T leave it longer without checking since the pasta will overcook.
Remove and drain and combine with cherry tomato/onions.

Chop half a head romaine lettuce thin and small and combine.

Two tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon white wine vinegar, and one tablespoon lemon.
Salt to taste.
Pour over pasta and mix.
Shred cheese to taste.

Optional: add broccoli or cube cut ham as desired and mix.
Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Red pepper, poblano chile antipasta with corn

Calderon's table was overflowing with produce and I couldn't resist the big red ultra sweet peppers and the small dark poblano chiles. The poblanos will get bigger over the next six weeks as the summer goes by, and then they will get redder and sweeter. Yum.

Toss one red pepper, one corn cob, and two poblanos into the 7" round pot and cook in the summer position for 100 minutes.

Trim and core the peppers then cut into small half inch squares.
Remove the kernels from cob and then scrape it to get the kernel centers.
Chop half an average red onion small.
Chop a handful of basil small or slivered. Should be flowering the garden. Use the flowers and pods too.
Juice of one lemon (trees should be full), equal part white wine or fruit vinegar, equal part olive oil.
Mix and salt to taste.

Eat with a soft bread that has a crust.

fresh corn salsa and factory processing

Whole Foods meat recall shows the problems with organics and other foods getting integrated into the factory food price reduction models. These problems are characteristic of large processing problem and date back to the birth of cheap energy and mechanized agriculture. The early response was pasteurization which was sold as a medical advance when in reality it was only a means to clean milk dirtied by process and maintain factory margins.

The farmers market on the other hand allows small batch processing which reduces the likelihood of contamination. The recent recall on tomatoes that was changed to Jalapenos from Mexico is a simila case in point.

Summer markets abound with produce. Calderon had a selection on Sunday that allowed me to buy from only one vendor. Given that they are closest to us this was way past cool.

The salsa is similar to a salsa cruda.

One large tomato chopped small.
Four spring onions chopped small.
Handfull of cilantro chopped small.
Half of a sweet white corn, kernels removed (run a knife down the cob) and then scrape the cob with the back of the knife to remove the sweet kernel centers.
One poblano or jalapeno chopped tiny seeds an all to your taste.
Juice of one avergae size lemon.

Mix and salt and eat with chips or tortilla.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer vegetable and herb salad

One corn cob trimmed.
One small Japanese eggplant trimmed.

Cook in the summer position for an hour. Can be pre-made and stored in the refrigerator.

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Trim kernels off the cob, then run the back of the knife over the cob to remove the sweet piths.
1/8 of a pound summer lettuce mix (about half a $2 bag from the Farmers Market.)
Six to eight leaves of basil julienned.
Six olives pits removed and chopped.
Two tomatoes chopped in 1/4 inch cubes.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Two tablespoons olive oil.
One tablespoon white wine vinegar.
One teaspoon balsamic vinegar.

Toss and top with grated cheese like Parmesan.

Spicy summer vegetable relish

One small Japanese Eggplant.
One small Zucchini.
Wash trim and bake in the oven in the summer position for an hour. Or use pre-made and stored from the refrigerator.

Cut into small half inch sections.
Cut a tomato into 1/4 inch sections.
Half a garlic clove chopped fine.
A 1/4 inch serano chili chopped fine.
Two table spoons tomato sauce. This time of the year I use basil in the tomato sauce.
One tablespoon olive oil.
Half of a Mexican lime- squeezed.
Six to eight leaves basil, or mint, or oregano julienned.

Mix and serve with corn tortillas or chips.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Agricultural landuse and transportation policy

We all know that transportation policy leads to sprawl. The leading impetus is road building. By funding roads we do more than make it possible for cars to kill kids trying to cross to school in Half Moon Bay (on the same road that lead to the San Mateo Farm Systems Alliance meeting last week.) Jared Lawson of Pie Ranch adds a caution for turning off HWY 1 to his communications and says that discussions are on going with Caltrans. The consumption of forests through government-promoted road projects and wetland loss result from agricultural expansion..road building, residential development, and the building of large facilities like shopping malls, factories, airports and, ironically, reservoirs. Roads and related impermeabilities increase runoff compromising environmental services of streams, ditches, and oceans with modern agriculture. The result on the coast side is the townless highway, from northcounty to the just south of HMB, and the original SM coast's highwayless towns to the south.

The solution is to use the expected road's traffic envelope based congestion mitigation fees to offset ag land depreciation relative to sprawl. Not locally to improve sprawl's profitability with AB1991 at the expense of existing agricultural practices.

What happens when roads lead to development of what Scott Morrow, Chief Medical Officer, San Mateo, characterized at the SMFSA, as the development of large farms that grow, not for the local community, but Brussel sprouts for distant markets? How is agriculture transformed and what is the impact on nutrition at the local school, another concern of the SFMCA?

Argentina is the throes of living these questions. Following the second financial meltdown of the Bush presidency (California's energy deregulation was the first) many changes have lead to attempts to tackle how the economy was organized over the last 50 years. The most recent item of contention is large farms designed and subsidized for export!

The government imposed a sliding tax on large commodity farms to pay for social programs and encourage agriculture for local consumptions (Local food?). "The tax was designed to generate more revenue for social projects in Argentina, the government says, from the global bonanza in grain exports, especially sales of soy to Asia and Europe. Argentina, with its vast Pampas, is a leading producer of soy, corn, wheat and beef, and the nation has benefited from soaring global food prices. The government said the tax was also meant to encourage the planting of wheat and corn, staples here, instead of export crops such as soy."

Its hard to read the LA Times article because the reporter writes ignorant of the rebirth by fire in Argentina and the issues we faced recently with commodity subsidies. Why wouldn't workers in Argentina expect the same resource redistribution we attempted with the Farm Bill? Do farmers take advantage of large state infrastructure spending on roads, airports, shipping and ports to grow food for distant markets? Is the realigned food distribution system impacting the availability of nutrition at the local school? As large food systems develop around a few crops are consumption rates changed to the detriment of health at the local schools? Arn't small farmers and local food consumers constituencies, along with prosperous farmers and middle class urbanites? Or is everyone else locked in a leftist, non property owner, working class terminology versus middle class urbanites and wealthy farmers?

Are the same landuse forces paradoxically, creating misery in the midst of bounty? Have surging fuel prices ignited inflation throughout the region, driving up the cost of food? Roads for sprawl are prepositioned on cheap oil as Kunster and Duany (Suburban Nation) remind us. Cheap oil is used to fertilize, distribute, and transport food, making organic, local, and self sustainable farming a marginal component of the economy. Argentina's tax appears to have been undone by surging food prices; and the indecision of not shielding the tax from the courts has raised anticipation how the Kirchner's and their small farms alliance will respond. The economic fractures of 2002 appear distant enough for wealth farmers to regroup as backers of a coup.

The price of food and local supply are raising stressful questions similar to those faced in Cuba leaving a muddy picture on Argentina in the Times. The related article on oil prices says "Fearful of social unrest, Latin American leaders are now scrambling to blunt the impact of the price shocks. Mexico, for example, has eliminated duties on imported grain and is increasing cash payments to families enrolled in the nation's largest anti-poverty program. It's also keeping a lid on the price of gas, which is about $2.68 a gallon in most of the country. That subsidy is projected to cost the treasury more than $20 billion this year, a figure officials say is unsustainable if crude prices continue to rise. Fallout from the crisis could last generations. Even short periods of malnutrition can permanently stunt the brain development of children. Kids pulled out of school to help with the family finances often remain permanently behind their peers." Its hard to imagine Argentina avoiding these stresses especially on a senate vote involving food.

Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe, as quoted by Jered Lawson in his recent barn dance email, "They said we would never become civilized because we enjoyed our harvest too much," speaks to the economic forces that shape empire through agricultural landuse and transport policies.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Eggplant salad

One medium eggplant cut into one inch rounds. Salt and let sit in a colander for half an hour. Rinse and pat dry, lay on a small black tray, oil both sides with olive oil, and cook in the solar oven in the summer position for one hour.

Place the eggplant for five minutes on a hot gas BBQ until one side is burned but not charred. You can also do this by heating the tray over a stove.

Chop eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes after it has cooled.
1/4 pound romaine heart leaves
1 carrot diced
One large tomato cut into 1/2 inch cubes
One 6" sprig sweet basil, leaves and flowers removed, and then chopped rough.
Salt to taste.

Toss with two tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon balsamic and one teaspoon white vine vinegar. And pepper to taste.

Serve with Ciabatta or equivalent bread.
Serves two for a meal or four as a salad.

Tomato basil salad- food giants

Both tomatoes and basil are in season. Everything we cook these days has basil from the garden (grown in a pot by the front door.)

One large heirloom tomato cut into 1/2 inch cubes
One five inch sprig of basil chopped fine.
One tablespoon olive oil
One teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

Mix and serve with soft crusty bread like Ciabatta.
Except for the salt everything is available at most farmers market like the San Mateo and Belmont Farmers Market.

Safeway carries heirloom tomatoes for $6/- a pound, easily the weight of one large heirloom, versus $2 to $3/- a pound at the farmers market. They also carry non organic largely tasteless tomatoes for $2-$3/- a pound and tasteless organic vine tomatoes for almost $5/- a pound.

Why this anomaly during tomato season? The cost of fuel has affected the cost of food worldwide even in oil rich countries (the majority of who have abysmally poor populations who don't benefit from the national oil wealth- Nigeria the eight largest exporter has a 140M majority living on less than $2/- day.) The farmers market is able to transport locally. So why doesn't Safeway buy locally?

Part of the reason could be the national distribution infrastructure and related federal, state and local support bureaucracies for the food giants that Safeway is part of. Buying organic with the Safeway O brand does not support small family farms. Proctor and Gamble and Nestle, number one and two food giants, produce the O brand for Safeway. The new Anheuser-Busch InBev will be the third largest food company. The problem is that these brands are also responsible for the majority of polluted food organic customers are trying to stay away from! Giving massive profits via a tiny organic line only sustains their polluted food business- and maybe they will learn where the profits are. But the infrastructure and related subsidies have strong partners in the chemical, distribution, and outlet business that lobby to keep changes from happening.

Think of consumption infrastructure as a bridge... one end has dropped off with high gas prices. If we keep going with our present consumption patterns we fall of the edge. GM's business model and congressional perks for SUVs, and the resulting crash of american auto companies are a good case in point.

But there are alternate choices that should have been made and can be made and paths to pursue. The group that aggregates backyards in San Francisco and grows on permaculture with compost at 150 sq ft per family is an alternate. The farming harvesting and delivery is done with bicycles. Cuba is an alternative first from rising fuel prices after the end of the Soviet Union and now with the need to expand local production. Architects are also interested in vertical farms that feed the city from within the city. Local chain grocers should see the need to change their business model before they go the way of GM. $6/- a pound for tomatoes during tomato season is ridiculous.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Banana squash

Similar to a pumpkin recipe.
These things are great for storage and consumption during the winter. They look like they will last 6 month. I just cooked one that I was given in February by someone who had grown and harvested it in November. Its sat on the kitchen counter for six months.

One squash cut into half inch cubes.
Two cloves garlic chopped small.
One small onion chopped small.
Salt and pepper to taste.
One half serrano pepper if desired chopped small.
One tablespoon curry powder if desired.

Mix and drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil in the 7" round pot.

Place in the oven in the summer position for two hours. We have fires in the SF Bay Area and an overcast sky. You will need less for a clear sky.

Remove and add a
- fistfull of chopped parsley or cilantro.
- Two tablespoons wine vinegar

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Okra also known as Ladyfingers

The Asian tables at the farmers market have a variety of exotic foods. Okra is one of them. Pick them small about two inches in length otherwise they are a bit tough.

Toss in the 7" round pot and cook for one hour.

Meanwhile take one small red onion from the garden, one small garlic, one small bunch cilantro, and chop fine, chives and all.
Add one jalapeƱo chopped fine.
Add two tablespoons sunflower oil (Whole foods has an organic version) and one tablespoon vinegar.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Mix and serve.

Cooking okra in the solar over does not have the slime traditionally associated because the food is cooked without water.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sweet Potato, White Corn, or Asparagus- Buy less more often

There is just too much this time of year at the farmers markets, and you have to be careful to buy only what you know you can finish. Since there are multiple markets on other days of the week this time of year, less is better than more. Running out of food is better than throwing it away- since a grocery is around the corner for most of us. Take a shopping list and a pencil.

Sweet Potato
Wash, toss in oven and cook for 90 minutes.
Cut in half and score the surface with a knife. Drizzle olive oil. Then dust with salt pepper and cayenne to taste.

Sweet White corn
This Brentwood corn is sweet enough to eat raw.
This corn should be eaten the same day so don't buy if you will need to store. The sugars go to starch in the refrigerator and it doesn't taste the same.
Husk, remove strings, toss in 5”round pot in oven for forty five minutes

Trim the hard portion of the stalk. Lay the stalks in the 5” pot and cook for fifty minutes. Mix two tablespoon olive oil, two tablespoons white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and pour on top when done and mix well.

Eggs and potatoes with broccoli or ham.

You can cook breakfast after the vernal equinox.

Hash two medium potatoes. Calderon Market has a good variety.
Fine chop half a yellow onion or a large spring onion.
Fine chop half a serano chili or sprinkle chili flakes to taste.
Add one tablespoons cooking oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook in the oval roaster if you are starting early (7:30 AM) with the oven in the winter position for an hour. If you are starting later in the morning 8:30 or 9:00 place in oval roaster in the summer position. If cloudy or overcast use the reflector.

Meanwhile fine chop one small head broccoli or a fist full of ham.
Beat six eggs together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add one tablespoon cooking oil and beat in again. The San Mateo market has a dairy products and meats from Sonoma. This ishte best market on the Peninsula.

Remove the 5” roaster and clear the center by moving the potato/onion/chilli mix to the edge. Lay the broccoli or ham in the center and then pour the egg on top. Return to the solar oven for 50 minutes in the summer position. (If you use more eggs increase the cooking time.)

Remove when done,
Chop five to ten sprigs of cilantro fine and toss on top.
Using a flat edge spoon break up the omelete and mix together.
Serve as is or add shredded mozzarella cheese on top if desired.

Garlic Shitake with corn and tofu.

Adapted from Vegetarian by Linda Fraser, a set of recipes easily ported to a solar oven.

1 lb shitake from J&M.
Twist the mushroom stalk at the base to remove.

Mix together-
Chop the clear portion of the stalks.
Trim the kernels of the cob. Cut them off with the knife then use the back of the blade on scrape the cob and remove the part of the kernel that still remained. Brentwood corn made its first summer appearance this Sunday at the Belmont Market.
Chop two cloves garlic fine.
Chopped three spring onions.
Two tablespoons sesame oil.
One small block tofu cut into small cubes. I like Mori-nu organic tofu in a box available at Safeway and Wholefoods.
Salt and black pepper to taste.

Mix well and spoon into the caps. Place in the 5” oval roaster and cook for 90 minutes in the summer position.

Remove and drizzle sesame oil (two more tablespoons) and two tablespoons of soy sauce over the stuffed caps before serving.

Cooking in a solar oven exposes you to sun for brief periods of time which can be good. Since the solar sport is used without the reflector most of the year it doesn't have the intense concentrated reflections that the other ovens do which require sun shades.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Trim the top . I use a serrated bread knife.
Trim the stalk to the bottom of the petals.
Cut the tops of the remaining petals to remove the thorns. Remove and discard discolored or dried petals.

Rinse and let drip upside down.

Place in the 7" pot. Salt. Drip two tablespoons white wine vinegar or juice of half a lemon. Drip two table spoons olive oil.

Cook in the summer position for an hour.

The 7" pot will hold upto four artichokes. Increase about fifteen minutes per artichoke.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Chutney chicken rice

Soak one cup brown rice in two cups water overnight. This is half a cup less water than is needed to reconstitute brown rice.

two bunches cilantro with half a bunch mint.
Juice of one lemon
one clove garlic
half inch ginger
one tablespoon cumin
one serano chilli
One tomato optional.
Half an onion optional.
This is a basic Indian chutney. You can replace the mint with parsley if that's what you have in the kitchen. The chutney is spread on white bread that is generously buttered, and cut into little triangular sandwiches, or used as a relish with food.

Two chicken breasts or chicken thigh, meat only, portions cut into half inch x one inch chunks.
Marinade in the chutney. Safeway and Wholefoods carry organic free range chicken.

Cook the rice for two hours in a 7” round pot. The rice should be almost cooked with water all evaporated.

Pour the chicken and marinade on top and cook for another hour.

Trim leaves only off one bunch cilantro.
Mix in the chicken rice when done and salt as needed.

We have a fire raging in the south bay, in Sierra Azul off the summit in Los Gatos. The air is smoky and muggy like an overcast day. So I used the reflector today in the summer position.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rigatoni with tomato sauce and mushrooms and spring vegetables.

These are the medium sized tubular pasta. REMEMBER in a solar oven you have to watch the quantity. Pasta is one of those things thats easy to make too much off and it will only add to your waste. If you really need a larger quantity, for like a potluck, cook two pots.

9oz Rigatoni (250 grams) in the 7” pot.
Top with one tablespoon cooking oil and turn with a spoon until coated.

In the other 7" pot place
Two cups button mushrooms sliced.
One small zucchini sliced.
Half a cup fresh peas
Half a cup fresh fava beans.
One tomato quartered.
Two cups tomato sauce
One garlic chopped fine
Chili pepper to taste
Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and cook both pots in the summer position for one hour.

Remove and pour the vegetable tomato mix over the rigatoni.
Cook for a half hour in the summer position.
Mix in pot with the pasta.
Garnish with chopped parsley, chopped olives, grated Parmesan type cheese and serve.

Tomato sauce

Middle of May and the produce just seems to have exploded at the farmers market. Tomatoes, peas, fava beans, strawberries, garlic were all on display. This tomato sauce is easy and great on pasta or vegetables. It has an intense herb and tomato flavor.

6 large Roma Tomatoes cut into four quarters on the long side. Use whatever tomato you can get if Roma are not available.
Salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne to taste
One long sprig of fresh oregano leaves only. Use basil if that's what you have. The Asian table at the market had Asian basil which I will try next time. But I grow my own oregano.
One garlic chopped.
One tablespoon olive oil drizzled on top.

Cook in the 7” round pot for two hours.
Let cool with the lid on.
remove the skins from the tomatoes and discard. Blend the balance with another tablespoon of olive oil and store in a jar. Yields three cups of sauce.

Good for toping over vegetables or pasta or both.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chard with dried ancho.

One bunch chard. One dry ancho pepper, seeds removed and discarded, broken into small 1/2” pieces, one clove garlic chopped fine, one stalk celery chopped fine, and salt to taste. Layer in the pot and cook for an hour.

Add three tablespoons vinegar, handful chopped parsley or one tablespoon chopped oregano, and one tablespoon olive oil before serving.

The anchos in the local mexican grocery store are bright and fleshy looking. We like Chavez Supermarket in Redwood City which also has a delicious deli counter.

Fish salad and food riots

Salmon or sole or left over piece of fish at least 3” across.
Marinade one red onion diced fine in juice of one lemon.
Add one serano chili chopped extremely fine.
Add handful of cilantro chopped.
Add one tomato, seeds and water removed, chopped small.
Mix, salt, pepper, and as the fish breaks up add olive oil to taste and to get the consistency to spread on crackers

Why is Somalia not self sufficient in food especially fish? The planet is coming apart because of our insatiable desire to feed our cars. Jeffery Sachs called for rethinking the commitment to ethanol. In the United States, as much as one-third of the maize crop this year will go to the gas tank and this is a huge blow to the world food supply, so these programs should be cut back significantly," he said.

Yet despite this its surprising to see a third world country after the legacy of colonialism not be able to feed itself. Its even more surprising to see these riots on the coast where these communities have fished for eons. Greenberg says that one of the problems is that the world is running out of fish. Since cod collapsed we have continued to exterminate whole species from the ocean. Today native farmers cannot sustain their coastal communities as factory trawlers stalk the oceans for fertilizer and feed. They go farther out and only end up finding new species for the trawlers to wipe out like the Chilean Sea Bass. Now they can't even go farther out.

Greenberg writes: As we reach the end of the big natural predators, farmed fish will replace wild, just as beef cattle replaced buffalo. Which is no favor for the environment or the economy.

Sole with salsa

Fish is one of the harder items to cook in a solar oven because it requires monitoring. If left they will dry out. The opposite of chicken.

Six fillets local caught sole (relatively cheap light fish.)
Squeeze half a lemon into water and soak the fish in the lemon juice acidated water for ten minutes.

Place the fish in the 7” round pot. Dust with salt as needed and dust with paprika. Cook in the summer position for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and check the fish. A toothpick inserted into the fish should come out dry. Pour out the stock. The fish will be poached in its own juices. If necessary cook ten minutes more.

Meanwhile chop one tomato small. Add half a red onion chopped tiny. Add half a garlic clove chopped fine. Add a few sprigs fine chopped cilantro. Squeeze the rest of the lemon over the salsa and add salt to taste. Mix and set aside.

Serve a spoon of salsa on top of each fish fillets.

You can use the balance of the salsa when cooking rice. Or add a chile and eat with tortilla chips.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Orange mango jam and the seedless threat

There aren't any organic Valencia oranges at the farmers market. The suppliers say that they don't use any sprays. I'm going to have to read up some more on this. More later.

After juicing 6 Valencias, scrape the pulp out of the orange halves, and put into the five inch round pot. Add pulp of one mango. Add zest and juice of one lemon. Add 1/2 cup organic brown sugar, less to reduce the sweetness. Add two thin cut slices of ginger

Cook in the oven in the summer position for two hours. Remove the ginger, toss, and blend the rest before storing.

The orange pulp will impart a mild bitter flavor to the jam.

Seedless oranges are radiated as samplings, then sprayed with a germinator (? a hormone to get the flower to fruit). If the flower is pollinated by an insect it will seed.

Consumers don't like seeds in oranges. I think the market is like 10% for seeded oranges versus seedless. The prediction is that in ten years there won't be any seeded oranges in stores. The GMO folks are trying out new varieties. The dollars are large and growers are threatening the legislature that similar restrictions overseas will cause the market in CA to disappear.

So growers do everything to limit bees around their orchards. The ongoing war against life. Growers use neuro toxins, banned in some European countries, to kill the bees.

Quote: The growers were not afraid of being stung, they were afraid that the bees would pollinate their trees, something farmers usually want bees to do. But these trees in the San Joaquin Valley were planted to bear seedless fruit, and pollination would create seeds.

This spring ('07) a citrus growers trade association will be lobbying the state legislature for a Seedless Mandarin Protection Act that would establish ''no-fly zones'' of two miles for hives around designated orchards. End Quote

Orange drink

This time of year at the farmers market the Valencias are juicy and sweet.
6 valencia oranges
3 tablespoons sugar
6 cups water
Cut the oranges in half and squeeze out the juice.
Reserve the remaining halves for jam.

Mix and refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Juice of one lemon.
3 tablespoons sugar
2 more cups water.
Mix and refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sweet Lemon Kumquat Marmalade

Use less sugar or no sugar if you like the basic sweetness of the fruit. The orange also adds sugar and orange zest gives the marmalade a pronounced zesty acidity while the pulp adds a tinge of bitterness.

Our lemon kumquats are sour and so we wait till they fall of the tree to eat them. The tree is planted in a pot outside the front door for full southern exposure.

One small apple peeled and cored diced fine (used for its pectin and as a sugar substitute.)
Twelve to 20 kumquats chopped into small piecies. For the larger kumquats cut them in three, then remove the seeds and then chop. Should make two cups.

One orange, zest peeled with a potato peeler, then zest chopped fine, then pith removed and tossed, and then the fruit cut fine.
Mix and cook in the 5” pot for two hours in the summer position to get the fruit soft and mushy.

Stir two cups organic brown fair trade sugar into lemon mixture and let cool for a couple of hours. Organic brown fair trade sugar is sold at Whole Foods and other stores under the name Organic Sucanat. Look for the Fair Trade certified label. As you can tell from the recipes we use very little sugar so we might as well buy the kind that will do right by the people and the planet.

Using a slotted spoon transfer most of the fruit to a blender and puree. Return to the pot, in the summer position, for another hour. The sun is almost 30 deg east from the winter rise and much higher in the sky making the summer position possible from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

Let cool, bottle and save in the refrigerator. I use standard, recycled bottles, because the sugar is a preservative. If you are going to give it away as gifts learn how to use and process canning jars. and check the wiki.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Greek style organic lentils- reduce agricultural runoff

One cup lentils, or mixed lentils and beans, two cups water, soaked overnight.
One stalk celery diced fine.
Two carrots diced fine or shredded.
One bunch swiss chard or beet greens, spines removed, chopped into inch squares.
One clove garlic chopped fine.
Two tablespoons hot new mexico chili power.
1/4 teaspoon cayenne.

To remove the spines trim the leaf along both sides of the spine as far as possible. Or if you don’t like putting a metal surface to leaves fold the leaf along the spine and tear the stalk out. You can use the stalks for stock or compost them.

Layer with the legumes on the bottom and cook with the reflector on for almost two hours. You want it soft. Longer if overcast.

Two spring onions chopped fine.
Handfull parsley chopped fine.
Juice of half a lemon. Equal part Olive Oil.
One clove crushed garlic.
Salt to taste.
Beat and pour over. Mix.
Garnish with yogurt before serving.

To make a crostini blend it all with enough olive oil to make it spreadable. Crostini is a spread for day old bread that is toasted before serving for an appetizer or to accompany a salad.

Why organic lentils?
Lentils in this area are generally from India or Italy. They are grown in CA but not in enough volume to supply the demand. This has more to do with the decline of wheat and barley as commercial crops in CA.

They grow best in dry climates which is mostly all of California and are an ideal food high in nutirents, protein, and carbohydrates. But they are displaced by more profitable crops like rice. I say displaced because rice like lentils is not a natural food staple for Californians. Our food cultures are influenced by what business brings to market.

Rice is water intensive and strangely able to grow anywhere in the world and most places are self sufficient in rice. The growth is primarily a means of shipping water since poor rice growing areas like Egypt can import rice rather than allocate water for its growth. Rice typically requires from 4 to 10 acre-ft of water to produce a rice crop in California

Regions like Vietnam and the Indian Ganges basin would make natural suppliers. But nations monkey with the flow of water and provide business with the ability to grow rice unsustainable. Today California is a major producer of rice.

Lentils on the other hand are grown as rotation crops and require dithiocarbamate and organophosphate mostly in Washington State. These chemicals lead to increased periphyton growth and perhaps even stimulate algal blooms including protozoa.

“Chemicals originating from agricultural activity enter the aquatic environment through
atmospheric deposition, surface run-off or leaching (Kreuger, 1999) and frequently
accumulate in soft-bottom sediments and aquatic organisms (Miles and Pfeuffer, 1997;
Lehotay et al., 1998; Kreuger et al., 1999). In all parts of the world pesticides have been
found in the aquatic ecosystem and often information of how these pesticides affect inhabiting
organisms is missing. In canals in south Florida more than 700 pesticide detections were made
between 1991 and 1995 (Miles and Pfeuffer, 1997). Both commonly used pesticides and pesticides withdrawn from the market years ago do reach and/or accumulate in aquatic
ecosystems and thereby constitute a threat to all aquatic organisms.”

According to the CDC some studies in adults and children have linked organophosphate exposure to lymphoma and leukemia. Home pesticide use overall has been linked to childhood cancers such as soft tissue sarcomas, leukemias, and cancer of the brain.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Brown Rice- Why Califonia organic?

Soak one cup in two and a half cups water overnight in the 5”pot. Cook for two hours with something else or by itself.

Brown rice can be eaten whole in the morning like cereal with milk and maple syrup. Or as a staple with the meal.

Rice prices have been going up resulting in riots in Haiti, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Many countries like India and Egypt have put restrictions on exports to maintain domestic supplies. I pick up bags of Massa Organic Rice at the Chico Farmers Market. Its also available at markets in San Francisco. Rice is under pressure recently from genetics but fortunately is able to hold its own in California thanks to Lundberg and AB2622.

Chicken curry with potatoes

One onion chopped into thin strips which are then halved.

Half inch ginger. Two cloves garlic. Chop fine.

2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon tumeric powder.
One or two serano chilis chopped fine (less to your taste)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil.

One large potato chopped into 1/2 inch piecies. Layer into the pot. Watch the quantity.
Two small tomatos chopped into tiny piecies. Layer.
Salt to taste.

Cook for an hour or more until potatoes are done.

Chicken chopped into 1” pieces layered on top.
Sprinkle with garam masala to color chicken.

Cook for another hour. Indian chicken in throughly cooked and the potatoes are done till they are soft and mushy.

Remove and add a handfull of cilantro chopped fine. Mix by turning everything over in the pot and let cool before serving.

Serve with plain rice.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chard with Beets: seasonal food has less pesticides

Raymond from the organic Calderon Farm table at the farmer's market has very good looking chard, beets and celery this time of year.

One bunch chard and one bunch beet leaves chopped into one inch strips and then soaked and rinsed in cold water to remove any mud.

Layer in the 6” oval roaster with
remaining stalks cut fine.
One stalk celery cut fine.
One crushed garlic,
salt to taste,
two tablespoons hot new mexico chilli powder.

Rinse and peel the beets and then cut into 1/ 8” slices and add to layers.

Cook in the winter position with the reflector, for 1.5 hours. Mix with two tablespoons white wine vinegar and one tablespoon olive oil before serving.

Use the rinse water on your plants!

Where our food is grown makes a big difference. There are trace amounts of pesticide in organic food from surrounding farms in a process called pesticide drift. The pattern of residues found in organic foods tested by the PDP, a Congress funded USDA program from 1991 called the “Pesticide Data Program”, differs markedly from the pattern in conventional samples. Conventional fruits are 3.6 times more likely to contain residues than organic fruit samples and conventional vegetables are 6.8 times more likely to have one or more detectable residue.

Compared to organic produce, conventional samples also contain multiple residues. Imported foods consistently contain more residues than domestic samples, regardless of market claim. "A few pro-pesticide activists have gone to great lengths to convince consumers that pesticide residues in organic foods are as risky as those in conventional foods. Fortunately, these claims do not pass the laugh test."

Conventional agriculture is addicted to toxic death. Sprayed from the sky these toxins spread with capriciousness of the wind god. The government, in the pocket book of large corporate farmers, does nothing. So an NGO developed a reporting system for farmers to report drift.
And Panna has developed a drift catcher to help in reporting.

And Organic Consumer has asked for new rules to protect consumers in this article by Larry Jacobs who grows organic Del Cabo tomatoes at a coop in Cabo San Lucas and Santa Cruz and which are available at most grocery stores around here.

But we have the power to choose our food wisely. Buying organic and local has relevance to what kind of pesticides we consume. In Did your shopping list kill a songbird? BRIDGET STUTCHBURY notes that the imported fruits and vegetables found in our shopping carts in winter and early spring are grown with types and amounts of pesticides that would often be illegal in the United States. Leonard Doyle reaches the same conclusion: The number of migratory songbirds returning to North America has gone into sharp decline due to the unregulated use of highly toxic pesticides and other chemicals across Latin America. Ornithologists blame the demand for out-of-season fruit and vegetables and other crops in North America and Europe for the destruction of tens of millions of passerine birds.

Learning how to eat seasonally from the farmers market is an important skill in planetary preservation.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Winter position

This is the solar oven in the winter position. For summer see this post.

It is open without the cover or reflector so that you can see the 6" oval roaster and the 5"round pot inside.
Note that it is standing on its narrow end so maximize solar exposure to the low winter sun.

This is the solar oven in the winter position with the cover and reflector on.

You would use it in this way from November to the solstice on March 21st.

You can still cook fish or light vegetables like zucchini without the reflector but just about anything else will not get hot enough. So the reflector is essential in the winter.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beechwood threatens the Coastal Commission.

Half Moon Bay is looking to a settlement with Yamagiwa in its 15 year dispute with Keenan over wetlands. Keenan developed the Whole Food's site in Palo Alto and knows how to do good infill development.

However the Beechwood settlement is flawed and threatens to runaround the Coastal Commission. A pro development majority on the Half Moon Bay City Council has embraced the flawed Yamagiwa decision and dragged their feet on the appeal.

Either way there were upsides to an appeal. The threatened bankruptcy would have benefited the coast and residents by reverting authority to the county. And appellate courts reduce judgments anyway. But the council sees an opportunity to bypass the Coastal Commission and under cover of the judgement give away large tracts for development.

The Coastal Commission while allowing some development has been the strongest landuse authority in the state protecting peoples health. In San Mateo the evidence is clear to see with miles of beautiful coastline, low pollution and clean air. This has also made the San Mateo coast the desired second home destination of wealthy people which has raised the stakes between large scale sprawl and coastal preservation. Weakening the coastal commission will improve sprawl's profitability with AB1991 at the expense of existing agricultural practices

Come on what’s not there to like here. The view of brussel sprouts and the smell of sea breezes? Or stop and go traffic, carbon monoxide and killer roads?

Agricultural land prices has continued to suffer as state subsidies for roads and infrastructure favor toxicity and imports at the expense of farmers. By not valuing environmental services from farmers such as carbon sequestration, wetland filtration, soil preservation, etc. the state forces landuse turnovers.

Created by ballot initiative to protect the coast and resident’s health the Coastal Commission is now seeing its authority eroded by two Sierra Club supported legislators. Both Leland Yee and Gene Mullins are rushing to support the Half Moon Bay city council in their misguided effort to rescue the city and the development deal. The council sees itself as the preserver of toxic development to erode our food basket. Steadier heads need to prevail. If for no other reason than that AB32 requires us to re-imagine how we use energy and build cities. Don’t rush AB 1991 through. The city should make the settlement work without AB 1991.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spicy Rice with Collard Greens- auto dependence leads to food riots

Slice one inch of ginger thin and put in 6” oval pot. Add half a teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, two serano chillies cut into thin rounds, and two tablespoons oil. One clove garlic minced. Mix so the oil covers everything. These will rise to the top and “fry”.

One cup whole brown rice. Two cups waters. Salt to taste.

One bunch collard greens spines removed and tossed. The rest chopped into one inch squares. Place on top of the rice.

Cook for two hour in the winter position with the reflector, more if cloudy.

Optional if you use less salt- add juice of half a lemon or marinated red onions.

We get Massa Organic rice from the Chico Farmers Market. Rice prices have been rising leading to tension and riots around the world. This is challenging since most of the world is self sufficient in rice.

Instead of addressing our dependence on cars with pedestrian friendly cities policy makers are rushing to subsidize ethanol. The result is that we are Starving the People To Feed the Cars.

MICHAEL GRUNWALD writes that "by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry.
Four years ago, two University of Minnesota researchers predicted the ranks of the hungry would drop to 625 million by 2025; last year, after adjusting for the inflationary effects of biofuels, they increased their prediction to 1.2 billion. The lesson behind the math is that on a warming planet, land is an incredibly precious commodity, and every acre used to generate fuel is an acre that can't be used to generate the food needed to feed us or the carbon storage needed to save us."

Lester Brown writes that the grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year.

Biofuels like corn, which we are subsidizing, threaten streams by reducing their environmental service. As streams weaken in their ability to remove nitrogen from fertilizer, more runoff gets to the sea, where algae grows and dies, creating huge oxygen deprived dead zones.

It would be a poor tradeoff if we killed the seas to fuel our cars.

Why solar cooking

Its healthy- cooking at low temperatures preserves enzymes. Ovens reach a minimum temperature of 225 deg or more. Protozoa and bugs are killed above 170 degrees.

No pollution- You don’t generate carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide from the cooking process. This is a big problem in the third world where people cook with firewood in doors and women and children suffer from high rates of asthma and lung cancer from black carbon (soot.) Which is a pity because the sun is abundant and free down there. And in the third world they wouldn’t need to deforest the planet for firewood.

Can’t burn food- The pots in the Solar Sport Oven doesn’t get hot enough for food to burn. Even with higher temperature ovens like Sun Ovens the temperature is not high enough to burn food. The worst that can happen is that the food will be overdone and taste like mush.

Can’t burn the house- This one is obvious.

You don’t need oil. I have nothing against oil but since food can’t burn you don’t need it in solar cooking. Add oil after your food is cooked, as a highlight just before serving, the same way you would for salad, and preserve the essential acids that are nutritious in most oils.

Tastes good- Solar cooked food has none of the opened amino acids that result for burning or over heating food. Solar cooking allows the natural flavors in food to present themselves. Mixing these flavors provides taste. Its possible to cut back on salt too by using lemon, after cooking, to release more flavors from food.

Doesn’t need gas or electric energy- energy costs money. Solar cooking pays for itself within a year. There is a Tulsi Hybrid solar oven which charges a battery to use electric heat to finish cooking if the sun goes away. But here where the weather is mild I can cook for three or four days and store most foods on the cool counter top. Of course meats and fish need to consumed after cooking or can be stored in a cool dark place for the next meal, but vegetables and beans will stay for a couple of days. Heat in conventional cooking is used to get water hot.

Use less water- reduced washing since being limited to a few pots means you are not getting everything in the kitchen dirty and since the food doesn't burn you don't have stuff to scrub off. And most foods don't need any water unless you are reconstituting energy intensive beans etc.

Recreation time- Because you don’t have to pay attention to the pot since you can’t burn the house down you can go fishing or ride your bike or do your chores. Set you timer and do something else. The sun also acts as a timer so if you are going out place the oven in a spot that will get shade after the needed cooking time has elapsed.

Disadvantages- The normally burned food that is unhealthy for you, but which a lot of people like, BBQ and french sauces, can’t be cooked in a solar oven.

More benefits here


Barbagelata Farms from Linden brings cranberry beans to the Belmont market. Cranberry beans are similar to Pinto beans.

Soak a cup overnight in 2 1/2 cups of water in the 5" round pot. Salt before cooking. Fresh beans need less water. If you are using really dried beans from the grocery store and like them soft use 3 cups of water. Otherwise the store beans will be al dente..

Place in the oven in the winter position with the reflector. Cook for two hours more if its overcast. Check for doneness and cook longer if necessary.

Serve whole, on a salad, or mash with mozzarella cheese and make burritos or tacos.

Hard boiled eggs

Not using your eggs up fast enough? Hard boil em and they will store longer in the fridge.

Two to four eggs. Place in the 5” round pot and put in the oven in the winter position with the reflector for almost an hour. Remove cool and refrigerate.

My friend Ed said that for many things we eat the “established scientific opinion” is out on organic versus non organic. But on eggs its clear that there is a benefit for organic. Beyond the obvious lack of toxins there are more nutrients. Dr Ben Kim likes them and Dr. Mercola summarizes the benefits of organic eggs.

There are eggs at many farmers markets. The San Mateo City College market has them. However the Belmont market does not.

Indian style lentils

Finely dice or slice one inch of ginger thin and put in 7” pot. Add half a teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, two serano chillies cut into thin rounds, and two tablespoons oil. Mix so the oil covers everything. These will rise to the top and “fry”.

One cup whole or cleaned orange mung lentils or as available. Two and a quarter cups waters. Salt to taste.

Cook for one hour in the oven in the winter position with the reflector. Longer- another hour- for whole lentils that have not been soaked.

Remove and add juice of half a lemon and half a bunch chopped cilantro.

Root vegetable roast

Peel and trim beets, carrots, potatoes as needed. Use turnip, rutabaga, celery, onion, etc as available. I buy it all from the Calderon Farm table at the farmer's market.

Cut into half inch or larger pieces. Mix two table spoons olive oil and one clove crushed garlic. Salt and toss roots in the olive oil and crushed garlic in the 6” oval roaster. Add one large 5” cut of rosemary. Add chili cayene if necessary.

Bake in the oven in the winter position with the reflector for 90 minutes to two hours depending on how much root vegetables are in the pot.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Salmont collapse- There's nothing bad for you at the farmers market

So said Michael Pollan at a recent talk at Stanford promoting his new book "In Defense of Food."

We can get fish from Half Moon Bay at some farmer’s markets like the San Mateo City College Market and the Menlo Park market. Pietro Parravano explains that salmon require management of both, ocean where the focus has been, and land based habitats, where salmon are born and die. The land habitats are under pressure from water usage causing the wild fisheries to collapse of the west coast.

“Craig Barbre, of Morro Bay, said he and his wife took their boat to troll off the coast of Alaska last summer and may have to do the same this year. But with soaring fuel costs, there's no guarantee they can make ends meet.”

But given the price of salmon or tuna at the farmer's market people feel that they are doing the environment a favor by consuming farmed salmon. Belmont is only 12 miles from Half Moon Bay yet its impossible to get fish from Half Moon Bay in Belmont. There are three Safeways in Belmont. Farmed salmon from Marine Harvest in Chile are dying of Infectious Salmon Anemia. “Many of these salmon still end up in American grocery stores Costco and Safeway."

The Times article says farmed fish consume “medicated food” which “contained antibiotics and pigment as well as hormones to make the fish grow faster.” The antibiotics are used in higher doses than are allowed in the US and "some antibiotics that are not allowed in American aquaculture, like flumequine and oxolinic acid, are legal in Chile and may increase antibiotic resistance for people." The feed is colorized with "rosy, which has been associated with retina problems in humans."

That these sick salmon could end up in the food supply is not surprising. Downer cows have been in the food supply for a while and the recent big recall only happened because of exposure.

So eat less salmon (or tuna) and get local fish from the farmer’s market or out at the coast. We should be eating less predatory fish anyway, because our mercury tailings from power plants, static removers, florescent bulbs, thermometers, etc. ends up concentrated in the large predators, along with other pollutants, and the government irresponsibly puts a label warning on fish instead of addressing the issues with product manufacture and disposal.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Arugula flower salad.

This time of year J&M has arugula on a stalk with the flowers. The plant looks like the mustard plant except smaller and with larger whitish blossoms.

1/4 pound arugula
One bunch arugula flowers picked off stems.
One orange cut into small pieces
Fistful of broken nuts.
Fistful of radish cut into 1/8” rounds
Half a celery stalk chopped fine and small if desired.

Pour two tablespoons olive oil and toss salad. Salt to taste. Add two tablespoon white vinegar and toss. Add two teaspoon balsamic and toss.

Add shredded cheese or brown rice and serve.

Whole lentils with mushroom stock.

Celery is one of those things that need a community to consume. I never can seem to finish a bundle of celery.

Two and a half cups mushrooms stock one cup whole lentils. You should have saved enough stock from cooking mushrooms and other vegetables. Add equivalent water if you don't have enough stock. If the stock is recent you can soak the pulses overnight.

Place in 7” round pot and cook in the summer position, yes we just passed the spring equinox, with the reflector on for one hour. If cooking in the early morning use a 2x4 to tilt the oven toward the lower sun. I use some books here. Note that the summer position is the wide part of the oven down.

Remove, salt, one clove crushed garlic, half a stalk celery chopped fine and three to four sprigs parsley chopped fine. Optional- add half a teaspoon curry powder. Mix cover and let sit in the heat of the lentils to blunt the harshness from the garlic and celery before serving

Mushroom Anti Pasta

J&M used to be in Gilroy, about 40 miles of Belmont. Their ID on the Pacific Farmer’s Market web site still says that.

But their farm was sold to grow homes during the last housing boom and they have moved to Fresno. Their sister farm still grows mushrooms in Morgan Hill by Coyote Valley and may do so for another decade.

Sustainable San Mateo County in their 2007 Indicators Report writes under Agriculture about out challenge: Farmland—or “working landscapes”—if managed sustainably can provide significant environmental and quality of life benefits, such as open space and healthy microclimates. Controlled grazing helps minimize soil erosion and control invasive weeds. Locally grown food contributes to the county’s food security, reduces transportation- related air pollution and costs, maintains food freshness and nutrition, and protects land from urban sprawl. Organic farming practices are especially important for maintaining agricultural vitality because they reduce the harmful environmental and health effects of pesticides and protect long-term soil quality.

Separate button style mushrooms from caps. Any small round mushroom will work. You can compost the stalks or use them for additional stock. Clean with a brush or rinse and toss in a 7” round pot and cook for an hour without the reflector in the summer position.

Mix juice of one lemon, equal part white vinegar, equal part olive oil, one crushed garlic clove, five to six sprigs parsley chopped fine, chives of two spring onions chopped fine, and salt.

Combine mushrooms and marinade. Let sit for four hours stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. You should have about 3/4 cup mushroom stock in the pot which you should save to cook grains like whole lentils for a grain salad.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bread Pudding.

I buy Real Bread from Whole Foods. This bread goes bad in about four to five days as food is supposed to. So after three or four days I use the leftover bread in a break pudding.

Real Bread comes to the Berkeley Farmers Markets. These markets are run by the EcoCenter in the city of Berkeley. The Belmont market on the other hand is run by a consortium which, fortunately for us, holds markets all over the Peninsula.

Soak half a handfull dried fruit in two table spoons brandy overnight. Raisins and berries work well.

Two cups milk, two eggs, three tablespoons brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, two teaspoons vanilla, half a teaspoon cinnamon, one two inch strip of lemon rind. Mix well in the 6” oval roaster. Use more sugar or add a half cup of chopped fruit if you like it sweeter.

Add handfull crumbled nuts and brandy soaked dried fruit.

Five slices whole bread or six slices other bread or cake cut into tiny cubes. Toss in and push around so that it looks soaked in the mix. Sprinkle on one tablespoon brown sugar on top to caramelize the surface.

Place in the in the oven in the winter position with the reflector with the reflector on for an hour. Its important to level the oven for this one otherwise the pudding dries out on the high side. So adjust the level using the liquid in the pot as a guide before you close the pot and the oven. When done remove the lid from the pot so that no condensation forms on the pudding. Serve with whipped cream or eat plain.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stir fry greens with marinated onions

One of the vendors J&M brings pre-washed arugula and other winter greens. They also bring ready to stir fry mixed young winter greens. These aren’t as young as the winter salad greens at the Chico market but ok for stir frying. But we solar cookers don't need to kill the food by stir frying it and vaporizing oil all over our kitchens to ruin our indoor air quality.

Place half a pound young greens in the 6” oval pot and place in the oven in the winter position with the reflector. Bake for one hour. Remove and let cool then cut chop roughly into bite sized portions.

Mix one lemon, equal parts white wine vinegar, one teaspoon sugar, half teaspoon salt, stiring until the sugar disolves. Add one fine chopped red onion turning occasionally for an hour. You can also use a white onion but marinade it overnight.

Combine greens and onions with two teaspoons of the marinade, drizzle a salad oil like sesame or walnut, and salt to taste.

Why should the Farmer’s market be our main source of food

- Fresh food is tasty. Only Farmer’s markets can deliver vine rippened food since its picked before being driven to the market. Vine rippened food is not only the tastiest, it is hard to transport for large agribusiness with distant markets. That's why grocery stores have mealy fruits and vegetables which are picked early for shelf life.

- Its local. The neighboring air and water quality region supplies food to our farmers markets.

- Season food may be healthy. Plants that can survive winter temperatures are different than plants which grow in the summer. The contrasting foods and related storage technologies of drying and picking food are what the human species has evolved on.

- Seasonal food may have less pesticides. The best strawberries occur for a brief period in May when the fruit is filled with sun stored sugars and ripeness. However the popularity of strawberries makes farmer’s try to produce them year round. This time of the year a week before the Spring Equinox there were four vendors at today’s market selling strawberries. Not one of them was organic. These out of season strawberries look like the real thing but they have an insipid cellulosic texture like flavored water with a mild dull strawberry taste. Yet, more than 50% of the farmer’s market in May is made up vendors of loud delicious organic strawberries. Even grocery store shelves are filled with delicious organic berries in May. My conclusion is that foods grown out of season and locality are more susceptible to pests which may prevent organic production.

- No garbage. The store bought food is package for storage and to reduce handling and personnel costs. Food packaging is what makes up the major component of out garbage. The trimmings from the vegetables and fruit from the farmer’s market goes into the compost bin to feed our soil.

- You can further reduce garbage by cleaning and folding your plastic bags, and bundling them in little packets with a rubber band, and then storing the bundle in your cloth market bags. Use these “recycle” plastic bags for the produce from the Farmer’s market stands. When you get home from the farmer's market, clean and fold them back into bundles.

- It spoils if you don’t consume it. Now this may be counter intuitive but if food doesn’t spoil there is something terribly wrong with it, and the chemicals we end up consuming, that is preventing the natural life process from changing the produce.

- take a shopping list. Buy what you need not what you think you will need. Using the grocery store for spot supplies is better than filling your compost pile with farmer’s market spoilage and then not going back to the market.

- Reduced water and energy use. Food packaging in the store is a surrogate for water. The centralized processing plants used by corporate agriculture washes and disinfects produce with bleach before packaging, sometimes not successfully. The finished toxifed product is packaged for long term storage on refriderated and humidified, read energy intensive, grocery shelves. Today’s farmers makets can deliver mud free food. However if the winter greens or beets are muddy chop them as you need and then soak them over night in water. After you put the greens into their cooking pots use the water in your garden.

- Small growers who come to farmers market could be safer and cleaner.

- Fresh food is more nutritious (and cooking it slowly and at low temperatures preserves nutrition.)

- Preserve your water supply. The water supply gets contaminated by pesticide runoff.
However at the farmer’s market, vendors are confronted by customers who want tasty food and ask questions like "do you use pesticides?" Now no farmer will claim to use pesticides. More surprisingly even the farmers who aren’t rated organic claim their food has no pesticide and that they are working on certification. So if nothing the farmers market informs farmers that customers prefer food free of poisons.

- This site is a good repository for news and research into the health consequences of environmental pollution:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Baked whole Lentils with broccoli.

Onions won’t saute in a solar oven and may retain their astringent smell and flavor.

Chop half a large yellow onion in half and then cut thin. Saute on the stove stirring for one minute in the 6” oval pot. Turn off the stove.

Add one cup whole lentils and two cups water. The goal is to get dry cooked lentils. Use more water if you like them soft. Salt to taste.

In the 5” round pot trim the florets off a stalk of a broccoli, then peel and chop the stalk fine.

Place both in the oven in the winter position with the reflector. Remove the broccoli after forty five minutes but leave the lentils for another hour.

Crush two cloves garlic in a half a lemon juice with equal parts white wine vinegar.

Mix everything together. Salt to taste.
Grate cheese of choice over if desired.

(Note- If the lentils are soaked overnight both brocolli and lentils and can be cooked in one pot for one hour. To do this soak the lentils in two cups of water.)
Return to oven for a half hour.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Solar cooking basics.

There are many reasons to solar cook. This post explains how.

Don’t use water. You only need water if you are going to reconstitute foods like pasta or beans. By now you’ve noticed from the recipes that there is no water utilized. Water is one of the hardest materials to heat on the planet. Bad. And it leaches nutrients out of the food. Bad.

Watch the quantity. More food takes longer to cook. Better to split between two pots. Cook what you need.

Use a sharp knife. Very important. Sharp knives are safer to use because you are not forcing the blade down and make cooking fun. Keep a witting stone around.

The sun moves 15 deg each hour. If you are using a timer, point your oven to the sun and then rotate it in the direction of the sun for the cooking time. For example if you need an hour rotate the oven 15 degrees. If you are not using a timer do the same thing but place the oven in a spot where it will be covered in shade after the cooking time has elapsed.

Use a timer. You don’t want the food to be overdone and taste like mush. So use a timer.

Use thin black pots. The green house effect in the oven generates enough heat for a thin black pot to absorb and pass onto (conduct) the food. Using anything else will unnecessarily be using solar heat to warm the pot. Non black pots may not even cook the food. Winsom's a nice hardware store in San Mateo carries or will order these pots for you.

You don’t need oil. I have nothing against oil but since food can’t burn you don’t need it in solar cooking. Add oil after your food is cooked as a highlight just before serving, the same way you would for salad or if its necessary for flavor.

The solar sport oven will condense water at the top when the food is cooked. That a quick easy visual guide to get the food out. If you are running an errand and may not be back in time put the oven in a spot where you know there will be shade in an hour after cooking.

Roots like potatoes and carrots take a longer time to cook- AND Don't NEED Water!

Save the stock for soups. Most foods will release a stock at the bottom of the pot after cooking. Keep the stock in the refrigerator. When you have two cups blend the stock with whatever cold vegetables leftovers are available. For example blending broccoli and stock makes broccoli soup. Strain if you want to keep the broth clear. Serve cold or warm with herbs on top. Two cautionary notes- Use your stock up in a few days and go easy on the salt when you cook the food.

Have fun. You can’t burn the house or the food in the solar oven. The worst thing that can happen is a dense cloud cover will require you cook the food on the stove or in a regular oven at 240 deg for the same amount of time you would have left it out. So go ride your bike or do whatever you want while the sun is cooking your food.

Ok and solar cooking doesn't use any fossil fuelish energy. You keep money in the bank, about 75 cents per day, every day you cook with the sun.

Mustard greens and kale with beens (or sausage) and marinated onions.

The beans and onions will add color, texture, and taste to the mix.

As we’ve moved away from the soil, our food supply has become unseasonal. The supermarkets in winter have the same summer supply of tomatoes and avacadoes, in their hard and tasteless varieties. The farmers market too are affected by consumer choice. The Belmont market does not have kale or mustard greens. These winter greens grow well in our climate and add essential nutrients to the diet. Whole Foods carries them, $2/- each, from Bakersfield all washed and healthy, but wrapped in a plasticized metal wire spined paper that cannot be recycled. Its as if the supplier has figured out a market without those consumer's environmental considerations.

Michael Pollan in In Defense of Food says to eat more leaves less seeds (like rice wheat beans potatoes etc.) We don’t need that much protein for a healthy diet. He says don't focus on nutrients, just make sure you are not eating food your grandmother wouldn't eat.

Soak half a cup beans for 24 hours in one and half cup water. Salt. Put into the 5” round pot.

Cut the stalks off the kale and discard. Chop the remaining leaves about 1/2 inch by two inches. Do the same with half the mustard but fine chop the stalks too. Soak overnight in cold water to get the grit off. If you buy the leaves from Whole Foods you can save this step since they carry washed leaves.

One clove garlic chopped fine.

Layer into the 6” oval roaster with salt, garlic, and red chili flakes to taste.
You will have to pack to fit the leaves.

Put both pots in the solar sport oven in the winter position with the reflector for one and a half hours. You might need another hour if its overcast.

(For more color and texture- Take three medium sized red potatoes cut in half, slice thin and add on top of the greens.)

Marinade one half of a small red onion cut into 1/2 inch by 1/8 inch pieces, in half a lemon juice, equal quantity white wine vinegar, one teaspoon sugar, and half a teaspoon salt turning often to make sure it all marinates.

Mix it all together making sure to unpack the cooked leaves. Drizzle olive oil to taste before serving.

If you prefer meat add two sausages. Place the sausages in the same oval roaster buried in the leaves. When done cut in half across the length, then peel. Dice the remainder and toss in the mix.