Start your solar-cooking adventures with this easy, delicious, and safe recipe. Rabbit-Nest Sun Carrots have a bold, bright flavor that will please adults and adventurous kids. It's safe because the sun's heat is captured by dark chard leaves instead of messy and possibly toxic paint on the outside of the jar. If the sky is cloudy or you'd rather not cook with the sun, see the microwaving tips below.
Finding safe, dark cookware
Many instructions for solar cooking insist on dark cookware or jars painted black. Paint can be toxic, fragile, and a mess. When I started experimenting with solar cookers, I asked my local hardware store for non-toxic, high-temperature paint. Once home, I was shocked to read in the fine print that the paint might cause birth defects and cause other health problems.
I returned that paint and sought the help of my art-store guru. She recommended RAS acrylic color, which is rated ACMI non-toxic. But a quick google revealed this warning about ACMI non-toxic certification:
Do not eat, drink or smoke while using art and craft materials. Wash up after use - Clean yourself and your supplies. Never use products for skin painting or food preparation unless indicated that the product is meant to be used in this way.
Reading that and thinking about how the paint would get on my hands and in my lungs when I took the hot jar out of the roasting bag made me pause before painting.
Thinking inside the jar
Fortunately, my Taster is also a mechanical engineer. He said painting the jar black can help the jar get a little hotter in the sun, but not much. The hot jar passes heat on to the food, at least as much of it as can make it through the glass.
Then my Taster asked the magic question:
Why not use the sun to heat the food directly instead of heating the jar?
He explained that when you let the short waves of visible sunlight go through the glass to heat up the food, the hot food will radiate longer infra-red waves. The infra-red waves can't go through the glass, so they bounce around inside the jar and keep the food hot.
I launched a series of tests with dark food inside a clear jar. The rabbit nest -- dark green chard leaves lining a jar top to bottom -- works like a charm. Other dark foods worked well too, as you'll see in other recipes coming soon. Another test showed that putting a clear jar in a dark stocking actually lowered the temperature compared to the same food in a clear jar.
Rabbit-Nest Sun Carrots with Rainbow Chard
Active time: 8 minutes. Total time: 2 to 3 hours using a simple solar oven, depending on the weather. Yield: 2 cups or 4 servings.
- 3 small leaves rainbow chard or ruby chard
- 2 large carrots
- 1 tablespoon Greek dressing
- 1 lemon or 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard
- Line the inside of a 2 cup canning jar with chard leaves. Trim chard stems that stick up over the top of the jar and cut if needed so they fit into the jar.
- Cut carrots lengthwise into quarters, then cut them to fit inside the jar. Gently put chard stems and carrots into the jar, avoiding tearing chard leaves if possible. Put a lid on the canning jar and barely tighten the ring. Cook in a solar oven until carrots are tender, about two or three hours.
- Make Greek dressing: juice lemon and mince garlic, put all ingredients in a small jar, and shake to combine.
- When carrots are done, slide vegetables onto a cutting board and chop into bite-sized pieces. Toss with Greek dressing and serve hot or at room temperature. The carrots and dressing keep refrigerated for about 5 days, although they are at their best the first day.