Another frosting free cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart. Plus, it’s vegan. Perfect for those days when I forget to take the butter out of the refrigerator to soften. The batter is very thin, so be sure to get the leveling tray as straight as possible before put the pans in the cooking chamber. It’s a good idea to plan on baking around midday when the Sun Oven won’t need to be tilted.
Sun Oven Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
(adapted for the Sun Oven from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups water
Powdered sugar for dusting
Set Sun Oven out to preheat. Line two 6-muffin pans with paper liners.
Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until well combined. Add the flour mixture and continue beating until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins, filling each one three-quarters full. Using a rack to separate the pans, cross stack the muffin tins in the Sun Oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one cupcake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes (the top cupcakes will cook slightly faster).
Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and cocoa just before serving
Here’s an easy to make (although slightly time consuming to assemble) vegetable side dish that makes good use of the abundance of summer squash from the garden. Stack the pot on top of one with your main dish and you’ve got yourself a fully solar cooked meal.
Sun Oven Summer Vegetable Tian
(adapted for the Sun Oven from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
This dip is great with raw vegetables and can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container and bring it to room temperature before serving.
Sun Oven Roasted Eggplant Dip
(adapted for the Sun Oven from Bon Appétit)
1 large eggplant
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons tahini
On days when I’ve got nothing else going on in my Sun Oven, I like to make a big batch of smothered onions. Just slice up as many onions as your pot can hold. Put them in the pot. Add olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pound, and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat, cover, and cook them in the Sun Oven.
The longer they cook the better they’ll taste. They can be used in soups, as a topping for flat breads, as a pasta sauce, or served as a side dish. Season them with salt and pepper and fresh or dry herbs. Store them in the fridge in an airtight container (before adding any seasonings) for up to three days.
They’ll make your weeknight meals taste like you spent hours slaving over a hot stove when in reality you were out running errands while the Sun Oven did all the work.
Sun Oven Smothered Onion Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
I’m still not used to the Southern California weather phenomenon know as marine layer or June gloom. Many a morning starts out overcast only to clear up by noon; catching me off guard and unprepared for solar cooking. Red lentils are always a good choice on those days. They don’t need to be presoaked and cook faster than any other legume I know of.
Garlicky Sun Oven Red Lentil Soup
1 1/3 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
2 small onions, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, very finely chopped
The flavors and colors of fennel and carrots blend beautifully in this solar baked gratin. Don’t worry about slicing the fennel perfectly, use the pretty slices for the top layer and the less than perfect ones for the bottom.
Sun Oven Fennel and Carrot Gratin
4 medium fennel bulbs, ends trimmed
1 pound carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, divided
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Set Sun Oven out to preheat. Spray a 11 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
Slice the fennel vertically into 1/3-inch-thich slices; place in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; set aside. Slice the carrots on a diagonal into long 1/4-inch-thick slices; place in a bowl and toss with the remaining olive oil and salt.
Spread out 1/2 of the fennel in a single layer in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the thyme and 1 tablespoon of the cheese. Layer all the carrots over the fennel; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 tablespoon cheese. Layer the remaining fennel slices over the carrots, top with the remaining thyme and cheese. Cover the baking dish with tin foil and a tea towel. Bake in the Sun Oven until vegetables are tender, 40 minutes to 1 hour.
Makes 8 servings.
Most Sun Oven cooking is done in a covered pot. This is to keep the moisture in the food from fogging up the glass door which lowers the temperature of the cooking chamber. But I’ve found that some faster cooking foods, such as vegetables, come out better if left uncovered. Even without a lid they tend to be done by the time the glass fogs up and since the steam isn’t trapped in the pot they come out a little crispier.
Today I put it to the test with two batches of asparagus and acorn squash. There wasn’t any noticeable difference between the covered squash and the uncovered, but the uncovered asparagus came out slightly browned and with a pleasant crunch to it and the covered batch did not.
Covered or uncovered, it’s a good idea to set a timer when solar cooking spring vegetables, unlike meats and stews that seem to get better the longer they cook in the Sun Oven, delicate greens can overcook and get soggy.
The next time you make a pot of black beans save some of the cooking liquid for a batch of solar cooked black bean rice. It makes a great side dish to just about any South-of-the-border entree.
Black Bean Rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup medium grain rice
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped