Walking past the fish counter in the grocery store the other day, a display of beautiful red fillets caught my eye. I don’t even really like salmon, but the deep color of the fish couldn’t be passed by. The man at the fish counter politely answered all of my questions (because you practically need a degree in marine biology to decide which fish is sustainable and which fish comes with a pile of guilt) and even explained the wild sockeye commodity market (who knew). This is all to say that after all of this chitchat, there was no way I could leave this counter without a package of expensive fish. So, I didn’t. Besides, a Sun Bucket can sear sockeye salmon in no time.
Starting temperature of the Sun Bucket was 670 °F (354 C).
If there’s something that needs boiling, I do that first when the Sun Bucket is at its hottest. Tonight that meant 1.25L of water and 2 lbs of small, yellow potatoes in a covered pot. A full rolling boil took ten minutes – and then I let them boil for another ten. At this point, the potatoes were fork tender, but still too firm for potato salad, so I removed the pot from the heat, kept the lid on, and let them finish cooking while I got everything else going.
Next up: asparagus. I sauteed up one small shallot in about a tablespoon of olive oil. When that was translucent and starting to brown, I added the asparagus. I let the asparagus and shallots saute for about 7 minutes, stirring them occasionally. I like my asparagus bright green and on firm side of done, no limp, dark green mush.
In an effort to reduce clean-up tonight, I used the asparagus pan for the salmon. Also, this is a more efficient use of the Sun Bucket’s energy since that pan was already hot. (Though this fact alone isn’t compelling enough to make me change my cooking habits – if I’d have rather used my small pan, I would’ve used my small pan!)
The sockeye in all of its dark-pink glory got a healthy seasoning of salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. I let another tablespoon of olive oil heat up in the pan, and added the fillets, skin side down.
While I enjoyed the sound of salmon sizzling from stored solar energy, I drained the potatoes. My favorite potato salad is a recipe of Joanna Weir’s that has slowly evolved over the years (mostly due to forgetfulness) into this warm, salty excuse for olives. While the potatoes were still warm, they were cut in half, tossed with the juice from half of a lemon, salt, pepper, a handful of sliced green olives, a little olive oil, a clove of minced garlic, and some flat leaf parsley. When the potatoes are hot, they absorb all of this citrusy goodness, and melt the shaved Parmesan that’s sprinkled on top.
Fixing up the potato salad took all of 4 or 5 minutes, so I returned to the salmon and flipped the fillets. The skin of the salmon had gotten nicely crisp and browned, was cooked part way through. I let the salmon cook on the other side while I prepared a quick aioli for the asparagus and fish: 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 T. of dijon mustard, juice of one lemon, and 1/3 C. mayonnaise. When I was done with that, I flipped the salmon back over and was delighted with the color and the crust that had formed.
So far, the Sun Bucket was in use for 40 minutes and cooked 1.8 kg of food with an approximate caloric value of 1200 calories (this does not include any ingredients in the potato salad besides the potatoes themselves, nor the aioli).
I put a lid on the Sun Bucket while we ate our dinner. 35 minutes later, I decided to see if there was enough oomph left in the Sun Bucket for grilled peaches. There was! I greased my grill pan with a little butter and put two peaches, cut side down in the pan. It took about 6 minutes per side and the grill marks are not pronounced, but the peaches were softened and warm and immediately melted the ice cream with which they were served.
I was cooking with solar energy well after dark to make dessert (and thus, please excuse the terrible lighting).
Adding the peaches to tonight’s cooking totals yields 2.1 kg of food and approximately 1300 calories (2000 if you include the aioli and everything that went into the potato salad).