The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 133: Enchiladas del Sol

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

You might not want to carry your kitchen sink into the backcountry, but you can take an oven and make a gourmet dinner. This week on The WildeBeat; Enchiladas del Sol

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number one thirty three.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: At the end of last fall, in our edition number one seventeen, we heard from author Linda Frederick Yaffe. Linda has written several books on backcountry cooking, including Backpack Gourmet, and her latest, Solar Cooking for Home and Camp. When we last heard from her, she demonstrated baking a cake in a solar-powered oven. But that oven was a bit too heavy and cumbersome to carry into the backcountry. So Linda agreed to come back and show us a solar oven that was light enough to carry on your back.

STEVE: Linda, welcome to the WildeBeat.


STEVE: So can you describe that cooker.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Yes. The folding panel cooker is a wonderful, simple invention. It's used in many parts of the world by people's who are nomadic, and can actually carry it with them to pasteurize water, and to cook rice and beans. There's no reason why we can't use it when we're camping. It's a large clamshell, but it folds up to about six inches by three feet, so you can lash it to the back of your pack very easily.

STEVE: And so, your book describes in more detail how to build one of these?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Exactly. It takes you step-by-step through assembling one from materials that you have at home; the cardboard, the aluminum foil.

STEVE: OK. So what are going to cook in this clamshell solar oven?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Today I'm making some versatile enchiladas. These are so easy, and they can be made by nearly any ingredient you have on hand.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: To make solar enchaladas, I like to start with a whole-grain tortilla. Spread them out on the counter. You can fill these with just about anything you like. What I'm putting in today, are some left-over beans that I have from another meal, and I'm adding some chopped cheese. A nice mild cheese. So I'm spreading those over the centers of the tortillas, and then I'm going to add some taco seasoning. Just sprinkle some over the top to give it a little bit of authentic flavor. Then I'm going to roll these up; roll the ends, and roll toward the center. And them I'm going to go ahead and put them into this oiled pot. This is a very good pot for doing solar cooking. It's dark-colored. It's thin metal, so it heats quickly. And, it's very low, so that it has a lot of exposure to the sun. So I put a little oil in the bottom of this pot to keep my enchiladas from sticking. And then I'm just rolling them up, and sticking them into this ...small turkey roaster.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: And I'm taking some fresh tomatoes that I've just gotten out of the garden... And I'm just going to slice-up some tomatoes. And I'm just going to lay those right on top of the enchiladas. And that's going to be my sauce for the day. You could use a real sauce, but I'm just going to use a lot of raw, fresh tomatoes today, and they will cook beautifully in the solar cooker. Now I'm going to put the lid on this thing, and we're going to step out and put it into the solar cooker.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: ...I'm going to place this is the solar cooker for about two hours.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: This is a very, very lightweight cooker that's just excellent ...for backpacking. I can fold this up and lash it to my backpack, carry it in. If I'm going to be at a base camp for a couple of days, this is invaluable. I can pasteurize water, I can heat lunches, heat dinners, it's wonderful. This is a very simple cooker. It's made of cardboard, covered with alumninum foil. It's in sort of a clamshell shape, so that we get reflection front to back. It's completely open. Then inside the clamshell, I have an oven bag... Nylon oven bags are made by Reynolds, and they've been making these for years and years. Many people use them for cooking turkeys or hams; large roasts that they want to not dry out in the oven. They're wonderful for solar cooking. They act as an oven for this little tiny turkey roaster that I have.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Here are the enchiladas. The raw tomatoes are cooking beautifully. And the cheese is melted. We've got cheese, beans, and some lovely ripe tomatoes in here. These are ready to go in almost no time. If I had put these in at the camp site at about ten A-M, they would certainly be more than ready to eat for lunch.

STEVE: ...The pan that you're using with the lid, this looks like that enamel ware that a lot of us might have grown up with. But, can you go over sort of the range of things that could possibly work in this situation, in case somebody doesn't have this exact sort of proper pan?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Yes indeed. I love using my camping pots. I have blackened camping pots that I have been using since the sixties, so they have gotten nice and dark from many fires long ago, and they work perfectly because they're black on the outside, and easy to clean on the inside. Solar cooking is wonderful because the pots are so easy to clean, because you're working at a low temperature you never have burned-on food.

STEVE: How hot is this pot? I mean is it hot to the touch?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Yes... You would definiitely need to protect your hands. This one is running about two hundred degrees today.

STEVE: That's a little bit below the boiling point, but it's apparently hot enough to cook the meat and so on?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Yes it is. I always use a thermometer. If I'm cooking meat I have a probe, instant read probe thermometer, and I would stick that into the center of the meat to be sure it has reached the proper termperature.

STEVE: Now in your first appearance on the WildeBeat, you talked about dehydrating food. Is there a way that we can sort of combine all of these techniques now into a meal? For example, can we have all of the ingredients for these enchiladas dehydrated and ready to go for simplifying the baking on the trail?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Yes. Absolutely. You can take a dehydrated meal and reconstitute it in the solar cookers on the trail if you want to do it that way. Or, you can dehydrate ingredients separately and bring them with you, and actually cook on the trail.

STEVE: Can you just kind of go down a list of some of the things that you've made, in camp, with this solar oven?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: I highly recommend baking potatoes or sweet potatoes in a solar oven They are really tasty. You just simply scrub the potatoes or sweet potatoes, put them in the solar cooker for about six hours, take them out and enjoy them. They're very good. Corn on the cob is excellent, and that cooks very quickly, it takes about an hour and a half. Simply wipe off the ears of corn, do not remove the husk, put the corn whole into the solar cooker for about an hour and a half, then strip it and enjoy it.

STEVE: If someone wants to experiment with taking this clamshell solar oven in the backcountry, what kind of meals would work best for them to plan to prepare for that?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Basic lentils, and basic rice aare wonderful. They're very, very easy to make. You can take two little pots, and do a pot of lentils and a pot of rice. You'll be very happy with the results. It's very simple, because you don't need many other ingredients. I find with solar cooking, you don't need a lot of seasoning. It's really quite surprising how good very simple foods cooked very simply taste. For example, fresh vegetables are amazingly good cooked in a solar cooker, with no oil, no salt, no pepper. You really can taste each individual vegetable so beautifully, it's worth trying.

STEVE: What are some things that they might have difficulty with, and should avoid trying in the solar oven?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: I think that baked goods work very well if you cook them in the middle of the day, when the sun is directly overhead. I would avoid trying to bake too early or too late.

STEVE:Linda Frederick Yaffe is the author of several books on backcountry cooking, including Backpack Gourmet, High Trail Cookery, and her latest, Solar Cooking for Home and Camp. Linda, thank you for appearing on the WildeBeat.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: My pleasure. Thank you.

STEVE: We'd like to hear your about your experiences with backcountry baking, or questions about it we can pass on to Linda. And we'd always love to hear any other comments you have about our show. You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. You can find pictures of the solar oven in action, a recipe for enchiladas del sol, links to Linda's books, and an extended high-quality stereo version of this show, on our web site.

STEVE: This edition was produced with funds provided by listeners like you. Become a WildeBeat member and get bonus gifts of backcountry meals, books, access to bonus audio programs, and more.

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Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. If we helped you get into the wilderness, could you help us do the same for others? Please click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Insitute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number one thirty three. Thank you for listening.

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Next time -- bear-isol.

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