Wife Jan is going off to Burning Man again. Last year she broke her arm, I hope she comes back in one piece this year. As usual, I am making quick cooking camp meals for her group.
I wanted something that would be quick and easy, so last year I decided to use orzo spiced up with za’atar. I cannot make the same thing the same way twice, so this year I thought that I would add pine nuts for the protein. I also noticed that I had not added salt to the dish—an important ingredient for people who are sweating in a hot dessert.
Food at Burning Man is far more restrictive than simple camping food. It is the ultimate in the philosophy of “you pack it in, you pack it out.” You cannot simply boil a large pot of pasta and then pour out the “grey water.” I also needed to create dishes that would stand up to several days of +100º F desert weather with a minimum of refrigeration.
As I thought about it, I also realized that people would not want to just hang around camp cooking when there was so much else interesting going on. Of course, with all that was going on people would also be very hungry when that did finally stop to eat—and that people might not want to eat all at the same time. I needed to create something that would cook in just a few minutes, that left no “waste water,” that could be cooked in portions as needed, and that would be satisfying to hungry people with varying dietary needs.
I was creating meals for 7-10+ people. I settled on the idea of making “box” dishes—like RiceARoni®. A spice packet, premeasured and mixed ingredients that you just add water to and simmer. By breaking the ingredients into portions, I could allow the Burners to make enough for 4, 8, or 12 people as the situation needed.
The recipe below is for one portion—I will be providing my Burners with three portions of each dish to allow as much flexibility as possible. Each portion should feed four people. Any leftover portion(s) from a particular meal could then be used for a later meal or gifted to another camp later in the week.
Note: In total Jan and I created 7 new recipes for this year’s Sage Camp at Burning Man: Pancakes, saag pilau, za’atar orzo, mashed potatoes, tabbouleh, a new chili powder blend, and a signature cocktail.
Karl’s Za’atar Orzo with Pine Nuts for Burning Man
Note: Quantities listed below are for one portion, to feed four people.
1 cup orzo
⅓ cup pine nuts
2 tsp. za’atar
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 Tbs. olive oil
1. For each portion of bag 1 (1⅓ cup), use 1½ cups of water, one spice packet, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
2. Put the water, bouillon, and oil in a pot—large enough for the amount you are cooking—and bring it to a boil.
3. Stir in the orzo mix.
Tip: shake the bag before measuring out a portion. The spices may have settled to the bottom of the bag.
Note: I am leaving all three portions mixed together in the second bag for maximum flexibility. One spice packet is enough to feed four people as a side dish.
If you wish to make more/or less than one or two portions. For each person± you are planning to feeding, you may measure out ½ cup more or less of bag 1. Add or subtract ⅓ cup of water for each measure.
4. Reduce the heat and simmer for 7 minutes.
Tip: Stir and scrap the bottom of the pot every two minutes. If it seems a bit too dry add more water a quarter cup at a time. The final dish should be a bit wet, but not a soup.
Note: If You wish to make this a main dish you may add cooked chicken or fresh vegetables at this point.
5. Remove the pot from the heat and cover the pot.
6. Let the orzo steam for another 4-5 minutes.
7. Fluff and serve warm.