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 instant meals for her group. Last year, I made three camp meals—saag pilau, za’atar orzo, and pancakes. This year I added two more—mashed potatoes and tabbouleh. Bulgur—the main ingredient in tabbouleh—is wheat that has been steamed and then dehydrated, so it does not need to be cooked a second time.
Making the tabbouleh has a significant challenge over the other recipes I have created for Burning Man, because it is not really “cooked.” With all of the other recipes you can add some more water as you are cooking—if you underestimated how much liquid you needed. In normal preparation of tabbouleh, you soak the bulgur in plenty of water to re-hydrate it and then squeeze out the excess liquid. At Burning Man “grey water” is a constant problem to be avoided. For this camp meal you have to add some liquid and let the bulgur soak for a while and then test it’s tenderness. If the grains are still too chewy you can add a bit more, just be careful not to make the dish soggy.
Note: Jan is left for Burning Man late the day before yesterday. I have spent the last week buying and prepping food for her trip, as she prerecorded class lectures for the week she would be gone. I finally have time to write up my recipes.
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.
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 Pistachio Tabbouleh for Burning Man
Note: Quantities listed below are for one portion, to feed about 4 people as a main dish.
1 cup bulgur wheat, medium coarse
⅓ cup pistachios
⅓ cup dried parsley
¼ cup dried mint
2 Tbs. dried chives
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. garlic powder
If available add
1. Put the bulgur mix in a pot and stir in cool water.
Tip: For 2 servings use one cup of mix and add ¾+ cup of water and ¼ cup of lemon olive oil.
Note: Check for tenderness after 10 minutes and add more water, if necessary.
2. Let the mixture soak, covered, for 15 minutes.
Tip: Fluff the tabbouleh every five minutes to ensure even absorption of the water.
Note: The water quantities listed may leave some of the bulgur a bit overly chewy.
3. If available, add fresh chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and Kalamata olives.
Note: I added a package of sun dried tomatoes that could be added to the tabbouleh, if fresh ones were not available.