My oldest sister Alia is a DJ and party-thrower based out of Santa Cruz. She is a part of cooperative organization called Raindance, that throws epic music and dance parties all throughout California and beyond. One of their biggest events every summer is a weekend-long party out in the woods called the Raindance Campout, and this year she brought me along to cook for the set-up crew and staff for the 3 days before the party began!
She told me I would be making breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, and that there was an estimated 20-50 people to feed (the number increasing each meal as all the workers, crew and staff started to arrive.) I decided to plan relatively easy meals that would feed a bunch of people, and together we came up with the massive shopping lists.
Once she bought Costco out and picked me up in San Francisco, we headed up to the Mendocino area (Saratoga Springs), where we were the first to arrive on base at an impressive 3:30 am.
We had several hours before other people started to arrive, so once I organized the massive amount of groceries in our homey cabin kitchen, I began to prep in any way I could. My first task was to make an epic amount of hummus (since my motto is you can eat hummus with any meal of the day!). I added an industrial sized can of garbanzo beans, almost a whole can of tahini, three lemons, a whole lot of garlic, salt and water to the food processor I thankfully brought with me and tampered with the mixture until I got the perfect flavor and consistency. Throughout the week I would keep a small bowl of hummus out with some chips on the table and refill it periodically so the whole tub wouldn't disappear in one go!
I knew that night I was planning on Taco night, so I decided to get ahead and make a large vat of mango- avocado salsa. I diced up three mangoes, a handful of baby carrots, fresh thyme, garlic and lots of ginger.
I halved maybe 7 or 8 ripe avocados and added them to my salsa with the juice of a whole lemon and lime squeezed in, and added sea salt, cumin, black pepper, cayenne and drizzle of agave.
When the evening started to set in and more and more crew started to arrive with bellies grumbling, I began assembling the taco train. I sauteed two or three onions, several orange and yellow peppers, crimini mushrooms and chopped garlic in olive oil and spiced the lot with the usual salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin and paprika.
Even though I am a vegetarian, I took on the ground beef next. I began by sauteing a chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic in some olive oil in the bottom of a large pot. Once the onions were translucent, I threw in all of the ground beef my sister had purchased and began breaking it up with a metal spatula as it cooked. I eventually spiced with salt, chili flakes, cayenne, cumin and a few splashes of brags here and there. When I saw that it was cooked enough, I asked other people to taste it for me and they were surprisingly impressed at the flavor.
I heated each corn tortilla on the flame of the burner (flipping each side until it was warm and starting to blacken) and kept them warm in the oven. I had opened a big industrial can of black beans and added spices and garlic to it as it warmed up on the back burner.
I finally set out the avocado-mango salsa, some hummus, some grated cheese, cilantro and the tortillas and allowed people to help themselves down the taco train!
The next morning I got up early and began preparing a hefty breakfast to sustain the busy worker bees. I took the same route in sauteing veggies (we had bought everything in bulk so I used the same ingredients over and over) to go in a big egg scramble. Once the veggies were cooked and spiced to my liking, I drained the extra liquid out of the pan and added probably 25-30 eggs I had cracked into a bowl and very very lightly pre-scrambled. I made sure to stay on scrambling the eggs in the pan every few minutes until eventually I had a perfectly cooked, perfectly moist scramble filled with delicious veggies. I added a touch more salt, cumin and cayenne to it.
My sister had bought a big bag of pre-prepared pancake mix, so I spiced it up by adding fresh ginger, banana, cinnamon and frozen organic blueberries.
We also made several batches of bacon for the meat eaters, which I tackled by spreading the strips of bacon out on cookie sheets and baking them on high heat in the oven. This is a great way to cook bacon in large quantities!
I also re-heated the black beans from the night before, and also set out the mango-avocado salsa and more hummus.
As soon as I was fed myself and cleaned up after the big breakfast that about 25-30 people showed up for, I began prepping for lunch. I decided to re-use my left overs and made two big fresh taco salads. (One veggie, one with some of the left-over taco meat.)
I washed several heads of romaine lettuce and mixed it with the mixed greens Alia had purchased, and added fresh diced red, orange and yellow peppers, cucumber, cilantro, tomatoes, left over black beans, and fresh avocado. I whipped up a salad dressing by adding chopped garlic and ginger, fresh rosemary, olive oil, braggs, lemon, agave, salt, cinnamon, and water.
I also set out a bunch of bread, cold cuts, cheese and condiments so people could build their own sandwiches. Lunch was at no particular time so I left everything out and labeled it so people could come in at their own hunger alarms.
After a small break, I began prepping the pasta sauce for the big dinner that night. In a big pot I sauteed several onions, mushrooms, peppers, garlic, ginger and rosemary in olive oil...
Once I had added one industrial sized can of tomato paste and one of diced tomatoes, I added some initial spices and a few splashes of red wine and put it on low. Since I needed to get out of that kitchen for awhile, I left a sign inviting people coming in and out to stir the sauce in my absence.
About an hour before serving, I added a bunch of fresh organic kale someone had dropped by our cabin.
Since we were planning on serving so many people that night, I moved everything over to the industrial sized kitchen in the main lodge. I found the biggest pot I could in there, and filled it with water to take on a massive amount of spaghetti noodles.
I got some helpers in the kitchen who were also cooking some food to contribute, and they helped prep the garlic bread Alia had picked up, while I worked on the salad.
I took mixed greens and added yellow and red peppers and chopped asparagus. I tossed it with more of the salad dressing I had made earlier that day.
The next morning was my final scheduled breakfast and I pretty much repeated everything, but added a roasted potato dish. I boiled them briefly so they would be softer and easy to roast, and then tossed them with stripes of onion, diced garlic, salt, curry, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and black pepper.
I roasted the potatoes at about 450* in the oven, stirring often, until they were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. I squeezed a touch of lemon on them right before serving!
Although my big meal duties were technically over, hungry bellies continually showed up at out cabin headquarters, so I found myself constantly preparing snacks and light meals throughout the rest of the campout.
Even though my hands were raw from washing dishes and my feet were numb from standing, I felt strangely fulfilled from feeding so many people... And finally it was time to put down the spatulas and cutting knives and hit the dance floor!!