Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Moroccan picnic at Opera in the Park

So, lashings with a wet crostini for taking so long to get this post up, but here at last are some photos from the fabulous Moroccan Picnic.

It's been a few years since we've gone to Opera in the Park, and this year seemed like a great opportunity to take in some culture along with some of that great San Francisco fog. Seriously, I've been both chilled ot the bone and sunburned simultaneously at previous Opera in the Park events -- where else could such a thing happen but in San Francisco?

We didn't enter the picnic contest (was there one this year?), but we had our theme all the same -- a sort of organic, pan-North African/South Europe inspiration, shall we say.

I got there early to stake out some ground, and at 9:30 this was the scene. Yep, pretty far back from the stage already. Do these people get up and get here at 4 am?!? The organizers also have a new set up this year, with a covered tent for the musicians instead of the usual open stage. The violinists who arived early seemed to really like it a lot more -- but in this fog, who could blame them? They had some protection.

Still, I had my blankets and pillows and the Sunday Chronicle, the New York Times and that week's New Yorker. Okay, so I was being optimistic that I'd actually get through the New Yorker, but I did read both papers, which I never get to do on a Sunday. I guess for this to happen every week, I'd have to be up at this hour and stuck in the middle of a field with nothing to do every Sunday.

Anyhow, by 1:30 pm, this was the scene. Yes, it was us and 20,000 of our closest friends. It often amazes me that there are this many opera fans out there, but how could you pass it up when it's free?

Anyway, on to the food. Everyone brought a little something... or a lot of something. Ms. Five-and-a-Half's incredible individual B'stillas (along with her size 5 1/2 shoes) and her Chicken Marbella were indisputably the stars of the picnic. Savory, sweet and totally yummy.

Some of the other items on the menu: Whole Grain Salad courtesy of Helene and Jimo, tomato & cheese salad, citrus salad and fresh figs from Brenda, Spanish tortilla by Don and Karina, a chocolate and raspberry cheesecake from Craig and Rhonda, smoky baba ghanoush and lovely syrup-soaked baklava from Cindy at Food Migration.

Check out the feeding frenzy!

Quarters were close (I knew I should have gotten the 25' tarp!) but the company couldn't be beat -- and needless to say, the singing was terrific.
Opera fans -- check out Mary Dunleavy when she plays Gilda in the SF Opera's Rigoletto.

So our contribution to this feast was some homemade hummus and fresh pita. I have to say, there's nothing like fresh from the oven pita -- and it's remarkably simple to make. Warm pita... mmmm... comfort snacking.

Hummus bi Tahina
  • 4-6-oz. Chick peas (garbanzo beans) soaked overnight and boiled 1 hour or canned, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 2-3 lemons
  • 1/4 pint Tahina (sesame) paste
  • Water
  • 2-3 mashed cloves garlic (I like a little extra garlic myself)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped, fresh cilantro or parsley
  • toasted pita triangles or crackers
Mash chick peas and press through a sieve, OR mix them with lemon juice and a little water and puree in a blender. Mash the garlic cloves with salt and then add them to the chickpea mixture. Blend together until well combined. Add the tahina, then mix with a little water until the mixture is like a creamy mayonnaise. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Some people like a little extra lemon or more salt.

In a separate small bowl, combine the olive oil and paprika. Pour the hummus into a serving bowl and drizzle with paprika & oil. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with pita chips.

Homemade Pitas
2 cups warm (80F ) water
1-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1-1/2 tsp honey
3-3/4 cup bread flour, plus 1-1/2 cups for kneading
1/4 cup rye flour
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil

Combine the water, yeast and honey in a bowl. In a separate large bowl, combine 3-3/4 cup bread flour, rye and salt. Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast liquid, stirring constantly as you pour.

Stir in the oil and add part of the remaining flour until the dough just pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place it in a floured bowl, cover with a wet towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours).

Punch down the dough, turn out again, and knead for a minute. Then divide it into 8 balls. Roll each ball lightly and then place on a floured sheet and cover. Let them rest for 1/2 an hour. In the mean time, preheat the oven to 500F.

Working in batches of two, roll each ball out to about 8 inches around and bake in the oven for about 3 minutes. They should POOF and then deflate. After baking, wrap the pitas loosely with a dry towel to keep them warm and soft until you're ready to serve.

No comments: