Two Heads of Lettuce

Simple recipes for vegetarian potlucks. Would you like to join the Two Heads of Lettuce team? Contact twoheadsoflettuce at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Potluck Tips From the Washington Post

This week's Washington Post features an article about how pervasive potlucks have become in (maintream adult) people's lives. I mostly disagree with the author's opinion that potlucks are all the rage not because people are interested in community building, but simply because they don't have time to cook full meals. Time is definitely a factor, but I also think that most of us who live the potluck life are committed to potlucks for a whole host of reasons that have to do with community.

That said, the Post also ran a good selection of potluck tips from DC-area chefs and catering professionals. They're not all practical (I challenge you to use an upside-down watermelon as a grilled-vegetable holder at your next potluck!), but some are great. Enjoy, and keep cooking!

Green Salad

Hardy greens -- such as romaine lettuce, radicchio, endive and frisee -- hold up well.

Instead of creamy dressings, use a vinaigrette -- it's safer for warm weather.

Place the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, place the greens on top, toss when you get to the party. (Thanks to Steve Dunn, Well Dunn Catering)

Pasta Salad

Make the salad vegetarian-friendly by adding garbanzo beans and French white beans.

For added flavor, toss in some sliced black olives, whole Spanish caper berries and lemon zest. (Anita Ellis, Avalon Caterers)

For the potluck meal-in-one: Use a sesame noodle salad as a base, add grilled shrimp or grilled boneless chicken breast (Editor's note: tofu, seitan, or chicken-flavored wheat gluten would make lovely kosher vegetarian substitutes) as well as shredded raw carrots and broccoli, julienne snow peas and blanched asparagus tips. (Deborah Allen, Federal City Caterers)

Potato Salad

For deep potato flavor, roast the spuds instead of boiling them and proceed with your regular recipe. Or, for a change, use sweet potatoes with diced yellow bell pepper, red onion and either cilantro or parsley. Mix with a simple peanut dressing made with peanut butter thinned with a little vegetable oil and vegetable broth. (O'Rourke)

Vegetable Casserole

Don't use canned soup; instead, bind ingredients together with cheese, eggs or a simple white sauce. (Maria O'Rourke, RSVP Catering)

Fruit Salad

Think round. Round shapes are more attractive and tend to hold up better. (Ellis)

If the fruit isn't perfectly ripe, toss the cut pieces in a little orange liqueur.

For a refreshing summer salad: Mix orange and grapefruit sections with chopped candied ginger. (Dunn)

Fruit kebabs eliminate the need for a fork and are a good way to control portion size. (Henry Dinardo, Catering by Windows)


Frozen cubes of watermelon are just the thing for chilling lemonade, in the glass or in the punch bowl. (Susan Gage, Susan Gage Caterers)

For spritzers, freeze a cherry, grape, lemon or lime wedge in ice cubes. (Dinardo)


Instead of Tupperware and aluminum pans, bring a gift in a gift. Colorful, inexpensive bowls and platters, for less than $12, are available at stores such as Ikea and Target. (Susan Lacz, Ridgewells)

For a disposable, natural container: Hollow out a sourdough boule and fill it with seasoned flatbread crisps, breadsticks and cheese straws. A giant papaya is a perfect container for salsa. Use a small watermelon half, rind up, as a holder for small skewers of grilled vegetables. (Bill Homan, Design Cuisine)

Present your Asian seafood or sesame noodle salad in disposable, clear plastic Chinese takeout boxes, available at many paper/party stores. Don't forget the chopsticks and fortune cookies. (Lauren Levine, Festive Foods Catering)

Using a mandoline, cut paper-thin slices of vegetables such as carrots and zucchini. Alternating colors, line the inside of a glass salad bowl with the slices. (Eric Michael, Occasions Caterers)

It's the perfect time of year for a quick and easy gazpacho. Serve it in clear votive-candle holders, available for about 25 cents each at Ikea. (Philippe Demol, 3Citron)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Versatile Moroccan Vinaigrette

This is a yummy, savory, spice-ful vinaigrette to pour over any kind of grain or vegetable salad you can dream up. It's particularly good over sliced steamed or blanched carrots.

2/3 cup olive oil
2+ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1.5 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small clove garlic, minced (or a large roasted garlic clove)
generous pinch of cayenne
1/3 cup tightly packed parsley or cilantro, minced
1 tsp salt, or to taste
lots of freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well. (Putting them in an old glass jar and shaking works well.) Pour over carrots, other vegetables, grains, or grain salads. Keeps in the refrigerator for two weeks. Refresh with additional fresh lemon juice and herbs if you use it more than a day or so after making it.

Patty's Apple Cake

This is a crunchy, moist, sweet/tart cake, especially delicious for Sukkot or Rosh Hashanah meals.

3 tart baking apples (I use Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and cut in chunks or 1/8th inch thick slices (should be about 3 cups)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 inch pie pan.
Cream the butter and sugar (you can use your hands for this if you don't have a mixer), add the egg, and beat until light and fluffy.
Mix together the dry ingredients.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together.
Gently stir the apples into the batter. It will seem hard to do, given how stiff the batter is! Just make sure to coat all the apples with the batter.
Put batter in pan and smooth out the top.
Bake approximately one hour, or until done.

Deb's Quiche with EAR's adaptations

This is an easy, particularly flavorful quiche. It's also easily adaptable-- you can substitute any kind of cheeses you like for the hard cheeses listed below, and other veggies for the spinach as long as you make sure you have enough. One caveat: I haven't made this in a while and can't remember if the recipe makes one or two quiches, though I think it's two. Pie crusts usually come packaged in twos or threes anyway, so if there's more filling than will fit in one crust, make another quiche and either save it for next time or be a potluck superstar by bringing two wherever you're going.

1 onion, chopped
a little olive oil or butter for sauteeing the onions
10 ounces (or whatever your standard package size is) chopped frozen spinach, thawed & drained
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (or another cheese of your choice)*
1/2 cup parmesan (or another cheese of your choice)
4 eggs
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
1/2 tsp salt (use sparingly and to taste if you're using the feta, which is already salty)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/ tsp nutmeg
1-2 pie crusts (see introduction)**

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Saute the onions in olive oil or butter. When onions are soft and translucent, add the spinach and stir until the spinach is dry.
Sprinkle a mixture of both hard cheeses over the bottom of the crusts.
Top the cheese mixture with the spinach/onion mixture.
Beat together all remaining ingredients (eggs, cottage cheese, spices) and pour into the crusts.
Bake for 50 minutes or until filling is set.

* If you want to use hechshered feta but think the usual domestic kosher brands are from hell and the Israeli brands are too expensive, go for the Millers. I know it sounds crazy, since in general Millers' cheese tastes like plastic, but their feta is great. Rumor has it that they import it from abroad.)

** There are two things to be careful of with pie crusts, one kashrut-related and one health-related. 1) Pie crusts are often made with lard or animal fat. If kashrut or vegetarianism are important to you, you probably want to make sure you buy crusts with a hechsher. 2) Many pie crusts are also made with partially hydrogenated oils. Pie crusts without these oils can generally be found in health food stores.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Szechuan Cabbage Salad

This is a fabulous salad recipe from my mom. (Hi, Mom!) It's always a big hit at parties and potlucks, and couldn't be easier to be prepare.

1 head crinkly Chinese cabbage, sliced thin
1 head purple cabbage, sliced thin
2 cups bean sprouts (optional, and I usually leave them out)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste (plenty)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup toasted sesame oil (or mixture of sesame and other oil)
1 tablespoon hot sesame oil (optional)

Prepare veggies. Combine all dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over veggies and mix very well. It's best to let this salad stand for a half hour or so before serving.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sesame Noodles

This is a recipe i tried out at a recent shabbat dinner at our house after adapting it from It was quite well received. I hope y'all have similar experiences.

Sauce ingredients:
8Tbsp Chunky Peanut Butter
4Tbsp Veggie broth (follow instructions for your veggie broth powder)
9Tbsp Soy Sauce
6Tbsp Sesame Oil
2Tbsp Cider Vinegar
3Tbsp Honey
3 cloves minced garlic
4Tbsp vegetable oil
Other Ingredients:
1 lb cooked cold spaghetti
3 Tbsp sesame seeds.
4-5 Scallions
1 cucumber (in strips)
  1. Put the Peanut Butter, Veggie Broth, and Soy Sauce in covered bowl (leave some space for air to escape. Microwave for 30 second. Stir until the PB is no longer stuck together and the texture is consistent. You may need to put it in the microwave for another 20 seconds to get the texture consistent. this step take some elbow grease.
  2. add all the sauce ingredients. stir well.
  3. add the cold pasta. mix thoroughly. (I like to do it by hand. Make sure the bowl is large enough.)
  4. dice the scallions and cut the cucumbers into strips.
  5. add the scallions, cucumbers, and sesame seeds.
  6. serve chilled if convenient.