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.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

marvelous mezze

A mezze platter is one of the most amazingly versatile things you can make - and impressive-looking too, but all of the parts are suprisingly simple. A mezze is a mix of various first-course items that can be eaten together or separately. Below are easy recipes for a few of my favorites. I happen to think that these four, served with a simple green salad, a bowl of olives, and some pita, make a perfect (and extremely colorful) meal. The various components of a mezze are also good individually, on sandwiches, in omelets, as leftovers over rice, as potluck contributions in their own right... etc.

Part 1: Roasted Peppers (smoky and delicious - and only *one* ingredient)

Ingredient: 2-3 sweet bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, or - best of all - a combination of colors)

  • If you have a gas stove: turn on as many burners as you have peppers to a high setting. Place peppers directly on the burner, in the flame. As peppers char, turn them with tongs or an oven mitt so that they blacken evenly on all sides. When skin in black and blistered and peppers are tender, remove from the heat and put peppers in a tightly covered bowl for ten minutes. When you take them out, you will be able to peel off the skins. Once peeled, slice the peppers lengthwise, removing the seeds, and cut into 1/2-inch strips. Serve at room temperature.
  • If you don't have a gas stove: place peppers under the broiler, turning periodically so they blacken evenly on all sides. Once peppers are cooked, follow the instructions above for cooling, peeling, and slicing.
Part 2: Labneh (Lebanese yogurt cheese - *also* only one ingredient)

Ingredient: a carton of yogurt (full-fat works best; nonfat probably won't work at all)

Special equipment: cheesecloth

Procedure: Line a bowl with 5-6 layers of cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the bowl, on top of the cheesecloth. Gather the edges of the cloth, twist tightly, and secure with string, a twist-tie, or a rubber band - you should now have a tight bundle of yogurt. Place this bundle in a colander in the sink, and put something heavy (tuna cans, bags of beans, etc) on top of it to compress it. Leave the bundle in the sink for several hours, periodically tying the cheesecloth tighter (as the yogurt condenses), turning the bundle (to press it evenly on all sides) and re-positioning the heavy objects (ditto). The labneh is ready when it acquires a spreadable consistency (similar to a log of soft goat cheese) - but you can experiement in making it drier or less dry by adjusting the draining time. To serve, you can make a well in the top and fill it with olive oil... or sprinkle with zaatar... or garnish with olives...

Part 3: Hummus

You very likely already have a recipe for this staple, but if you don't - try the one that was posted here in December (not by me) or my recipe, which is posted here.

Part 4: Eggplant Salad (because if you want a rainbow on your table - red-and-yellow peppers, bright white labneh, blue-black olives, hummus that's... whatever color hummus is, a dark green salad - you'll need some purple.)

You can go anywhere with this - I've got a good recipe for sesame eggplant salad, but I've also made a mezze with Indian-inspired eggplant, and you can always go mediterranean. My preference is to *not* go the babaganoush route, since you've already got a couple of spreads and the eggplant is a good place to add some texture. For inspiration, I just found a massive website that includes over 3,000 - I kid you not - eggplant recipes, many of which sound very good. I am awed by Ashbury's Aubergines.

And if anyone has a good recipe for the roasted eggplant salad - slightly sweet, eggplant in strips, with skin still on - that's often served on top of falafel - please post it somewhere! I've been in search of it for months...

(If you're overwhelmed: Sesame Eggplant Salad


  • 1 pound eggplant
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted


  • Trim eggplant; peel and dice into 3/4-inch cubes. Salt, allow to drain for 30 minutes, and pat dry.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet; add eggplant and saute 3-4 minutes, until eggplant is barely tender. Drain in a colander to press out liquid and excess oil.
  • In a bowl, combine all other ingredients. Add eggplant, toss to coat. Serve warm or chilled.)
Put everything - peppers, labneh, hummus, eggplant - in small bowls. Arrange a bowl of olives, and a plate of warm pita, and a green salad - spinach perhaps? Serve to your delighted friends as:
  • lunch
  • the first course of an elegant dinner
  • a potluck contribution

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Indian Rice Pilaf with Green Peas (and optional cashews)

A yummy recipe, courtesy of my kitchen fabulous mom:

2 cups brown basmati rice
2 large onions, chopped
2-3 Tb oil
1 tsp ginger root, minced
2 tsps cumin
2 tsps tumeric
1 tsp garam masala
10 oz. box of frozen peas
water or veggie broth (or a combination of both) - amount per directions on package of rice (generally, 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of liquid)

Optional: 1/2 cup roasted cashews

1. Wash basmati rice in a strainer, drain, and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, saute onions until translucent (+/-10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

3. Add to saucepan: ginger, cumin, tumeric and garam masala and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir fry until each grain of rice is coated with oil/onion/spice mixture, +/- 2 minutes [this makes the rice fluffy and not clumpy].

4. Stir liquid into saucepan. Cover. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a low simmer. Cook as directed on the package of rice (typically, 40 minutes).

5. About 10-15 minutes before rice is done, stir in the green peas. Cover pot again and let finish cooking.

6. Let rice stand for 5 minutes with the cover on; then stir with a fork to fluff, adding cashews if you wish. Serves 12.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Farmers' Market Quinoa

Below is a recipe from my new favorite website, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. These recipies are especially fabulous if you're usually a meat or dairy eater, but aren't familiar with vegan cooking, and happen to live somewhere that kosher dairy and meat are scarce. I often find that for potlucks I want to keep things simple, and cooking vegan is often cheaper than cooking with dairy and eggs. Additionally, for potlucks, vegan dishes often taste better cold and can be left out for many hours without spoiling. Personally, I keep items like canned tomatoes, dried chickpeas, and frozen spinach in the house at all times (in addition to quinoa and pasta), so that I can always whip up a quick main dish for a potluck without having to go to the store.

Enjoy this one and the others on the site! There are always new ones being posted. (and if you're eating at table 1 at Kol Zimrah this Friday, you can taste it yourself!)

I love this recipe because it's full of vegetables. It started life as a pasta recipe in Robin Robertson's book 366 Simply Delicious Dairy-Free Recipes. I've kept her technique of adding soy milk to the sauce, but in addition to substituting the very healthy quinoa for pasta, I've increased the amount of eggplant and herbs used and added some chickpeas. It's still a very mild-tasting dish, but that's perfect for letting the flavors of the veggies shine.

The directions below are for cooking the quinoa in a pressure cooker, but if you don't have one, you can use a stove-top method. Just use 3 cups of water to cook the quinoa in a covered saucepan for about 15 minutes, or until it's tender and shows little white "tails."

Farmers' Market Quinoa

For the quinoa:

1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 1/4 cups water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
3/4 tsp. salt (omit for low-sodium)
1 cup chopped onion
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium yellow squash or zucchini -- cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4 cloves garlic -- minced
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen fire-roasted)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup minced fresh basil -- or 2 tablespoons dried basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
soy parmesan (optional)

Rinse the quinoa well by placing it in a fine-mesh strainer and stirring it under running water for at least 2 minutes. This removes the coating of saponin (a natural insecticide) that can give quinoa a bitter taste.

Bring the water to boil in the pressure cooker and then add the quinoa and seasonings. Lock the lid in place, and bring to high pressure. Cook for one minute at high pressure; then remove from the heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally while you prepare the vegetables.

Spray or wipe a large, covered Dutch oven or wok with a tiny bit of olive oil; heat it over medium heat, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes or until beginning to brown. Add the eggplant, bell pepper, zucchini, and garlic and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently but keeping it covered between stirrings. Add the tomatoes to the pan with their liquid, along with the chickpeas.

Lower the heat to a simmer and continue to cook 5 more minutes. Slowly stir in the soy milk. Blend well and season with oregano, basil, salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked quinoa to the vegetables and mix together thoroughly. Sprinkle with the soy parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately.

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