Friday, May 22, 1998

Carolyn's Cuisine

Potluck Specials

by Carolyn Shohet

As the school year draws to a close, potluck meals seem to be springing up everywhere. Whether the potluck is part of an annual meeting or a social gathering, one is not only invited to attend but invited to bring some of the repast! The idea is a good one in many respects: you can put your time and energy into making one dish. Or, if youíre the type who would rather purchase than cook, your resources can buy something special. Potluck organizers often ask for a certain category of dish such as an entree, salad or dessert. Other times, no guidance is given: you bring whatever you like. Iím always surprised, in this instance, that an interesting diversity usually falls into place.

Iím happy to share three dishes that Iíve brought to various potlucks over the years. All three work well in transport and are delicious in their own right.

Lo-mein, a Chinese dish, is one of my favorite offerings to bring to such an occasion. This dish is both delicious and economical. It is equally good served warm, cold or at room temperature. I like it as a vegetarian entree but sometimes I add a half-pound of cooked beef, chicken or shrimp to the dish. Substantial yet light, one batch serves at least ten people. I generally buy fresh Chinese noodles at Joyce Chenís but a good-quality spaghetti or vermicelli from anywhere can be substituted. The attractively-colored vegetables and savory dressing make the dish a popular item on the table.


serves 10 or more

1 lb. lo-mein noodles 2 scallions, minced (use white and most

2 T. vegetable oil of green part)

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated 2 colorful bell peppers (one red, one green

1 T. fresh ginger, minced or grated or yellow), diced

2 tomatoes, peeled and diced 1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced any other desired vegetables


2 T. each rice vinegar, sesame oil, oyster sauce

3 T. soy sauce

2 tsp. sugar

1) Shake the five dressing ingredients together.

2) Cook pasta in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain. While still warm, toss with the dressing.

3) Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan. Stir-fry all the vegetables until tender-crisp, about three minutes.

4) Combine vegetables and pasta mixture.


I donít remember where I first got this recipe for black bean and mango salad but itís good enough that Iíve made it a number of times. It is colorful and tasty. The amounts can easily be increased or decreased depending upon how many people you are trying to serve. JalapeŮos add a good bite to the rather mellow though distinctive flavors of the beans and mangos. Black beans have always been essential to Mexican cooking and, with the recent popularity of Caribbean foods, we see them in combination with tropical fruits and vegetables. People seem to either love or hate cilantro, so you can use oregano or parsley in the dressing if you want to play it safe.

Black Bean and Mango Salad

serves 6 to 8

2 cans (16 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed

(or 1 1/2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight and then cooked al dente )

2 ripe mangos, peeled and cut into 1/2Ē chunks

1 tomato, peeled and diced

2 bell peppers, red, yellow, orange, green or a combination

2 jalapeŮo peppers, seeded and minced

1/3 cup finely-minced red onion

1) Toss these salad ingredients together in a serving bowl.


1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. each ground cumin, salt

1/4 chopped, fresh cilantro, oregano or parsley

2) Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad, tossing to coat well.

3) Let flavors meld for at least one hour before serving.

Serve salad garnished with 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, parsley or oregano leaves.



Sometimes itís fun to make a truly spectacular dessert for a potluck table. Something that no one can resistóthoughts of calories and cholesterol get thrown to the winds!

My secret to success in making tortes is a spring form pan. I own three spring forms in 8-inch, 9-inch and 10-inch sizes. I find these an invaluable addition to my kitchen. Desserts that are easy to make come out looking truly elegant. I usually bring the whole spring form with me to the potluck and release the rim before dessert is served. Bring materials for last-minute decorating with you.

My chocolate ladyfinger torte has traveled with me to various occasions. Decorated with whipped cream and a bit of shaved or grated chocolate, it is a sensational dessert, fit for royalty!

Chocolate Ladyfinger Torte

serves 10

8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet pinch of salt

chocolate, broken into small pieces 1 tsp. vanilla

3 T. water or cold coffee 1/4 cup sugar

4 eggs, separated 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, divided

1 stick butter, softened 10 double ladyfingers (20 split)

extra shaved chocolate and fresh mint leaves for garnish

1) Melt chocolate with water or coffee in a mixing bowl placed over simmering water. Remove from heat when chocolate is melted. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in butter, a small amount at a time. Add vanilla and pinch of salt.

2) Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar. Fold this meringue into the chocolate mixture.

3. Beat 1 cup cream until stiff and fold in.

4) Separate ladyfingers and stand them, rounded side out, around the inside of a 9" spring form. Spoon in chocolate filling, spreading evenly. Chill for several hours or overnight.

5) At serving time, whip remaining 1/2 cup cream and spread over top of torte.

6) Decorate as beautifully as you can with chocolate, mint leaves or whatever else strikes your fancy.