Back to the Kitchen: A Party with a "Food Truck" Theme

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Gwen Kenneally and Birthday Boy Richard Doran.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of catering long time Studio City resident Richard Doran’s 70th birthday party! His wife Elaine and I had been plotting for months to make this a truly special event! Since Richard is a musician  (and an artist who owns Satsuma Gallery in Noho), she wanted it to have a concert/festival feel. The amazing Rushin’ Dragin played awesome music!

What would be more perfect than to have several stations around the house and let the “food trucks” roll in! I got to shop at my favorite Cuban, Italian, Armenian, Asian, Argentina and Mexican markets! Here is the menu and some of the most requested recipes of the evening! Think of the limitless possibilities in matching food with music and celebrating great friends and family!

Richard Doran’s Birthday Bash Menu

Appetizer Truck

Coconut Shrimp

Vegetarian Moon Rolls with Apricot Sauce

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Skewers with Homemade Mozzarella

Mexican Truck- Margaritaville

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Pineapple and Mango Salsa

Tomato Salsa


Homemade chips

Mini Carne Asada Tacos

Mini Chicken and Black Bean Tacos

Roasted Pepper and Goat cheese Empanadas

Fiesta Chopped Caesar

Hamburger Truck –Born In The USA

Mini Cheese Sliders

Mini Turkey Burgers with Cranberry and Ginger

Aides Gourmet Sausages

Homemade Mustard

Six Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

Chopped Salad

Italian Truck- That’s Amore

Homemade Grilled Mini Pizza

Vegetarian Lasagna

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Asian Truck- China Girl

Chinese Chicken Salad

Stir-fry Veggies and Rice

Sweet Truck- American Pie

Pie Holes


Donut Holes

Carrot Cake (birthday cake)

Coffee Service



Shrimp with Coconut

3 lbs shrimp

3 cups shredded coconut (on a plate)

2 cups pancake mix

1 cup orange juice

1/2-cup coconut milk (more to thin the batter)

2 eggs

1-teaspoon cayenne pepper

Peanut oil for frying

Set deep fryer or wok for 375. In a bowl mix pancake mix, eggs O.J. coconut milk and cayenne pepper. Holding by the tail dip each shrimp into the batter, roll in the coconut and drop into bubbling oil. Do not over crowd the fryer; cooking several batches as necessary. Fry until shrimp are golden brown; about 3 minutes. (Don’t over cook, as the shrimp gets tough). Drain on a brown bag. Serve hot.

Vegetarian Moon Rolls with Apricot Sauce

1-tablespoon olive oil

1-teaspoon sesame oil

Pinch of sea salt

1-cup carrots

1 each red and yellow bell peppers,

Halved and sliced

1 1/2 cups snow peas, thinly sliced

1 cup green cabbage, chopped

2 cloves garlic

1-teaspoon fresh ginger

1/4-cup fresh cilantro

2-teaspoon sake

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1/4-cup hosin sauce

1-tablespoon chili sauce

1-package pot sticker wrappers

1 egg, beaten

Heat wok over high heat until very hot. Add oil and salt, then garlic and ginger. Cook for a minute and then add the rest of the veggies and cook about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer to a bowl and add sake, vinegar, hoisin sauce, chili sauce and cilantro.

To make moon rolls, place 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling in the center of the wrapper. Using your fingers or a pastry brush spread egg all around the edges. Fold in half and pinch the edges tightly. The look like little half moons! Heat 3 cups of canola or peanut oil on high heat. Drop egg rolls in batches of 3 and cook for one minute.

.Dipping Sauce

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 inch fresh ginger, finely minced

½ cup apricot preserves

½ cup orange marmalade

4 Tablespoon rice vinegar (and/or sake)

Using enough liquid to make a smooth, but not runny, consistency.

Serve with: Chinese hot mustard

Carne Asada

Makes 20 mini tacos

3 lbs skirt steak


juice of 1 lime

Juice of 2 oranges

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup minced cilantro

1-2 Serrano chilies, minced (to taste)

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoons ground coriander seed

1/2 teaspoons oregano

1/4 teaspoons ground cumin seed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

black pepper to taste

To assemble:

1/4-cup red onions minced

1/4-cup cilantro minced

12 tortillas (if you want homemade recipe follows)

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a container with a lid that will fit the meat. Marinade over night. When you’re ready to grill the meat, remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. Scrape any excess marinade off the meat and place the meat on the grill. Cook until nicely browned on one side, flip and brown the other side. Be careful not to overcook it.

Transfer the Carne Asada to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Use a sharp knife to roughly chop up the meat then add it to a bowl with the sweet onions, cilantro, and any juices that accumulated cutting board.

Serve the Carne Asada with fresh tortillas, salsa and guacamole!

Flour Tortillas

2 cups of all-purpose or whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons of vegetable oil

3/4 cups of warm milk

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil. Slowly add the warm milk. Stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed. Knead for two minutes on a floured surface. Dough should be firm and soft. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes. After the dough has rested, break off 20 sections, roll them into balls in your hands, place on a plate (make sure they aren’t touching) and then cover balls with damp cloth for 10 minutes. After dough has rested place a dough ball on a floured surface, pat it out into a two-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about four inches in diameter. Don’t over work the dough, or it’ll be stiff. Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook. In a dry iron skillet heated on high, cook the tortilla about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done. Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a napkin until ready to eat.

Mango Salsa

2 mangos

Juice of 2-3 limes

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup very finely slivered fresh ginger

1 red onion, cut into thin slivers

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 to 2 small jalapeno, minced

1/2 cup coarsely cut cilantro

Pinch salt, to pop the flavors

Mix lime and lemon juices, salt, ginger and onion. Add jalapeno. (Caution: The heat will intensify as the salsa stands.) Toss together mangos, onions and red pepper. Mix with lime mixture. Just before serving, stir in cilantro. Best served within an hour or two of mixing.

Turkey Burger with Cranberries and Ginger

1-pound ground Turkey

2 scallions, thinly chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 inch ginger, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Splash soy sauce

4 burger buns or rolls

1 cup Asian lettuce mix

In a medium bowl mix the turkey, scallions, cranberries, garlic. , ginger, red pepper and soy sauce. Divide into 4 patties. Over medium coals place on BBQ (or skillet or stovetop grill) and cook for 10 minutes and flip and cook 5-10 minutes longer. Serve on a bun with 1/4-cup Asian lettuce, Chinese style mustard and wasabi mustard. (In a small bowl whisk together 1/4-cup Dijon Mustard and 1 tablespoon wasabi paste.)

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Buttermilk Balsamic

1 bunch asparagus

1 zucchini

2 yellow squash

1 eggplant

1 red pepper, seeded

2 ears corn

1 small jicama, chopped

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bunch arugula

1 head romaine

Salt and pepper

Lightly coat asparagus, zucchini, squash, eggplant, pepper and corn with olive oil. Heat cast iron grill pan over high heat. Grill vegetables until tender. Toss arugula and romaine leaves with jicama and Tomatoes. With buttermilk balsamic dressing e in a bowl. Arrange on platter and top with grilled vegetables. You can top with ground pepper, shaved Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese.

Buttermilk Balsamic Dressing

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1-cup well-shaken low-fat buttermilk

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup Balsamic

1-cup olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients until well mixed. Let stand for one hour.

Noni’s Zucchini Lasagna

3 pounds zucchini, scrubbed

5 cups tomato sauce

2-pounds ricotta cheese

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil and nutmeg

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1-pound mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

Slice zucchini into long slices. Cook in boiling water just until limp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Combine ricotta, eggs, parsley, seasoning and half of the Parmesan cheese in a bowl. Set aside. In a 9×13 pan, spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce. Arrange layer of zucchini over this. Spoon half of the reserved ricotta mixture on top of the zucchini. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the rest of the zucchini over this, layer more tomato sauce and top with remaining ricotta mixture. Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. 

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 1 hour or until top is brown. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Asian Chicken Salad

For the dressing:

In a small bowl whisk together:

3 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1-cup peanut butter

1/4-cup soy sauce

1-cup rice wine vinegar

1-tablespoon wasabi paste

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Crushed red pepper to taste

In a slow steady stream add:

1/4-cup sesame oil

1/2-cup canola oil

For the salad

2 pounds chicken breasts, poached (see below)

3 cups white cabbage, shredded

3 cups red cabbage, shredded

2 large carrots, peeled, grated

4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

Toss together and then lightly dress.

A note on poaching chicken breasts:

This is the simplest way to cook chicken breasts. (It even works for the frozen breasts in a bag.) Everyone says that my chicken is so tender. Place the breasts in a pot. Fill to cover with cold water. Add what ever you have and like. Garlic, salt, pepper onions, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, white wine. Bring to a boil and remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes. It will be the most amazing chicken ever.

Mini Meyer Lemon Curd Tartlets

3 eggs

6 tablespoons melted butter

1-cup bakers sugar (super fine)

Juice and zest from 3 Meyer Lemons

Beat the eggs and melted butter. Add the sugar and beat thoroughly. Add the lemon juice and zest and combined well. Place in the top of a double broiler and stir constantly until thickened. Chill overnight.

Mini Crust

½ cup butter

½ cup cream cheese

1-cup flour

Mix then form in small balls. Press in mini muffin pans push up the sides. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes until golden. Fill with Meyer Lemon Curd, top with a raspberry and chill.


1 and 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)

1/4-teaspoon salt

1/2-teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1/2-cup flour

2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces

3/4-cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a nine-inch baking pan with bakers joy.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and nuts and chocolate chips. Bake for 45 minutes let cool completely before cutting into squares. You can then cut the squares on an angle for little triangles.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.