Catalina Cooking: Vegan Lettuce Tacos Cha Cha Cherry Cove

Lettuce tacos bring flavor and bright colors to the table. Courtesy photo

Nothing beats being invited for a sunset on a friend’s boat at your favorite cove or a someone’s home and they tell you to just “bring an appetizer.”

So many go off to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Pavilions, Bristol Farms, Gelson’s (or whatever your go to place is) to grab the pre packaged additive and preservative heavy choices that have been on the shelves for weeks at a time. That;s the point right. Some are not so bad. But with a few items and a “make it happen” attitude you can really bring a knock out appetizer for meat eaters and vegans alike. When I am on my boat or on the way to the cabin, I package the different elements separate and assemble on the spot. when we opened Chinois on Main with Wolfgang Puck in the early ’80s, we would do minced grilled squab or quail. Have fun. Use lobster, WSB or whatever you would like. No rules whatsoever. Just fun. Try and cashew butter sauce.

• 1 head of living butter lettuce in the clamshell. Leaves careful separated

• 2 T coconut oil

• 1 pound of oyster mushrooms chopped

• 2 shallots minced

• 1 T minced fresh ginger

• 1 T minced fresh garlic

• 3 T minced scallions

• 1 T fresh lemon juice

• 6 T crunchy peanut butter

• 2 T seasoned rice vinegar. (the kind you use for sushi rice)

• 2 T water

• 3 T sweet chili sauce. (the Thai one with syrup and chili flakes)

• 3 T small diced cucumber

• 3 T diced red pepper

• 3 T scallion sliced thin

In a hot sauce pan, add the coconut oil and stir in the ginger and the shallots and let it sizzle for about a minute. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook over high heat until the moisture is gone and they become nutty and on the dryer side. This will take about 10 or so minutes. Be careful not to burn. When the mixture is a bit crispy, toss in the garlic, minced scallions and toss around for another minute. Toss in the lemon juice and set aside to cool.

Now take a mixing bowl and put in the peanut butter, water, vinegar and slowly whisk around until it makes more of a thicker sauce. Add the sweet chili sauce and some minced chili and scallions.

Carefully separate the leaves of the lettuce. You can usually get about 10-12 leaves to be used as the tortilla.

You can serve warm if you are making them on the spot. Other wise arrange the leaves on a platter and divide the mushroom mixture on each leave. Spoon over the peanut vinaigrette and top with some cucumber, red pepper and sliced scallions. Yum. Enjoy.

Capt. Vaughn Allen was a private chef and butler for the ultra rich and famous most of his life. Vaughn was recently called out of retirement to cook the intimate celebration dinner for Sir Ringo Starr and his close friends. Vaughn is a businessman, scuba instructor and most recently a yacht broker in Redondo Beach. You can contact him at


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