When I lived in Paris, pate from the local traiteur - French for fancy take-out - made an inexpensive dinner. Spread on chunks of crisp baguette and accompanied by the sharp, vinegary little pickles called cornichons, it was a quick and filling meal. Healthy, not so much.
Confessing to a vegetarian friend that now I feel guilty eating more than a snippet of fat-laden pate, she uttered one word: mushrooms. This reminded me of a meatless pate I made when I had a catering service. Thinking about its complicated recipe for a few minutes, I jotted down a couple of notes.
Pate can be baked and served sliced, or it can be soft and spreadable, like chicken liver mousse. My original recipe, created in the 1980s to seduce gourmets who scoffed at very idea of meatless pate, was a loaf that included mushrooms, chestnuts, cashews, grated cheese, black bread whirled to crumbs, and more, baked in a long, rectangular pate mold.
To suit today's interests in vegan dishes and easy cooking, I decided to do a spreadable pate made on top of the stove. Saut�ed mushrooms look, taste, and even have a texture that is mildly meaty, so I kept them as the base, in a combination of three kinds, including fresh and dried. I added lots of shallots for moisture as well as flavor. Ground walnuts bring the creamy richness essential to pate while adding good fat instead of the heart-stopping kind. For flavor depth, I included lots of thyme. For a final touch, I added a splash of soy sauce to bring umami, the indefinable fifth flavor that makes everything taste even better.
Served on thin Italian crostini, this pate will please all your guests. Or to pamper yourself when grabbing a quick meal, spread it on pita chips and, like in the ads for that non-butter spread, close your eyes and feel transported to Paris.
Walnut Mushroom Pate
•1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/4 ounce dried porcini or wild mushrooms
• 1/3 cup hot tap water
• 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
• 8 ounces white mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
• 1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
•2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon dried thyme
• 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread walnuts on baking sheet. Stir and toast 5 minutes, until nuts are colored and fragrant. Transfer nuts to plate, cool and set aside.
In small bowl, soak dried mushrooms in water until soft, 20-30 minutes. When soft, squeeze mushrooms until dry, catching their liquid in small bowl. Strain liquid through paper coffee filter or fine strainer and set the liquid aside. Coarsely chop soaked mushrooms and set aside.
In food processor, combine half the fresh mushrooms with shallots, garlic, and half the soaked wild mushrooms. Pulse to chop very fine, 20 times; take care not to over-process. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped mushroom mixture, mixing to combine with oil. In food processor, finely chop remaining fresh and soaked mushrooms, then add to pan. Do not clean out food processor. Cook until mushrooms look wet, 8-10 minutes, stirring often. Add thyme, soy sauce, and reserved mushroom liquid. Continue cooking until mushrooms are golden and cling together, 8 minutes. Set aside.
Add walnuts to food processor, and then cooked mushrooms. Pulse until mushroom-walnut mixture is nubbly; do not puree. Turn warm p�t� into serving bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Or season p�t� and cool to room temperature, cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Garnish with parsley and serve with toast points, crackers or pita chips.
Makes 1 3/4 cups.
Nutritional information per 1 tablespoon serving: 25 calories, 2 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 2 g carbohydrate,
1 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 10 mg sodium.