When I lived in Paris, pâté 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 pâté, she uttered one word: mushrooms. This reminded me of a meatless pâté I made when I had a catering service. Thinking about its complicated recipe for a few minutes, I jotted down a couple of notes.
Pâté 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 pâté, was a loaf that included mushrooms, chestnuts, cashews, grated cheese, black bread whirled to crumbs, and more, baked in a long, rectangular pâté mold.
To suit today’s interests in vegan dishes and easy cooking, I decided to do a spreadable pâté made on top of the stove. Sautéed 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 pâté 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 pâté 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 Pâté
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 oz. dried porcini or wild mushrooms
1/3 cup hot tap water
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
8 oz. white mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. 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 purée. Turn warm pâté into serving bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Or season pâté 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 1¾ cups.
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.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.