Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Veganomicon Goes to Church: Mushroom and Walnut Pate

Iv has been dreading this day. In A Word of Introduction, I promised that I would be "exposing my social network" to the joy of vegan cooking, and one aspect of my social network I was eager to try was coffee hour at our church. "You're going to inflict this food on those poor people?!" Iv would exclaim every time I made the threat. But this time, there was no stopping me. It was going to be a vegan coffee hour.

(Or at least the stuff I made was going to be. Iv sought to undo the fallout by making cookies loaded down with cream cheese, butter, and eggs.)

Anyway, for my part, I made hummus (not the Veganomicon recipe, which is adequate but unimpressive) with carrots and celery, and the walnut and mushroom pate (page 64) with baguettes.

With this proposed menu began Iv's litany of objections:

Iv: Really? You're going to use that cookbook?

Me: You remember we really have had some good things from it, right?

Iv: Yeah, but pate?

Me: We're Episcopalians. Pate is normal.

Iv: For coffee hour? Without wine?

Me: Well we don't have to call it pate. We can call it a dip.

Iv: Well you can't call pate a dip. It's too thick for that.

Me: How about spread?

Iv: Fine. Whatever. At least my cookies will be there to rescue you when everyone spits your food out.

Having worn him down, I proceeded with the recipe. I started off toasting some walnuts on the stovetop. Keep a close eye on this, because I burned my first batch. Just do it over medium heat until the nuts are fragrant. Any longer than that and you'll have some scorched nuts on your hands.

You run the walnuts through your food processor till they're chopped finely. Just leave them there, we'll come back to them. Meanwhile, you saute some onion and garlic til the onions are translucent. Then add salt, pepper, thyme, and tarragon, and cook it for just a minute longer, till the herbs are fragrant. Dump in a pound of coursely chopped mushrooms and cook for a few minutes longer, until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid and they're really soft. They should go from light grey to a medium brown in this process.

Once that's done, let it cool slightly and add it to the food processor, along with about half a can of white beans (the recipe calls for cannellini, but I used great northern), and a little bit of balsamic vinegar. The recipe suggests using vegetable stock to thin the puree out a little bit, but it seemed like a waste of time to thaw a few tablespoons of stock for this purpose, so I just used water and the results were fine. The result is a nice thick puree, which you then chill till it sets a bit.

So how did the pate go over at church? Memo to Iv: I told you so.

While the pate comes out kind of a dull grey mush, it has a nice, layered flavor, with the mushrooms having the starring role, but with the walnuts providing some depth and the beans adding body. The balsamic vinegar adds sweetness and just a bare hint of acidity (incidentally, the recipe calls for one teaspoon. After tasting I used just a little more).

But who cares what I think? It was a hit at church, with more than a few coming back for seconds and one choir member coming back for thirds. When asked, I forthrightly explained what it was (though never advertising its vegan-ness), but it sure doesn't look like anyone felt deprived. The hummus sold well, too, and in all fairness, only one of Iv's 96 cookies was left over.

I totally forgot to take a camera to church with me, so photographically all I've got to show you is the little bit I managed to reserve and bring back home. I know it doesn't look that appetizing, but pate never really does. In any case, immediately after I took this picture, I hoovered it up with a stalk of celery. I didn't save any for Iv on account of his bad attitude. Serves him right.


Kirsten said...

This sounds yummy. We've had a lot of fun including pomegranate molasses in walnut-lentil vegetarian pates. It's kind of like the balsamic - sweet/acidic - but a with a bit more presence.

graciela. said...

Stumbled on your blog while looking for pics for the beanballs (which I'm making tonight). I'm definitely going to keep up with your adventure. You've made a lot of the things I haven't gotten around to (I've been going through the baking and soup sections). Keep on cooking :-)

Katy said...

Thank you very much for posting this, I made the mushroom pate today and it pleased all my guests including a serious meat/dairy eater and a mushroom un-enthusiast. What a wonderful combination of flavors.