I am not a vegetarian, but I love vegetables. So once we’re past the meat-saturated holidays and deep in the belly of winter, and the farmer’s market offerings are thinning, I find myself craving all things green and orange and purple…
This recipe is vegetables on veggies with a sprinkle of veg. Given you can’t swing a sack of offal in San Francisco without hitting a vegetarian, a recipe like this comes in handy for parties, tea or otherwise. It is also vegan and gluten free.
A lot of vegetarian pâté recipes try really hard to make it look and taste like chicken liver. Some recipes even add wheat flour, which seems more papier-mâché than pâté. I like to let the vegetables be vegetables. Adding the caramelized onions adds a lot of flavor. Using great quality veg never hurts.
We’re soaking the almonds to make them more nutritious and digestible, and dressing things up a bit with an olive tapenade and some pretty vegetable “crackers” made with decorative cutters. Regular crackers or toast will do just fine.
Why are we soaking the almonds? Almond skins contain an enzyme inhibitor protecting the nut until it germinates. The nut does not release enzymes until those conditions have been reached, so eating almonds without removing the inhibitor provides a barrier to nutritional absorption and makes the nuts difficult to digest. Soaking the almonds allows them to shed their skin and release their enzymes. They are also softer and sweeter after soaking. In the U.S., almonds are pasteurized and the methods vary between organic and non-organic almonds. Organic almonds are pasteurized with steam, non-organic with chemicals. Whether or not the almonds are truly raw after being steamed is a bigger question and one we’re not going to tackle here. For now, please use almonds labeled “organic” and “raw” if you can. If you can find organic almonds that haven’t been pasteurized, even better.
Veggie Pâté (makes approximately 2 cups)
Keep in mind this pâté takes a little while to make because of the soaking of the almonds, caramelizing of the onions and roasting of the red pepper, so plan ahead.
2/3 cup (160ml) organic raw almonds, soaked and skinned (see method below)
1 medium yellow, white or red onion (I wouldn’t use a sweet variety), chopped
1 purple skinned eggplant/aubergine*, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 2 cups or 480ml)
1/2 lb. (225g)button mushrooms, cut into quarters or sixths if large (about 2 cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, roasted with skin, ribs, seeds removed and roughly chopped
1-2 small sweet carrots, chopped (about 1/4 cup or 60ml–I say sweet because a lot of carrots have the texture and taste of wood and will bring nothing to the party but color)
Small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
*The variety of eggplant you use isn’t important. The purple skinned varieties are all similar in flavor. I used an Asian variety (the long skinny kind). You want enough for two cups.
Tapenade (makes approximately 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup (60ml) olives, pitted and chopped (you can use any olive you like)
1 Tbsp. (15ml) capers, drained and chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon (1.25ml) orange or lemon zest plus more for garnish
A few grinds of black pepper
Soak the almonds:
The night before you make the pâté, put the almonds in a glass or ceramic container with enough room to cover them with two cups of cold filtered water. I used a one quart canning jar. Let them sit overnight at room temperature. At this point the skins should come off easily. They will have increased in size and should measure approximately one cup. Set aside or keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container if you’re not going to use them right away.
Cook the vegetables:
In a sauté pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized–about 45 minutes. You can walk away, but don’t go too far or they’ll burn. Set aside.
Roast the red pepper using either a cast iron pan and the stove top, or a baking pan and the oven broiler. You want the skin to be completely black.
Put the pepper under a bowl or in a brown paper bag to steam–this will help loosen the skin. Let it cool, then remove the skin. It should come right off. Remove the stem, ribs and seeds. Roughly chop and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and add the eggplant and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until soft and starting to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Both vegetables are like sponges and will likely suck the olive oil right up. Don’t worry about it. They will release moisture as they cook. You want all the liquid released to evaporate. If that hasn’t happened in 20 minutes, cook until it does. Let cool.
To make the pâté:
In a food processor or blender, add the almonds, onions, eggplant and mushrooms, red pepper, carrot, parsley, lemon juice and a few grinds of black pepper.
Pulse until it is a consistency you like.
Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
For the tapenade:
To make the Vegetable Chips:
Use vegetables that taste good raw and are sturdy enough to stand up to the pâté and toppings without collapsing. I’ve used rutabaga, jicama, and watermelon radish. Daikon and black radish would also work well. Don’t use vegetables that discolor, like potato. I’ve also used raw kale and small red radishes for decoration and flavor contrasts.
If you’re going to cut the vegetables into shapes you don’t have to peel them, just slice them about 1/16 of an inch (0.2cm) thick. Cut them into shapes using cookie cutters.
Putting it all together:
At this point you can either assemble little canapés or put the pâté and tapenade in separate bowls, surround with vegetable chips and let your guests help themselves.