Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mushrooms Make A Sensational Vegetarian Holiday Hors d'oeuvre

Count Down to New Years

Party food used to be easy - just a couple of bowls of dip and some chips.  Cocktail meat balls from a chafing dish signaled that the party was a gourmet event.  Then someone invented crudités.  All that slicing and dicing meant more prep time in the kitchen.

Fast forward to 2010 and we have food restrictions and preferences to add to the party food mix.  It's enough to make you celebrate the holidays at someone else's house.

Adding a few vegetarian or vegan dishes to your party menu will cover most of the health, religious and/or moral food restriction bases.  And since they're usually lower in salt, fat and calories, you've got the dieters covered, too.

Gorgeous, oh so yummy,
"chopped liver pate"
without a smidge of meat!

Vegetarian Chopped Liver/Vegan Pate

Gone are the days when we thought that vegetarian or vegan dishes were poor substitutes for "the real thing".

Serve with plain crackers - like saltines or water biscuits.  Mini bagels are great, too. 

And, as if good taste wasn't enough, the walnuts are loaded with omega-3's.  Even the meat eaters are going to love this!

Makes about 3 cups
Uses a plain, 3 cup bowl as a mold

1 cup walnuts (halves and pieces)
1/2 stick butter or 1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion (chopped - about 3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic (minced - about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
26 (2 inch in diameter) Baby Bella mushrooms (quartered - other mushrooms not recommended)
3 tablespoons cream sherry or brandy (divided)
Juice of half a lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
2 hard cooked eggs (chopped - optional - see Karla's tip below)
Additional olive oil, if necessary (up to 1/4 cup)
Salt (to taste - optional)

Put the walnuts on an ungreased, rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes. Walnuts should be fragrant and richly browned but be careful not to burn them.  Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet.  Set aside.

Line an ungreased, 3 cup size, plain sided bowl with plastic wrap leaving about 3 inches of wrap over-hanging the rim.  Make sure the entire bowl interior is covered.  Over lap wrap if necessary.  Set this aside, too.

Melt the butter (or heat the 1/4 cup olive oil) in a large skillet.  Add the onion.  Cook on medium/low, stirring occasionally, until very brown but not burned - about 20 minutes.  (The browner the onions, the darker the pate.)  Add the garlic and pepper.  Cook 3 minutes more to blend the flavors.

Stir in the mushrooms, thyme and 1 tablespoon of the sherry or brandy.  Cover and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until mushroom have softened - about 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and, if there's any liquid in the pan, continue to cook until it has evaporated.  Remove from heat at let cool in pan - about 20 minutes.

Mix the cooled mushrooms and onions with the toasted walnuts, lemon juice, remaining 2 tablespoons sherry or brandy and, if desired, the hard cooked egg.  (The egg gives the pate a better texture but it's still perfectly delicious without the egg.) 

Pulse the mixture (in batches, if necessary) in the food processor or blender until smooth. (It takes a few minutes - a little longer than you think.)  Whirl in additional olive oil (up to 1/4 cup), if necessary, for the consistency you like.  Add salt to taste, if desired.

Pack into bowl lined with plastic wrap
Pack into plastic wrap lined bowl - pressing down lightly as you pack to remove any air pockets.  Smooth top to level.  Use wrap over hang to cover pate.  Refrigerate several hours (over night is better). 

At serving time, fold back wrap from top of pate.  Place serving dish over top of bowl.  Invert bowl and serving dish together.  Remove bowl.  Remove plastic wrap.

Push back the wrap from the top of the pate and invert onto the serving plate then remove the bowl

Remove the plastic wrap

Decorate with plastic or silk poinsettias, pine or holly.  Do not use fresh.  They are poisonous.
Other garnish ideas - fresh herbs, chopped red onion.
Decorate with plastic or silk
poinsettias, pine or holly.

Not up to making a mold?  Simply pile the pate into a bowl.  Chill until serving time.

Vegan Pate
Use oil instead of butter and omit the egg or use a vegan egg substitute prepared according to package directions.

Karla's Kitchen Magic - Quick Tip
To make a hard cooked egg in a flash (and without any shell to peel), mist a custard cup with cooking spray. Crack in the egg. Mix with a fork until the yolk and white are combined. Cover. Microwave till set - about 44 seconds for a large egg.  Cool.

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