Mushroom Walnut Pate

Mushroom Walnut Pate
makes about 3 cups

This "pate"--or let's be real "spread"--is unbelievable rich and meaty.  Combined with green apples, arugula and a whole grain bread, it makes my favorite vegetarian sandwich.  There are a couple of steps here, but they are all actually easy and this comes together pretty quickly.  Back when I had my food blog Urban Chickpea, this recipe was one of my most circulated and reposted.  I've simplified the original version here--fewer ingredients, but the same knockout taste.  I like it best on whole grain crackers or bread or served simply as a dip to celery sticks.

1 cup French green lentils
3 cups water
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
1 8-10 ounce package of cremini mushrooms (about 3 cups), thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry (or 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar)
2 teaspoons of kosher sea salt

1. Rinse the lentils until the water runs clear. Add them to a large pot and cover with the water. The stock should be about 2 inches above the lentils; add water if it’s not at that level. Bring up to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are fully cooked, about 30 minutes.

2. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On a sheet tray, spread out the walnuts and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes.

3. Heat up a large saute pan and add the oil. Saute the onion over medium-high heat with a pinch of salt until it is soft and golden brown. Then add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the sliced mushrooms with another pinch of salt and saute until they are brown and much of the liquid has evaporated. The whole mixture should be soft and look caramelized. This is key to the richness of the recipe, so don't hurry the cooking of the mushrooms and onions.  Then add the dry sherry, using it to scrape off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

4. In the food processor, pulse the walnuts until finely ground. Then add the cooked lentils (drained from their water), the mushroom mixture and the 2 teaspoons of salt. Puree until smooth. Taste the mixture and add salt until it tastes perfect. Then add two extra pinches of salt. It will taste too salty warm, but once it cools, it will taste perfect again. The palate perceives salt differently in hot and cold food.

5. Spoon mixture into a loaf pan, mold or tupperware and cover with plastic wrap. Then place a similarly-sized container on top and weigh it down to press the pate. (optional)  Chill in the refrigerator for several hours.  Invert on a plate to serve as an hors d’oeuvre or spread on bread for your sandwich.