There are certain things we expect from pate, no matter its constituents. We expect it to be rich, the flavor deep. We don’t expect to eat very much of it, but we expect it to linger.
Those same qualities are what a vegetable pate is after, and it is, perhaps surprisingly so, adept in achieving them. Vegetables are by turns, and by treatment, sweet, nutty, earthy, smoky, spicy. They can take on textures dense and smooth or ethereally creamy. The best in vegetable pate, then, takes philosophical cues from traditional pate – the depths of flavor and luxuries of texture – without aspiring to mimic them.
“There are two things you want in a vegetable pate,” says Amanda Cohen, chef-owner of the New York vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy. “One is a very strong flavor; the other is an intense depth of creaminess ... What you should expect is a very interesting taste sensation in a small bite.”
Almost any vegetable can be worked into a pate, but the ones that perform most successfully carry flavor profiles that lean on the side of sweet, with earthy undertones, and flesh fine-grained and dense. Think root vegetables, winter squash or those not-exactly-vegetables, mushrooms. Nuts and seeds, pounded into a paste, contribute to a creamier, more substantial texture, as do legumes such as lentils and white beans, and fat.
A vegetable pate (not to be confused with vegetarian), then, is not about making amends for something it is not, nor is it a substitute for a pate made with meat. A vegetable pate should instead be a celebration of the vegetable itself, an exploration of what that vegetable is capable of expressing. And you don’t need to be a vegetarian to appreciate it.
Roasted Sweet Potato Pate
For the pate:
2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes)
¼ cup olive oil, or more to taste
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
½ cup chopped onion
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups canned no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Hot water, as needed
Crushed roasted cashew nuts (salted or unsalted)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into ½-inch chunks; they don’t need to be perfect, because they will be pureed. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the oil, vinegar, onion, cumin, allspice, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet and roast until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Allow the mixture to cool just a little, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the chickpeas and puree until smooth and creamy. The pate should be quite thick but still able to move around in the food processor. If it’s too thick, drizzle in a little hot water. Alternatively, for a richer pate, drizzle in more oil.
Allow the mixture to cool in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.
Serve in ramekins, accompanied by other ramekins filled with the mustard and the nuts, and offer toasted slices of baguette.
Makes about 2 cups (8 servings).
– From chef Rich Landau of Vedge in Philadelphia.
Per ¼-cup serving (pate only): 230 calories, 5g protein, 36g carbohydrates, 7g fat, 1g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 370mg sodium, 6g dietary fiber, 5g sugar.
1 pound beets (1 to 2 bunches, depending on size)
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
∂ teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
½ cup walnuts, toasted (see note)
1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar (see note)
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Minced parsley, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Wash and dry the beets, but don’t peel them. Wrap each beet individually in aluminum foil and roast until easily pierced with the sharp tip of a knife, 45 minutes for smaller beets and up to 1½ hours for larger ones. Unwrap the beets and let them cool slightly. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel them (the skin should come off easily), then rinse and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, mash the garlic to a paste with the salt in a mortar and pestle.
Pound the walnuts to a paste with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle.
Coarsely chop the cooled beets and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor. Add the walnut and garlic pastes, the oil and the vinegar. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mound into a serving bowl and garnish with the parsley, if using, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Makes 1½ cups (6 servings),
– From food writer Emily Horton.
NOTE: Pounding the walnuts with a mortar and pestle helps give this pate its creamy texture. Its deep purple color looks striking in a serving bowl. Serve it with seeded crackers or thin slices of rye bread.
To toast the walnuts, spread them on a baking sheet and place in a 350-degree oven, shaking the sheet occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully; nuts burn quickly.
Ume plum vinegar, made from umeboshi plums, is available at some larger grocery stores (in the international aisle).
Per ¼-cup serving: 130 calories, 3g protein, 9g carbohydrates, 10g fat, 1g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 630mg sodium, 3g dietary fiber, 5g sugar.