Tonight was the first chance I’ve had to look over the photos from Thanksgiving. They bring back many delightful memories of an evening well spent in the company of those I love, but when it comes to the food photos it’s a different story. It was a very catch-as-catch-can situation – dim lighting, distracted camera-wielders who were for some reason more interested in eating than in taking pictures, and gorgeous food that did not show itself off at its best when piled helter-skelter onto well-laden plates full of gravy.
I wish I had better photos to do justice to this meal (it is time for a new camera, that much is painfully clear) but I’ll just use the best ones I have, since one purpose of these posts is to help folks find new vegan, gluten-free holiday meal options. Being able to anticipate the finished product goes a long way, for me at least, in helping me plan a menu.
So let’s start where all good parties start, with the appetizers. Our Thanksgiving starters this year were mushroom-walnut pate, home-pickled turnips and zucchini, and assorted olives.
The turnips were an unqualified hit, which was gratifying for me as I’m just beginning my foray into hardcore homemaking (which for me means making my own stock and pickles and such). They were just my usual recipe for Middle-Eastern-style turnip pickles, only I left out the beet that usually turns them bright pink because these turnips were so lovely, slender white roots with lavender tops. The sweet-and-spicy zucchini pickles were an experiment that turned out okay but I still want to tweak the recipe before I share it.
The mushroom pate was fantastic, and got even better over the next few days. I had quite a few post T-day meals that consisted entirely of pate and crackers! I started with a recipe from Cooking Debauchery (check out her post for a much better photo of the pate!) but when Duck had whipped it all up in the food processor and we’d each had a bite we turned to each other, a little panicked. It was just… blah.
After a fair amount of experimentation we determined that the missing elements were salt and onions. We sauteed a diced onion until it was fairly brown and threw it into the food processor with the pate and that was perfection! Reading over the Cooking Debauchery post I see that the author can’t stand onions in any form, and notes that the recipe is adapted from a Passover cookbook (yes! perfect vegan chopped liver!) so I wonder if her adaptation was to remove the onions…?
We doubled the original recipe, and while only half of the pate was eaten that night, the bowl was scraped clean and we were too busy to refill it, so who knows how much could have been put away by our kitchen full of guests if we had let them eat their fill? I would say that for a dozen guests it would be best to make the double recipe, just to be safe, plus, as mentioned above, the leftovers are AWESOME. The only other change I made was to use Shaoxing cooking wine instead of sherry or cognac. I often see that you can use sherry as a substitute for Shaoxing wine, and so I figured the substitution would work in the other direction as well.
Mushroom-Walnut Pate (adapted from Cooking Debauchery, who adapted it from “No Cholesterol Passover Recipes”)
This recipe makes a good lot of pate. This was a enough to serve 12 people as part of an appetizer platter and still have leftovers.
1 medium onion, diced
2 pounds mushrooms, chopped (I used crimini)
2 T. olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
4 tablespoons water or stock, or as needed
1 t. chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons cognac or sherry (or Shaoxing rice wine!)
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are beginning to brown, or even starting to get a bit crisp, depending on your preference. Add the mushrooms, cognac or sherry, and garlic and sauté, about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the fresh thyme and sauté for another 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and transfer to a food processor. Add the nuts and blend until smooth. Use a little water or stock to thin the mixture as necessary.
Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.