If you want a show-stopping vegetarian dish for an upcoming holiday party, this is it. Vegetarian pâté is new to me—I might not be old enough to have experienced it in its heyday, which I’m guessing was the eighties, and I admit I’ve never thought to look up a recipe—but I now understand the appeal. It’s such a striking addition to a feast, such a validating reward for some hard work in the kitchen, and it’s delicious, too, sliced up into thick, cold slabs and smeared on crackers or bread.
Jeanne Lemlin’s Simply Satisfying is a book I’ve had in my kitchen for a while now. My friend and editor, Matthew Lore, loaned me his copy of the first edition, which was titled Vegetarian Pleasures, published in 1986, and one of the recipes I found there inspired the corn soufflé in Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry. Then I had the pleasure of working on the photo shoot for this recent reissue (with photographer Cara Howe and stylist Maria del mar Sacasa), in which the title changed to Simply Satisfying, and sampled many of the recipes firsthand.
When I first started flipping through the first edition I was skeptical. Would these recipes hold up to today’s vegetarian trends, to the Heidi Swansons and Yotom Ottolenghis and Sprouted Kitchens? I’m happy to report that they do, and in many ways it’s Jeanne’s easy approachability that I find to be so welcome: her methods are clear and straightforward, she calls for ingredients that I’ve got on hand or that can be procured without much trouble at all, and, for the most part, there’s the promise of a meal that’ll be ready in a relatively short amount of time. I love the Indian Eggplant Dip, the Chocolate Oatmeal Bars, and the Baked Chickpeas Provencale, all of which have worked their way into my regular kitchen repertoire. And then of course she doesn’t shy away from a bit of butter, olive oil, or cheese . . . her recipes are by no means exercises in excess, but they’re not terribly righteous, either.
While this pâté is essentially simple and definitely satisfying, block out a good chunk of time when you make it, and don’t try to do it on the same day you want to serve it. One of the last times I made it, it kept me up until about 3 AM. There are three different layers, then you’ll assemble and bake it in a bain marie, then let it cool most of the way, then unmold it and let it cool further, and then put it into the fridge—all alongside a radpidly growing pile of dirty dishes. Seems fussy, but it could easily be much more fussy, and it is possible to multitask. And plus, who doesn’t enjoy a good challenge, a chance to make a mess every now and then?
It’s all very worth it, especially as this layered pâté is a great way to sneak a vegetarian option onto a charcuterie platter, or as dramatic light side dish or first course. Each layer is rich with perfectly seasoned vegetables—sweet, cinnamon spiked carrots on the top, buttery leeks in the middle, and bright green spinach on the bottom—and taken together they create a festive, complex harmony. Serve it well chilled, with some herbed yogurt on the side, or spicy spiked mayonnaise, or unadorned, with toasted bread or crackers. Brace yourself for the oohs and ahhs.
Jeanne Lemlin’s Layered Vegetable Pate
From Simply Satisfying (recipe reprinted with permission of the publisher)
A couple notes: I adapted this for mini loaf pans, which allowed me to capitalize on all my efforts—I’m bringing this to three different holiday parties, but I only had to make it once! If you’re unsure what the capacity of your loaf pans are, measure them with water; the mixture fits into one 1-1/2 quart, or three 2-cup mini loaves very snugly, and it’s crucial that the filling is packed right to the brim (otherwise it’ll rise in the oven, and you don’t want that; it’ll completely compromise the texture and design of a pâté). I strongly recommend doing a quick batch of dishes between each layer—save yourself the hassle of a huge mess later. Lastly, I hardly modified Jeanne’s recipe at all—I substituted parsley for basil and feta for parmesan, based on what I had on hand. But perhaps you’ll see this recipe as a springboard for all kinds of variations, and I hope you’ll share your inspirations with me.
Makes 3 mini loaves or 1 large loaf, enough to easily serve 12
1 tablespoon melted butter, for greasing pan(s)
1 pound carrots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds fresh black pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
4 medium to large leeks, trimmed, sliced thinly, and rinsed thoroughly (about 6 cups)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several grinds fresh black pepper
Two 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, cooked per package directions and squeezed dry
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup crumbled feta (or grated Parmesan)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper
1. Butter three 2-cup capacity mini loaf pans, or one 1-1/2 quart capacity large loaf pan by brushing the bottoms and sides with melted butter. Line with a long piece of parchment, trimmed to fit the bottom of the pan and with plenty hanging over the sides. Brush melted butter on the parchment. Transfer to the freezer until you’re ready to start assembling. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Make the carrot layer: Fill a saucepan with an inch or so of water, fit it with a steaming basket, then add the carrots and steam until they’re very tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until mostly puréed, then add the eggs, cream, honey, and spices, and process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Stir in the breadcrumbs, then divide the mixture among the mini-loaves (about 2/3 cup mixture per pan) or spread it into the large loaf pan. Smooth the top(s) with a spoon.
3. Make the leek layer: Melt the butter in a skillet, then add the leeks and a big pinch of salt and sauté until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and cream, then fold in the leeks, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Spread this mixture over the carrot layer(s) (again it’s about 2/3 cup mixture per mini-loaf pan) and smooth the top(s).
4. Beat the eggs and cream in a mixing bowl, then fold in the spinach, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, salt, and cayenne. Divide this mixture over the leek layer(s) (again it’s about 2/3 cup mixture per mini-loaf pan), and smooth the top(s). Fold the overhanging parchment over the spinach, ensuring that it’s been brushed with butter and pressing gently so that it adheres, then cover the pan(s) tightly with aluminum foil.
5. Arrange the loaf pan(s) in a deep roasting pan or other large baking pan. Pour water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the loaf pan(s). Bake for 50 minutes for mini loaves, or about 1 hour and 15 minutes for a large loaf—to test doneness, remove from the bain marie, carefully remove the foil and peel back the parchment, and insert a sharp knife into the pâté; it should come out clean. If not, wrap it back up and return it to the bain marie.
6. Transfer to a cooling rack. Remove the foil and peel back the parchment. Let cool for an hour. Then carefully run a thin knife around the narrow edges, which aren’t layered with parchment, and overturn the loaf/loaves onto a platter and unmold them. Remove the parchment. Let cool for 20 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days.