When I was a kid, I used to eat chopped liver like it was going out of style. It was a treat at every family gathering during holidays, whether it be Thanksgiving or Passover. I would sit within inches of the bowl and dip away (this was back in the Pre-Seinfeldian era when double dipping wasn’t even a misdemeanor, so I double dipped my heart out. ICK, right?). I just dipped away haphazardly, cracker after cracker after cracker (or matzo cracker after matzo cracker after matzo cracker) taking full ownership of this bowl of brown stuff with chopped eggs in it.
When I was about 10-years-old, a cousin informed me of what chopped liver was made with, probably to get dibs on the bowl I was surreptitiously hogging during that particular holiday get-together. Yes, I knew what ‘liver’ was, but I either mentally blocked the word “liver”, or thought ‘liver’ was just a pseudonym for this delicious treat because it was the color of liver. I was subconsciously (and desperately) trying to separate it from the word “liver” because it was so good that I didn’t want to know. I really really didn’t want to know.
A few months later, I watched my grandmother make it from scratch for a holiday dinner. While pulling some blood clot looking lumps out of the wrapping from the butcher, she gently informed me that these were ‘organs’ from chickadees. From that moment on, I never touched the stuff. I tried, but suddenly, all I tasted was liver, in a gross way. Damn.
It’s amazing what the mind can do.
So why am I talking about liver? Well, when one thinks of pate, it’s usually liver that comes to mind, and one of my favorite chickadees is hosting this month’s Daring Cooks challenge, which happens to be well, pate, with homemade bread, which always excites me.
Our hostess this month, Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.
One of the keys to all the lovely holes in ciabatta is a wet dough and very little handling of the dough..mostly folding with a bench scraper in lieu of kneading.
As mentioned above, liver seems to be the norm when it comes to your basic pate, and if it isn’t all liver, it always seems to have some liver in it. Of course, two out of the four recipes given to us are liver pates. Am I making those? NO. Am I making two yummy pates minus the liver? YES.
Initially, I was going to go off the beaten path, but then decided to keep things simple, making the tricolor vegetable pate recipe provided, and this awesome pate from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (Remember them from Too Hot Tamales in the early days of The Food Network?) called Killer Chilied Mushroom and Cashew Pate. The great thing is that neither pate is cooked (unless you count sauteed mushrooms, onions and garlic), and both are vegetarian! Also, the mushroom-cashew pate looks like liver pate (translation – molded dog food), but not enough to deter those who steer clear of anything that even remotely resembles liver.
Regarding the bread, the really fun part for me, I made Craig Ponsford’s Ciabatta, which I covered back in 2008. Instead of the traditional ciabatta shape, I ended up forming all of the dough, very gently with a bench scraper, into one large torpedo loaf, by softly pinching the ends, then carefully slashed it down the middle right before sliding into my steam filled oven. It turned out lovely and delicious with a beautiful ‘holey’ crumb, but ginormous in comparison to my miniature pates. Well, that’s what bread knives are for, right? They weren’t going to be pretty, perfect slices, like a longer, thinner loaf would have given me, but no big deal. Why am I so anal about these things? Maybe because I suck at food styling. (sigh)
With that said, I served the chilied mushroom-cashew pate with the bread and blue corn tortilla chips. The reason for the chips? So people would eat it! It’s befuddling how everyone loved the ingredients that went into these pates, but didn’t flip over the ingredients being ground into a paste-like spread then molded. I.don’t.get.it. The combined ingredients, pre- food processed/mashed/pulverized – whatever, they gladly would have eaten, but once molded into a smooth, pretty mini loaf, it suddenly wasn’t as appealing.
Yes, one also eats with their eyes, but the tortilla chips were a familiar, comforting vessel that begged; “Dip me into this mushroomy-nutty Mexican dip!“,
Yep, that’s what it is, a Mexican dip, not pate! (wink-wink)
Once the tricolor veggie pate was spread on the bread, it was bread with spread, not pate, just bread with spread. Once again, I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s also a texture thing (??).
Maybe it’ll look prettier incognito in all of the above.
Finally, when it came to the tricolor veggie pate, in viewing some of the Daring Cook’s results prior to posting day, I thought the bean layer dominated the pate too much, hiding the lovely and flavorful red-orange and green layers. I decided to cut the recipe for the bean layer in half and use equal amounts in each mold so the lovely red-orange bell pepper-feta layer and green pesto-ricotta layer got equal billing. It also made for a prettier presentation, almost reminiscent of the Italian flag, if not for my lighting making the bell pepper – feta layer look day-glo orange!
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 7-ounce red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced or 1 jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
- ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
- Fresh herb sprigs
- Sourdough or Ciabatta bread slices, recipe for Ciabatta linked below.
- Line 8½x4½-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.*
- Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.
- Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish.
- Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound mushrooms, sliced (I use a mix of mushrooms, depending on what looks good at the market)
- ½ large onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ teaspoons chili powder, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 1 cup roasted cashews, (I toast the cashew nuts first)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a medium skillet, over a high heat, melt the butter. Saute the mushrooms 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it's translucent, then add the garlic and saute for a minute or so, but don't let it brown, just translucent. Add the spices.and cook until the mixture is somewhat dry. Cool completely.
- In a food processor fitted with a metal blade or a blender, chop the cashews finely, then slowly add the oil to make a paste. Add the mushroom mixture and continue mixing until smooth. Taste and add more chili powder, pepper or salt, if necessary. Place in a serving bowl as a dip, or mini loaf pan lined with plastic wrap, if you want more of a terrine look like mine. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to garnish. Serve at room temperature.
For the Ciabatta Bread recipe, Click HERE.