For the longest time, my grandfather’s mushroom paté, or as we usually call it, “mushroom stuff” was pretty much the only way I’d swallow a mushroom, and only after it was doused in salt. Mushroom stuff as my grandfather made it was a combination of sautéed mushrooms and onions, mayonnaise, and a hard-boiled egg. While this is certainly an acceptable vegetarian take on chopped liver, converting even liver fans like my dad’s side of the family, it definitely wasn’t vegan.
Additionally, replacing the egg and mayonnaise on Pesach is considerably more challenging, than if I were adapting it for any other time of the year. First, for the egg, I decided to use soaked walnuts, in order to give the paté a the same kind of body that the egg brings. I’m not the biggest fan of walnuts, but they do have a lighter texture and slightly more neutral flavor than hazelnuts, pecans, cashews (all of which I otherwise prefer). To replace the mayonnaise, I went for the flavors of mayo, namely, fat in the form of olive oil, and some tang, in the form of red wine vinegar. For a little extra “eggy” punch, I like to season the paté with Indian black salt (kala namak), which tastes exactly how I remember sunny side up eggs…because I also used to douse my egg yolks in salt.
The result tastes almost exactly how I remember Grandpa’s paté tasting. It’s even good enough, that some years my mom has just asked me to make a larger batch, so that she doesn’t need to take precious time away from cooking other elements of the meal to make a batch of the original. My version is punctuated by the sweet richness of the fried mushrooms and onions, mixed with a little tang from the vinegar, all married together in a smooth and creamy dip. It’s perfect for spreading onto matzah, whether it’s as an appetizer, at your seder, or a part of your mid-Pesach lunch.
Grandpa Maurice was far from vegan, but he always appreciated good food. I like to imagine he would be proud of my interpretation. He died a little bit before I really started cooking for myself (which was also when I went vegetarian), so I never really got to share my culinary creations with him, but I love that I can still enjoy food he made for us, even if it is adapted to fit my lifestyle.
I’m giving quantities for a fairly small amount of paté, but this recipe is very easily increased. It also does not need to be super precise, so feel free to play with the seasonings according to your tastes.
Mushroom and Onion Paté
- 1 pint white button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 large white or yellow onions, sliced
- 1/4 c raw walnuts, soaked for a few hours or over night
- 4-5 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 tbsp kosher for Passover red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp black salt (or to taste)
- black pepper to taste
Preheat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, and sweat slowly for about 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until the mushrooms have cooked down, and the mixture is golden brown and fragrant. The volume of vegetables in the pan should be considerably reduced from when you started. Let cool at least 10 minutes. Add the mushroom and onion mixture to a food processor. Drain the walnuts, and add them as well. Begin to chop the mixture in the processor, and stream in the oil and vinegar while the machine is running. Add the salt and pepper, and pulse again to combine. Taste for seasoning. The mixture should chopped very, very finely, and should be fairly smooth (but not entirely pureed). Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Sorry I have no pictures of this, but I will say, while it’s completely delicious, it’s not the most photogenic dish out there.