I've often been tempted by the multitiered vegetable pates displayed in delis, only to find that their beauty belies blandness and monotony, that it is simply impossible to taste one layer from another.
In this version, neither the creamy layer of spinach nor the next of Sherry-spiked mushrooms nor the third, a sweet and tangy blend of apricot and carrot, dominate. Instead, the layers harmonize in a dish that is festive in flavor and style. You can streamline preparation by having all the ingredients set out before you start and by washing skillets and bowls after each layer so they're ready to go for the next.
HOLIDAY PARTY PATE
Butter or margarine
1/2 cup sliced green onions, white part only
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup tahini
2/3 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small white onion, minced
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dry Sherry
Freshly ground pepper
4 large carrots, sliced
1/2 cup dried apricots
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Toast or crackers
Butter 8x4-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet and saute green onions until tender and translucent. Add spinach and continue to cook, stirring to coat with green onions and butter. Remove from heat.
Whisk together 1/4 cup half and half and tahini in large mixing bowl until smooth. Stir in spinach and season to taste with salt.
Beat together 2 eggs in separate bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and oregano. Add to spinach mixture. Stir until well combined. Spread over bottom of prepared loaf pan.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet and saute white onion until tender and translucent. Add mushrooms and saute until cooked through. Add Sherry and remaining 1/3 cup bread crumbs. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute more, until crumbs have absorbed all liquid.
Beat together 2 eggs in medium mixing bowl. Add mushrooms to eggs and stir to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread on top of spinach layer.
Simmer carrots and apricots in medium saucepan in water to cover until carrots are just cooked through. Drain and puree together in food processor or blender.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet and saute garlic until beginning to brown. Combine carrot-apricot puree and remaining 1/4 cup half and half and add to garlic butter. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to boil. Remove from heat.
Beat together remaining 2 eggs in medium mixing bowl. Stir in carrot-apricot mixture, ginger, nutmeg and season to taste with salt. Spoon over mushroom layer.
Butter piece of wax paper to fit over top of pate. Place butter-side down over top layer, then cover with foil. Place loaf pan in deep baking dish and pour boiling water into outer dish to depth of 2/3 up side of loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees until pate is firm to touch, about 3 hours. Check often to keep water level 2/3 up side of loaf pan.
Transfer loaf pan to wire rack and let cool at least 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.
To serve, run knife around outer edge of pate and carefully turn upside down on cutting board, spinach layer is up. Place serving plate on top of spinach layer and holding with 1 hand, invert pate onto serving plate, carrot layer up. Remove wax paper.
Serve sliced thick with toast as first course, or with crackers as spread. Makes 8 to 10 servings.