Mushroom Walnut Pâté

Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Shabbat, I hosted four generations of family. Our apartment was filled to over-flowing with the happy sounds of children playing and adults sighing from both joy and having eaten too much food. Matthew and Frances are returning to New York today and the house already is almost eerily quiet. Our two cats are calming down and I finally have some time to sit and write down a few thoughts.

I’m always looking for wonderful vegetarian or vegan options to go along with a main course of meat. Since Thanksgiving had turkey and Friday was short ribs I needed lots of side dishes and an hors d’oevre  to go with drinks. In searching for recipes I came across a mushroom walnut pâté that seemed both easy to make and fit my requirements of being vegan. I used to make a wonderful mushroom pâté  years ago, but since it had farmer’s cheese in it, I couldn’t use it for this crowd. Now if you don’t like mushrooms (how can you NOT like mushrooms?!) don’t bother making this. It most definitely tastes like mushrooms. Since we all love them, this was perfect. It doesn’t take a lot of ingredients and the most exotic piece of equipment that you need is a blender or food processor. Make it several hours to the day before you intend on serving it.

Mushroom Pate

Mushroom Walnut Pâté adapted from


1 cup walnuts

1/2 cup minced shallots

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or Earht Balance Buttery Vegan Sticks)

3/4 pound chopped, mixed mushrooms (I used shitake, oyster and crimini)

1 Tablespoon roasted garlic cloves, smashed

i bunch chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (I happened to have lemon thyme on hand

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 Tablespoons EVOO


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread walnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast for 10 minutes, until they are fragrant and lightly browned.
  2. In a large saute pan, cook shallots in butter or Vegan “butter” over medium heat until translicent. Then add the chopped mushrooms, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook stirring often until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Process toasted walnuts and olive oil in a blender or food processor until the mixture forms a thick paste. Spoon in the cooked mushroom mixture and process to desired texture.
  4. If you want to be able to unmold the pâté then pack it into well-oiled ramekins or bowl. Otehrwise, just pack it into a pretty bowl and refrigerate it for a few hours or over-night. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving.


Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

banana bread

When my son was little, like most children, he had a limited palate. He has long since outgrown that and now eats things that I wouldn’t, but one thing he has never outgrown is his love for my banana bread. He and Frances are coming for Thanksgiving and so not only am I getting ready for the holiday, but I want to have some of their favorite treats on hand as well.

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

Yield: One 9 x 5 inch loaf


2 cups, sifted all-purpose flour OR 1 cup AP flour + 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup amaranth flour (I used to try to get as much nutrition into this as I could without compromising the taste)

1.5 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 cup butter at room temperature

scant 1 cup granulated sugar

3 large over-ripe bananas mashed (I use bananas that are BLACK! They have the most flavor and have almost started to ferment. Those fruit flies know a thing or two. I mean it – black!)

2 large eggs

1/3 cup of milk mixed with 1 teaspoon of distilled vinegar (any kind of milk will do). You are basically making curdled milk. You could use buttermilk if you have it on-hand, but most people don’t.

12 ounces of chocolate chips (semi-sweet or up to 60% cacao, but no higher) tossed with 2 Tablespoons of the flour (or flour mixture)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lavishly butter (or use a cooking spray like PAM) a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, preferably non stick.
  2. In a mixer (although for years I did this by hand) cream the butter and the sugar, mixing well. Add the eggs and bananas and blend thoroughly.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. If you didn’t toss them with the flour, the taste will be fine, but most will sink to the bottom. The flour prevents this from happening.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1.25 hours. Then turn off the oven, open the door part way and leave the bread in the oven for 10 minutes more.
  6. After the 10 minutes, allow the pan to cool for about 20 minutes or until it is cool enough to handle without oven mitts. Turn the bread out onto the rack to finish cooling completely. This will get even moister over time, especially if you substitute 1/4 cup of the flour for toasted wheat germ. The wheat germ and the black bananas is what gives my banana bread its darker color.

banana bread2

Roasted Tomato and Olive Pearl Couscous Salad

I love this salad so much that we generally end up eating the entire bowl shortly after making it.


Maybe it’s just pearl couscous that does it to us, or maybe it’s the garlicky dressing, but we’ve been making this Smitten Kitchen recipe for years and have yet to grow tired of it.


For roasted tomatoes and dressing
2 pt red grape or cherry tomatoes (1 1/2 lb)
3 large garlic cloves, left unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For couscous
2 3/4 cups chicken broth (or water)
2 1/4 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped (I like to use a food processor)
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 250 F.  Take a baking sheet and spread with olive oil, and then toss the halved tomatoes in it and spread it on the pan.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper.  When the oven is heated, cook for about one hour.

2. Bring broth to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan and stir in couscous, then simmer, uncovered, 6 minutes. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes.

3. Once the couscous is done cooking, spread it on a baking sheet pan to let cool.

4. Take the garlic, 1/4 cup water, 1 tsp lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of tomatoes, 1/4 cup of olive oil and puree until smooth in a food processor.

5.  Toss the couscous with the garlic and lemon juice dressing, olives, and tomatoes.  Add parsley if you wish and season with salt and pepper to taste.

From Smitten Kitchen.

Lamb Shanks with Flageolet Beans

lamb with beans

Since next week is going to be all about the bird, I decided to give my husband lamb this week. Everyone in my family loves lamb in all of its forms, but I especially love lamb shanks because they are so easy to make in so many different ways and they are always hearty and delicious. They may not be a show-stopping “company” dish, but anyone who eats this homey meal will be glad that they are considered family.

The lamb shanks I got were on the large side – about 1.5 pounds each, so just two of them will give me dinner for four. However, sometimes they come a lot smaller, so how much you use will depend on the size of the shank. The presentation has a bit more of the wow factor when you serve someone an entire shank, but the taste is just as wonderful if you serve the meat off of the bone, as I did here. Whoever does get the bone will have the added plus of getting the marrow to enjoy. Careful measuring is not necessary here. And if you don’t have flageolet beans, those wonderful pale green, small, slightly kidney-shaped French beans, then use a good white bean – a Great Northern or cannellini or some large heirloom bean. This dish takes LOTS of garlic and fresh rosemary, but the slow cooking removes any of the bite from the garlic, leaving just that wonderful flavor where you can eat entire cloves and go “yummmmmmmmm.” I made it last night in a Dutch oven for tonight’s dinner. You could probably do this in a slow cooker as well once you have browned the lamb.

Lamb Shanks with Flageolet Beans

Yield: Serves 4


2 cups flageolet or large dried white beans, soaked for 8 hours or overnight

3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 onion, chopped

1 generous Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

10-12 cloves of fresh garlic

3 cups chicken stock, preferably unsalted

4 lamb shanks – about 1/2 -3/4 pound each

About 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, seasoned with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper and whatever dried herbs you like (oregano, thyme, rosemary) for dredging

1 pound baby carrots

2 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash or pumpkin puree (optional)

1/4 cup hearty red wine (whatever you plan on drinking with this or whatever you have left-over) (optional)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste


  1. Dredge (this just means roll the shanks in the flour to coat) the lamb shanks in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess
  2. In a Dutch oven or covered casserole dish, heat the EVOO. When the oil is hot, place the shanks in and turn and cook on a medium high heat until nicely browned. Add the onion and stir until softened.
  3. Drain the beans. Add all of the other ingredients to the casserole. If you are using salted chicken stock, only add about a teaspoon of salt at this point. You can always add more later.
  4. Bring to a heavy simmer, cover the Dutch oven/casserole and reduce the heat so the ingredients simmer but do not boil. This can then be cooked on the stove for 2.5 hours or in a 325 degree preheated oven, until the lamb is practically falling off of the bone and the beans are tender. Check occasionally and give a stir to make sure that nothing is sticking and that you have enough liquid. If it is getting a bit dry, you can add more stock. Taste and adjust your seasonings to taste.
  5. This can all be done ahead and warmed when you are ready to eat it. I think it actually gets even more rich and flavorful if made a day ahead. Serve with bread and salad.

Bourbon Pecan Pie


Let’s face it, Thanksgiving is a time of indulgence. I love to bake and my family loves pie. So for Thanksgiving I always make at least three – a pumkin, pecan and some kind of apple. This is my pecan pie that started with my mother’s recipe and then I tweaked over the years. While I  never was able to come close to my mother’s apple pie, my pecan is actually better. But please don’t tell her – it’s our secret!

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Yield: One 9-inch pie


1 9-inch unbaked pie crust (I use the Crisco recipe)

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup dark corn syrup OR 1 cup of Golden Syrup to replace all of the corn syrup

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup dark brown sugar’1/4 cup canola oil

2 slightly round Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1+ Tablespoon good Kentucky Bourbon

1 cup pecans broken up

About 1 cup pecan halves and large pieces


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place dough in a 9-inch fluted tart pan or a 9-inch pie plate
  3. Mix all of the ingredients together except for the pecan halves and large pieces
  4. Carefully pour into the pie shell and arrange the pecan halves and large pieces over the top in an attractive random pattern
  5. Place the pie plate or tart pan on a baking pan to catch any spills and place in the oven. Bake for about 75 minutes. There should still be a slight jiggle when you carefully move the pie/tart plate. Turn off the oven and leave the pie in the oven with the door ajar for 10 minutes.
  6. Cool thouroughly on a cooling rack before cutting. This can be made a day ahead. Serve plain or with some fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.



Lemon Olive Oil Bread with Chocolate

While looking for a good olive oil bread recipe, I came across this one from Smitten Kitchen that gave guidance for how a baker could make all sorts of substitutions to end up with slightly different and delicious variations on a good olive oil bread.


It sounded a bit like mix and match and so I had fun crossing out certain ingredients and adding others… and the result was actually quite good.  I liked the idea of using olive oil to make the bread, and I loved the idea of adding chocolate, because who doesn’t love chocolate.


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup olive oil (I used lemon olive oil)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I probably could have doubled this)
2 tsp rum

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and rum and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Fold the chocolate chips in.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. Cool.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen lemon yogurt anything cake.

Roasted Pepper and Garlic Confit Pasta

When I lived in San Francisco, I kept hearing about an amazing restaurant called “Frances.”  With that name, I thought surely Frances had to go eat at “Frances” even if it wasn’t a great restaurant.  It was one of those foodie destinations where there weren’t very many tables, so between it being a small space and just being plain popular it was so difficult to get a reservation!


I ended up leaving SF never having eaten there, but on a recent trip back, looked it up on a whim and there happened to be an opening!  Someone must have canceled at the last minute and I was so excited to finally eat there.

Anyways, my friend and I shared many, many small plates of tastiness that the chef had dreamt up, but this one dish we thought really made the whole dinner.  I tried to replicate it based on what I remembered, and it turned out preeeeetty close!  At least I don’t have to go all the way back across the country to recreate a small part of that experience!


1 jar of roasted peppers
1/2 lb of whole wheat pasta
garlic confit (which is basically just taking garlic cloves and simmering them in olive oil for 40 minutes – you can also just roast the garlic in the oven at about 350 F for about 30 minutes)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
poached egg (optional)
2-3 pieces of proscuitto thinly shredded (optional)


1. On a roasting sheet, pour and spread some olive oil and then add the halved grape tomatoes.  Set the oven at about 350 F and roast the tomatoes for about 30 minutes (you can add the garlic here if you’re roasting it).

2. In a large bowl, add water and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

3. In a food processor, add the roasted peppers and some olive oil and puree until fairly smooth.  Set aside.

4. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add back into the pot that it was cooked in.  Add in the pureed roasted peppers and mix it through.  Add the tomatoes and garlic and salt and pepper to taste.  Top with a poached egg if you love eggs as I do, and serve immediately!

White Bean Soup with Pesto and Chorizo

The weather this week has been pretty bleak – chilly, windy and rainy. This always turns my thoughts to soup and this white bean soup with pesto and chorizo is one hearty solution to banish the damp. It is thick and satisfying and only needs a salad and bread to make a complete meal. If you don’t have or like chorizo sausage you can substitute Andouille or a good garlicky sausage. It would still be delicious without any sausage, but for me, the sausage just puts it over the top.

When I first starting making this soup, you couldn’t buy ready-made pesto or even canned cannellini beans that easily, so I had to do everything from scratch. If you use some quality shortcuts like a good commercial stock and canned beans and prepared pesto – this soup is a snap to make and honestly just as wonderful. And if you don’t own an immersion blender, this should be a gift to yourself! It saves time and energy – yours and the environment’s. There is less clean-up than with a blender or food processor and you can even puree things that are hot without risking that mess you can make with hot soup in a blender. I am grateful to Frances and Matthew every time I use mine.

white bean soup

White Bean Soup with Pesto and Chorizo adapted from The Peasant Kitchen by Perla Meyers, which unfortunately seems to be out of print 

Yield: 4-6 servings


3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

28 ounce can chopped San Marzano tomatoes in juice

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 – 15 oz. cans cooked white beans like Cannellini OR 5-6 cups cooked white beans

4 cups Chicken Stock, preferably unsalted (you could use Vegetable if you want)

1 teaspoon (or to taste) Kosher salt and about 25 cracks of fresh ground black pepper

1/2 cup broken up uncooked thin spaghetti or Angel Hair pasta

6 ounces (or more to taste) good quality pesto (look for one where basil is the first ingredient and where it uses olive oil and prefereably has pine nuts or walnuts)

6 ounces thinly sliced chorizo or other sausage (for this recipe, I prefer Spanish chorizo over Mexican – it’s dryer which is better with the soup.

Grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese for garnish


  1. In a 6 quart stock pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 Tablespoons of EVOO. Add the onion, garlic and parsley and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the onion has softened.
  2. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and oregano and continue cooking for another 6 or 7 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cups of the cooked beans and one cup of the stock. Then season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. If you are using an immersion blender, you can blend the mixture, with the heat turned off, immediately. You want it mostly smooth but don’t go crazy if there are some bigger bits. If you are using a blender or food processor, you must let the mixture cool down or you will have a mess. This will also need to be done in batches. See how much easier it is with an immersion blender?!
  5. Add the remaining beans an the rest of the stock. Season with salt and pepper and add the pasta. Stir. If y ou are not goin to eat this right away, you can allow the pasta to soften with the heat turned off in the covered pot. Otherwise, cook the pasta for about 8 minutes in the pot of soup.
  6. Add the chorizo or other sausage and the pesto. Stir through. The soup should be thick, but still soup.
  7. Serve with a dollop of pesto and some grated cheese. Leftovers will keep and they will thicken some. It’s up to you if you want to thin it out with some additional stock. I LIKE thick soup.

Apple Walnut Bread with Rum-Soaked Raisins

Now is the time of year when you want just a little something extra with that morning coffee or afternoon tea. This bread (okay, okay, it’s really a cake,) which is best made a day ahead, fits that bill. It’s filled with sweet-tart apples, slightly crunchy walnuts and the chew of a good raisin. It doesn’t require any exotic ingredients and your kitchen will smell wonderful as it bakes. What more could you ask for? Oh, yes, it would be a nice change on your Thanksgiving table from cornbread or biscuits!

apple walnut bread

Apple Walnut Bread with Rum-Soaked Raisins adapted from Beard on Bread  

Yield: One 9 x 5 inch loaf


1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature plus more for the pan

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for the pan

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups, peeled, cored and diced apples (I used MacIntosh)

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup raisins

2 Tablespoons dark rum

Zest of one lemon


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and sugar a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, preferably non-stick.
  2. In a small microwaveable dish, add the raisins and rum. Heat on high in the microwave for 20 seconds. Remove the bowl and cover with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes.   apples, raisins and walnuts
  3. Toss the apples, walnuts, drained raisins and lemon zest with about 1-2 Tablespoons of the flour. This will keep everything from sinking to the bottom.
  4. Using a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add the yogurt and vanilla and stir through.
  6. Mix the remaining flour with the salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda and add slowly to the eggs and butter mixture, stirring well.
  7. Stir the apples, drained raisins, lemon zest and chopped walnuts through the batter by hand. The ending batter will be very chunky.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Ovens vary so if it takes a little longer, then it takes a little longer.
  9. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Once the bread is completely cool, wrap it tightly in foil overnight to allow the flavors to mature. For best flavor, zap in the microwave for about 10-12 seconds. The bread will continue to get moister as it ages and the flavors will become more intense.

Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna

butternut squash lasagna pan

I love pasta. Any pasta. But sometimes you want to get past the tomato sauce and pesto and do something different. So inspired by all of the beautiful and colorful squash that is readily available now, I came up with a lasagna filled with butternut squash, ricotta and fontina cheeses and bathed in a béchamel sauce flavored with nutmeg and sage. It may not be traditional, but it is delicious. It requires nothing more than a green salad and some good bread.

Butternut Squash Lasagna   

butternut squash lasagna plated

Yield: 6-8 Servings


8 ounces no-boil lasagna sheets (flat or ridged)

1 recipe béchamel sauce (see below)

2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch dice (you will probably have a bit of cooked squash left-over for another use)

15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese

2 large eggs

5 ounces aged fontina, shredded

salt and pepper to taste


rubbed sage

Directions   prepping butternut squash

  1. Place the diced butternut squash in a large pot and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes or until squash is tender. I always test it by taking a sharp knife and if it easily pierces the squash and it slips off the knife then it’s done. Drain the squash.
  2. With a fork or potato masher, mash the squash, leaving some cubes and texture. Add one teaspoon of salt and some fresh cracked black pepper to taste (about 5 cracks). Do not puree. Set the squash aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta with the eggs, about 1/2 cup of the grated fontina, a scant teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage. Set the mixture aside.
  4. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. Make the béchamel sauce.
  6. You are now ready for the assemby.
  7. Using a lasagna pan (about 13 x 9 x 3) ladle in about 1 cup of the béchamel sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Then take 3 sheets of the lasagna and following the directions on the box, place one piece across the narrow end and lay two piece side by side facing the other direction. Don’t worry if there is a bit of space between. It will be fine when it cooks.
  8. Ladle enough of the sauce to cover the pasta sheets lightly. Add grated cheese to cover in a thin layer.
  9. Carefully lay on about 1.5 cups cups of the squash mixture, gently spreading it to cover. Now layer on about 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, gently spreading it over the top.
  10. Add another layer of pasta, this time alternating the end which has the single piece of pasta. Repeat Steps 8 and 9. Do this one more time.
  11. The final layer is just pasta, sauce and cheese. Sprinkle over some nutmeg and sage (Use a light hand with this.) Cover with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
  12. After 30 minutes, uncover the lasagna and bake for another 15 minutes. If the lasagna isn’t a nice golden brown, turn on the broiler. Watch the lasagna since it can brown all of a sudden. Allow the lasagna to “rest” for 15 minutes before serving. This can be made ahead and covered with foil until you are ready to serve it. Gently reheat the lasagna in a 325 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

NOTE: While I haven’t done this, there is no reason that this shouldn’t freeze well.

Béchamel sauce adapted from Mario Batali  

Yield: 3.5 cups


5 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups milk (I actually used a mixture or 2 cups half & half and 2 cups skim milk because that was what I had)

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.