For New Year’s Eve: twelve grapes at midnight, bubbly cava for toasting and delicious (vegetarian) food.

I’m planning a vegetarian menu for New Year’s Eve. Got the grapes, got the chilled cava. Now, what food to accompany the occasion?

Cooking for vegetarian friends is always a (pleasurable) challenge. I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. I like to make tasty food. I want to please my guests with the meals at my table. With that in mind, I bought a block of seitan (in Spanish, it has an accent, seitán), a vegetarian product made from wheat gluten. 

Slices from a block of seitan.

Prepared, ready-to-eat seitan has a remarkably chewy texture, which makes it perfect for using in a dish normally made with meat. For my holiday dinner party, I turned it into a really delicious pâté to serve as an hors d’oeuvre. 

Purchased at a big supermarket, the seitan was labelled “sin lactosa” (no lactose); “ecologico” (organically grown), and “sin azucares, (no sugars). I failed to notice that it did not say “vegan.” When I got a magnifying glass to read the small print of the ingredient list, I realized that the seitan contained egg (as well as sunflower oil, oat flakes, textured soy protein, onion, soy sauce, yeast extract and spices). The egg was not a problem as my guests aren’t vegan. But, best to look at the labels.

Seitan can be used without cooking—slice and put it on a sandwich, for instance. But it is much improved if simmered in a sauce, grilled or fried. Seitan takes up the flavors with which it cooks, so use herbs, spices and aromatics generously. 

Vegetarian pâté made with seitan and mushrooms, served with toasts, crackers and caperberries. This version is coarsely processed.  

Same pâté as above, but processed with caper brine to make a smooth spread. 

Vegetarian Pâté with Seitan

Paté Vegetariano con Seitán

For a luxurious finish, I’ve added butter to this pâté. To keep it vegan, omit the butter and increase the quantity of olive oil. 

8 ounces mushrooms

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

6 ounces prepared seitan

3 tablespoons brandy

Chopped thyme

¼ teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)

1 ½ ounces softened butter (optional)

1 teaspoon miso paste

1/8 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper

Salt, as needed

Caper brine (optional) or water

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachios

Toasts or crackers to accompany

Coarsely chop the mushrooms. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the mushrooms, shallots and garlic. Sauté on medium heat until they are softened and beginning to brown, 5 minutes. Tip the skillet to one side to allow the oil to drain to one side. Skim out the mushrooms and reserve them.

Cut the block of seitan into cubes. Add to the oil in the skillet and fry the seitan, turning, until lightly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of the brandy to the pan and cook off the alcohol. Stir in the thyme and pimentón and remove the pan from the heat.

Place the seitan in a food processor with the miso and butter, if using. Process until seitan is chopped. Add the mushrooms and remaining 1 tablespoon of brandy. Process to desired degree of smoothness. Add pepper and salt, if needed. To make a very smooth and creamy pâté, thin the seitan with caper brine or water. Stir in the pistachios.

Serve the pâté room temperature accompanied by toasts or crackers. Store it, covered and refrigerated.

More recipes for pâtés and terrines:

Wishing you all the best in the New Year.

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