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Everyday vegetables combine to make an exotic pate

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Vegetable dishes offer a delightful contrast to the rich, somewhat heavy foods we usually encounter during the holidays. A fresh holiday vegetable loaf makes an unusual change-of-pace appetizer. Filled with mushrooms, spinach, carrots, onions, walnuts, and a combination of herbs, it is lighter, more economical, and even more exotic than customary pates.

It is served in the same way as traditional pates. Slice it and place on lettuce-lined plates for a first course, or serve it as an hors d'oeuvre with a selection of crackers and small bread rounds. The loaf may be made a day or two in advance and chilled. Allow it to return to room temperature before serving.

Select mushrooms that are firm and white or cream-colored with no signs of wrinkling. Fresh mushrooms can be stored in the refrigerator four to five days, says the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association.

Holiday Eggplant Relish also makes a fine hors d'oeuvre. The fresh vegetables are sauteed but should retain their crunchy texture. Anchovies and capers contribute a unique zest.

The recipe makes enough for entertaining, as well as for gift giving. Serve as an appetizer or place on a buffet as an accompaniment to sliced meats. It will keep in the refrigerator several weeks, making it ideal to have on hand during the party-giving season. Fresh Holiday Vegetable Loaf 1 pound fresh carrots (about 6 medium) 2 medium-size onions 2 cloves garlic 1/2 cup butter or margarine 1 pound fresh mushrooms 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon dried leaf savory, crushed 1 teaspoon dried leaf rosemary, crushed Dash hot pepper sauce 1 1/2 cups walnut pieces 3/4 pound fresh spinach, trimmed, washed, dried 1 cup pot cheese 2 eggs, slightly beaten 1/4 cup chopped parsley Cucumber slices Lemon slices

In food processor fitted with steel blade, mince carrots, onions, and garlic. In large skillet melt butter; saute vegetable mixture 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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