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.
In food processor mince mushrooms; add to vegetable mixture, cook 2 minutes longer. Add salt, savory, rosemary, and hot pepper sauce; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mixture is dry.
Using food processor, grind nuts; place in a large bowl. Mince spinach; add to nuts. Add vegetable mixture; mix well, cool. Press pot cheese through a sieve; add to vegetable mixture. Stir in egg and parsley; mix well.
Line a buttered 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with a double thickness of waxed paper, leaving enough overhang to fold over the top. Spoon vegetable mixture into pan; tap pan on counter to remove any bubbles; smooth top with spatula.
Fold overhanging paper over pate, cover pan with double layer of foil. Set the loaf pan in a larger baking pan; add enough hot water to reach halfway up the side of loaf pan. Bake in 350-degree F. oven 1 1/2 hours. Cool pan on wire rack 30 minutes. Weigh pate with 2-pound weight for 1 hour.
Remove weight and foil; invert pate onto serving platter. Remove paper. Loaf can be refrigerated at this stage.
Garnish with cucumber and lemon slices. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 15 first-course servings or 25 hors d'oeuvre servings. Holiday Eggplant Relish 1 eggplant (1 pound) peeled, cut in 1/2-inch cubes 1 teaspoon salt 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided 1 cup finely chopped celery 1 cup finely chopped fresh onion 1 large fresh tomato, peeled, chopped 2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon capers, minced 2 teaspoons sugar 2 anchovy fillets, minced 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley Sprinkle eggplant with salt. Drain in colander 30 minutes; pat dry with paper towels.
In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add celery and cook over low heat, stirring, 10 minutes. Add onion, cook 10 minutes longer. Remove to a medium bowl.
Add remaining oil to skillet. Cook eggplant over moderately high heat, stirring, 8 minutes or until eggplant is lightly browned. Return celery mixture to skillet. Add tomato, vinegar, capers, sugar, and anchovies. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Stir in parsley. Cool. Cover. Chill 3 hours. Makes 3 cups.