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Monday Meal Makeover: Fig, Nut and Mushroom Pate

Slow-cooked figs are the heart and soul of this luxurious pate.

It tastes just as decadent and rich as traditional fatty pate, but this lightened version is made of fruits, nuts, herbs, and veggies, and is perfect to serve while entertaining.

It's also perfect to serve to all your vegetarian friends.

What you need:

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup raw pistachios

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons

1/2 cup quartered shitake mushrooms

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup marsala

4 to 6 slow-cooked figs, halved (or store-bought dried figs)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (plus extra whole leaves for garnish)

1 scallion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 package Crostini, pita chips or multi-grain crackers

Directions:

In a medium bowl, cover the seeds and nuts with water, and soak for about 6 hours. Drain, rinse, and drain again.

In a small pan with a heavy bottom reduce the vinegar over medium-low heat until syrupy, about 15 to 20 minutes. (You can let this reduce slowly while you move ahead and sauté the onions). When the reduction has a nice, thick consistency, take it off the heat and set it aside to cool.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over high heat. Add chopped red onion and sauté just to bring out the flavor, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when the onions are brown.

Pour the marsala into a small pan, set it over low heat, and rehydrate the figs, letting them warm slowly for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain, reserving both the figs and the marsala. Set aside.

In a food processor, add the nuts, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sautéed mushroom and onions as well as the basil, scallion, salt and pepper, and the marsala in which you rehydrated the figs. Blend well, taste and adjust seasonings to taste. Make sure the mixture is smooth.

Serve on a pita chip or a cracker, topping the paté with a fig and a light drizzle of the balsamic syrup.

Serves 6 to 8

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Cat Cora became the Food Network's first and only female Iron Chef in 2005. In November 2006, Bon Appetit Magazine bestowed her with their "Teacher of the Year" award. Recently, she was named the magazine's executive chef. To learn more about Cat Cora, visit www.catcoracooks.com.

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