Walnut and Bean Pâté

I must admit, cracker baking involves a lot of lunches that involve crackers. So, I'm always on the hunt for delicious things to put on crackers (because, in the interest of my own personal health and waist size, it just can't always be cheese). Luckily, there is no shortage of dips, spreads and schmears to go around. And this is a good one. Healthy too!

This recipe is from Taste of Persia, the latest release by Naomi Duguid, one of my favorite cookbook writers and a world traveler who inspires me to no end. The pâté skillfully combines simple ingredients I got to know fairly well on our trip to Georgia (the country) in 2015 and flavors that are common throughout the region including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Kurdistan.

Located along the Silk Road, Georgia's cuisine is much influenced by its Persian neighbors. This is probably what wowed me the most about Georgian food which tasted familiar and yet seemed so foreign. Because of those historic spice routes, once exotic ingredients from the east are now commonplace to us. But due to our modern socio-political travel limitations and prejudices, many of us haven't yet learned how to use them in the ways Persians, Georgians and Armenians have enjoyed for centuries.

Here the ingredients include walnuts and kidney beans -- together! Who knew? And brightened up with fresh herbs like dill and cilantro. Pomegranates are another ubiquitous ingredient throughout Persia and if they're in season here I don't think it would be culturally inappropriate to top the pâté with a sprinkling of fresh pomegranate seeds. The pâté makes a tasty and vegan addition to a cheese board accompanied by fresh nuts and a few seasonal dried and fresh fruits.

Everyone who's tasted this dish at our house has asked me for the recipe. So, I thought it would be a good one to launch a series of recipes on Le Cracker Toppings. Look for future installments under this label in the Le Cracker Kitchen.

From Taste of Persia by Naomi Duguid

Makes about 4 cups

2 cups walnuts or walnut pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups cooked kidney beans
2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Generous grinding of black pepper
About 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, tarragon, or coriander, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint
Handful of fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)

Place walnuts in a wide heavy skillet over medium heat and toast them, stirring them frequently so they don't scorch, until aromatic, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a food processor and process to a fine texture. Add the garlic and beans and process to a smooth puree. Stop occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that all the beans are incorporated.

Turn the mixture out into a bowl, add the oil, salt, and pepper, and stir thoroughly. Stir in the herbs. This recipe makes a rather thick textured pâté. If you'd prefer it a it more spreadable for dipping, it can be thined with additional olive oil or a bit of warm water. Top with shower of fresh pomegranate seeds if you prefer.

Serve at room temperature. Store leftover pâté refrigerated in a well-sealed container for 5 days.