Lentil Pecan Pate
1 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 tablespoons mirin (rice wine)
1 teaspoon umeboshi (sour plum) paste
1 tablespoon light miso (Japanese bean paste)
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black peppper
COOK AND COOL THE LENTILS: Rinse the lentils. Put them in a saucepan with the water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium heat, lower the heat and simmer, covered. Cook until the lentils are very soft and most of the water has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Remove the bay leaf, and set aside to cool.
SAUTE THE ONION: While the lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until it has reduced in volume and begun to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Turn down the heat to low, and cook the onion for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the onion starts to stick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water (or cooking sherry, if you have it), and stir to remove any bits of onion from the bottom of the pan. When done, the onion should be various shades of brown, soft and sweet.
ADD GARLIC AND HERBS: To the onion, add the garlic, thyme and sage and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool.
PUREE THE LENTILS AND ONIONS: Put the lentils and onion mixture in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients, and process until the mixture is a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill before serving.
SERVE: Serve with a basket of sliced rustic bread, crostini or crackers, 2 to 3 slices per person.