The herb-infused lentils are such a nice element of this paté that you might consider making extra and using the leftovers, including their liquid, to sauce pasta or rice. Serve paté with whole-grain crackers or rye toasts.
1/3 cup (about 3 ounces) dried brown lentils
2 sprigs thyme, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon medium-grain sea salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, smashed with the flat side of a knife, then minced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon medium-dry sherry
1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) pecan halves or pieces, toasted
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
11/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Cover the lentils with an inch of water in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring almost to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook until tender, about 20 minutes, adjusting the heat so the water is barely bubbling. Remove from the heat, stir in the thyme sprigs and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, then cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until warm. Add 11/2 tablespoons of the oil, the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and cook until translucent, 7 or 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes longer. Add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, toss to coat with the oil, cover partly and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until most of the remaining liquid evaporates. Add the sherry, and cook until it just glosses the bottom of the pan, about 1 minute. Cover the skillet and remove it from the heat.
Pulse the pecans in the bowl of a food processor until they are finely ground. Add the onion-mushroom mixture and process until just combined. Drain the lentils, reserving the cooking liquid for another use, if desired, and add them to the food processor along with the remaining 11/2 tablespoons of oil, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Process until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and pulse just until combined. It should be about the consistency of peanut butter.
The paté can be served in a bowl immediately, garnished with additional thyme, if desired. It can also be molded. Transfer the paté into a small loaf pan or bowl lined with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. When ready to serve, unmold onto a serving plate and remove the plastic wrap. Garnish with additional thyme, if desired. Makes 11/4 cups, 5 servings.
Per serving: 280 calories, 7 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 21 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 3 g sugar