In a better, more healthy world, a Seed + Salt would be on every corner similar to the way Starbucks and McDonald’s dominate the nation’s streets today. However, for now, vegans will have to do with just one sole location, in San Francisco’s Marina district. The cafe and take-out joint, that quietly opened before the holidays, is currently our new favorite spot for indulgent plant-based food. Everything on their menu is 100 percent clean meaning there’s no cane sugars, trans-fats, gluten, dairy, meat, MSG, or GMOs. Instead, the eatery offers delectable breakfast items like buckwheat granola with coconut yogurt or savory nut and seed bread with chia berry jam and cashew dill cream cheese. For lunch, there’s excellent sandwiches like smashed avocado with green garbanzo hummus, carrots, and cucumber and salads like cauliflower couscous with golden raisins, pumpkin seeds, and mint.
Seed + Salt was founded by a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” Mo Clancy, who had no previous restaurant industry experience. A pretty redhead with beautifully clear skin and a calm demeanor, Clancy seems sort of like the fairy godmother of vegan cuisine. “Two years ago, I cleaned up my diet, but I realized there were not a lot of great options out there for vegan food. I didn’t like feeling like I was suffering through a meal, so I checked out a bunch of vegan restaurants all across the country. I put together a concept that is what I want to eat everyday.”
Clancy worked with chef Ariel Nadelberg to develop a completely seasonal, totally local, and naturally organic menu of scrumptious, yet wholesome dishes. Nadelberg’s food is shockingly good: it’s flavorful and filling without being heavy. Take her eggplant BLT with pimenton mayonnaise — it’s so satisfying you don’t realize that the smoky crispy element is not bacon, but in fact super thinly-sliced dehydrated eggplant.
Whiles some items will always be on the menu (the beet burger with ranch), many of the dishes, such as the salads and soups, will change regularly giving nutritious hungry diners plenty of reasons to keep coming back. One of the things Seed + Salt specializes in are sweet and savory spreads.
These divine dips — sun-dried tomato harrissa, vibrant chimichurri, and burnt Cara-Cara orange marmalade to name a few — are served with Seed + Salt’s signature sprouted nut loaf or gluten-free whole grain crostini. Since we are such fans of the finger-licking good spreads, we begged Clancy to share one of her recipes with us. If you can’t make it down to Chestnut Street to sample some of Seed + Salt’s vegan treats, here’s the recipe for one of their most popular spreads, mushroom lentil pate.
Mushroom Lentil Paté
From Chef Ariel Nadelberg of Seed + Salt
Morels and chanterelles tend to steal the mycological spotlight, but this simple crowd pleasing Mushroom Lentil Paté prefers the sturdier, nutritionally complex mix of the common crimini and all powerful shittake.
Savory and complex, all mushrooms – even little white buttons – are said to possess a myriad of health supportive qualities: they are full of antioxidants, help reduce inflammation and aid in absorption of the ever elusive Vitamin D.
And while Nadelberg doesn’t always use maitake mushrooms in this dish, they do make for a nice garnish. Maitake mushrooms, the “hen of the woods”, are the most healthful of mushrooms as well as delicious and elegant when sautéed.
Total prep and cook time: 1 hour
Yield: approx. 4 cups
1 cup lentil de puy (2 ½ cups cooked)
2 cups stock or water
1 bay leaf
¾ cup walnuts
2 tbsp grape seed oil
1 small onion, medium dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb assorted mushrooms (crimini, shiitake, oyster), sliced
¼ cup mirin
1 tbsp ume plum vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Rinse lentils. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the lentils with the stock or water and bay leaf. The stock/water should be about 2 inches above the lentils. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender, approximately 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toast walnuts in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, allow to cool, and then crush into a strainer to remove the bitter skins. Set aside.
- In a frying pan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in the grape seed oil. Add a pinch of salt and continue to cook until soft and golden brown. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms with another pinch of salt and sauté until brown and most of the liquid has evaporated. The mixture should be soft and caramelized.
- Stir in the mirin and vinegar. Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat.
- In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until finely ground. Add the cooked and drained lentils, the mushroom mixture, ½ – 1 teaspoon salt, and a few cracks of fresh black pepper. Purée until smooth. Taste and season if necessary. Add an extra pinch or two of salt, the saltiness lessens as the paté cools.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy on toast, as an hors d’oeuvre, or on a sandwich.
For a more elaborate presentation, add a maitake garnish:
¼ lb maitake mushrooms
Splash of mirin or white wine
½ cup parsley, chopped
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Chop off the stems of the mushrooms, breaking the delicate fingers into 1 inch pieces. In a medium sauté pan over high heat, sauté the mushrooms in grape seed oil for 3 minutes. Add a pinch of slat and splash of mirin or white wine, and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Sauté 1-2 minutes more or until golden. Turn off the heat, toss with a handful of chopped parsley, salt, and pepper to taste. Scatter on top of the paté.
Photo Credit: Maria del Rio