When I was growing up, my mother often made “mock liver” as a starter for Shabbat and for festive meatless meals, and it remains one of my favorite appetizers. This spread, which is popular on many Jewish tables, probably developed as a pareve, frugal imitation of chopped liver.
In our family the appetizer was composed of peas, fried onions, walnuts and hard-boiled eggs. Over the years, Jewish cooks have come up with dozens of other formulas. Basically it’s a pate or spread made of vegetables or legumes. Besides peas, some people make theirs with green beans, some with mushrooms and others with lentils. Israeli friends of mine often use eggplant in their mock liver and occasionally zucchini. Usually grated hard-boiled eggs are added, as in classic chopped liver, and often nuts as well, to add richness.
Pretend chopped liver is perfect not only when you want a pareve appetizer but also as a healthy alternative to chopped liver, as it has much less saturated fat and cholesterol.
In the summertime, this spread is useful to have around, to scoop on top of your green salads and turn them into a light, warm-weather entree.
Over the years, my recipes for the appetizer have been evolving. A particular favorite of mine is a blend of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), green beans, and a small amount of walnuts; sometimes I add sautéed mushrooms too. The most important element is a generous amount of well browned onions. I suppose the onions’ caramelized flavor, along with the hard-boiled egg, can create the impression that the pate resembles chopped liver.
Do any of these spreads really taste like chopped chicken liver? When I made my chickpea version in a cooking class, one of my students came up to me excitedly after class and exclaimed, “That was a marvel! It tastes exactly like chopped liver!”
Personally, I don’t think it does, but I don’t care. I enjoy imitation chopped liver as a dish in its own right, as a wholesome vegetable starter to vary my menus. In fact, I don’t know if these appetizers should even be called mock liver, as some people who don’t consider liver tempting might not try them. In a recent America On Line Food poll on America’s most hated food, liver was number one! I doubt if they had a high proportion of Jews voting in this poll. Still, depending on who will be at your table, it might be safer to call these appetizers vegetable pates.
Serve these nutritious appetizers with fresh bread, or scoop a portion onto a bed of salad greens. You can also serve the spread in cucumber boats (cucumber halves cut in boat shapes), celery sticks or in halved sweet peppers. It keeps well and is great in sandwiches with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce or smoked turkey.
Faye Levy’s latest cookbooks are “Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home” and “Feast from the Mideast.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.