No Awful Offal

I grew up in an Eastern European household with the Yiddish flowing like Manischewitz wine, the wine flowing over our kiddush cups every Shabbat, and every Shabbat flowing with chicken soup with matzah balls and my mother’s gehakteh leber.

I loved my mother’s gehakteh leber (that’s chopped liver to those of you (most of you) who didn’t grow up speaking Yiddish).  She made it in a large wooden bowl with a double-bladed chopper called a hakmesser.  The sound of her chopping the liver and hard boiled eggs greeted me every Friday when I came home from school, along with the smell of onions slowly caramelizing in shmaltz.  On Friday night we would start every meal with challah and gehakteh leber, topped with crunchy gribenes (chicken crackling).  It was a delicious heart attack waiting to happen.  My father actually had four of those heart attacks, eventually dying of complications due to quadruple bypass surgery, but I’m sure that if he could, he would tell you that it was worth it, just to have some of my mother’s wonderful chopped liver.  It was, as he often said, geshmak!

Offal Hater

Over the years I’ve tried to replicate my mother’s amazing recipe.  I’ve come close, but it always eludes me.  Perhaps nothings tastes as wonderful as a memory.  Perhaps it’s the enthusiasm of the eaters, or rather, the lack of.  Not a single member of my family’s joy of liver comes close to mine, or my father’s.  A few friends have loved it, the X tolerated it and the kids won’t go near it.  Ju-Boy can be counted among those who are not fans, but I’m not insulted, since he won’t eat liver or any kind of offal, in any form.  It’s not like he’s cheating on me with someone else’s chopped liver, phew!

He does, however, like my vegetarian paté.  It’s almost as labor-intensive as the original, almost, but not quite.  With no liver to kasher and chop, the only real work is the caramelizing of the onions and the cleaning up of the food processor afterwards.  No wooden bowl and hakmesser to give it that authentic Eastern European je ne sais quoi, or as they say in Yiddish, epes geshmak!


Liver Lover and Offal Avoider

Miriyummy’s Vegetarian Paté

  • 4 huge onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 hard boiled eggs
  • 100 grams (4 ounces) walnuts
  • 2 cups canned peas (1 largish can, must be canned peas), drained
  • salt, pepper and paprika to taste
  1. Chop the onions medium fine.  Heat the oil in a large pan and slowly caramelize the onions.  This can take up to an hour.  Don’t try to rush it, this is what gives the paté its authentic flavor.  The onions will cook down to next to nothing.  When the onions are a gorgeous caramel brown take them off the heat and let cool.
  2. Place the walnuts in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the steel knife.  Zhuzz until finely ground.
  3. Add the peas and zhuzz again.
  4. Add the hard boiled eggs and the onions (scraping every last drop of oil into the mix) and give it a good zhuzz until you get the paté consistency you’re looking for.
  5. Add salt, pepper and paprika to taste.  Turn into a serving bowl or Tupperware and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
  6. Serve with challah, crackers or fancy shmacy little toast points.
  7. Can be frozen.

About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 16 January 2011, in Jewish cooking, Savory Nosh, Shabbat, Uncategorized, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. You are so cute! I hear and internalize your nostalgic sighs, and share them. And yet — with your help, Ju-Boy will live a long, healthy life. Nothing tastes as wonderful as memory, it is true: except long life and those dear to us to share it with.


  2. Zhuzz is your word!!


  3. sounds wonderful. always loved chopped liver till one fateful day when some one who I refuse to recall told me chopped liver is fattening!! How dare she spoil my enjoyment! so now I make a fake version that taste nearly as good with lentils…can use the canned variety for ease. and as for gribenes…Mmmmm is for distant memories ( and faintly recalled calories..Yummm!)


  4. I, too, was raised on offal. I miss my mother’s great lungen and also calve’s brains. Have never been able to interest dh in such treats . . . But when we 1st dated a I made a very similar veggie chopped liver that he loved (I sometimes added canned string beans too but I think the peas are sufficient). Now not only can I not handle the fat/cholesterol of the liver, but I’ve just developed a walnut allergy. So all of these yummy foods will just have to be a memory for me.
    BTW, we also had the wooden bowl, etc. but I especially loved when my mom would do the chopped liver in the meat grinder.


  5. Can’t say I’m too partial to liver anything but your veggie pate sounds wonderful!


  6. Irmgard Upmanis

    I love chopped liver but have to avoid it now because of the cholesterol – sigh!


  7. Yum! Thanks for sharing this recipe. I think I’ll trying making it for this coming Shabbat IY”H. {puts walnuts and canned peas on shopping list}


  8. Oops! That should be, “try making it”…


  9. Oh, Mrs. S. just told me you are also talking mock! Independently, I posted on the same topic today. Except I used zucchini instead of peas.


  10. This is a riot. ‘Awful offal’-funny as heck! I grew up on chopped liver, but here I thought that liver was good for you: my mother (a”h) served broiled liver smothered in onions, like a steak. It was supposed to be healthy. I forget why. Iron, I think.
    Your vegetarian liver recipe sounds good, though; I think I’ll give it to my D.H., ’cause he’s the chef around here. I’ve almost forgotten how to cook…

    I think the smell of frying onions was one of those unique Shabbat smells, like chicken soup.
    (but “zhuzz?” My Yiddish is shvach, but I never heard that onebefore!


  11. B”H

    My mother claimed the any use of electric devise renders the food treif. Just kidding!

    Great Grandmother Lillian’s Latkes

    I’ve been looking for veg. pate recipes. I think I’ll try this one out!


  12. pragmaticattic

    I just made vegetarian chopped liver for Shabbos–a similiar recipe, but I also used green beans. I also make veggie chopped liver with lentils, and it tastes even more like the real thing. Too bad my husband can’t stand real or veggie chopped liver, or I would make it more often.


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