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VEGETARIAN CHOPPED LIVER

 

Makes 7 cups,

To serve as a spread with crackers or bread

or as an appetizer, on a plate with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and radishes

 

     Vegetarian chopped liver, also called mock chopped liver, was a specialty of the dairy restaurants, which had largely vegetarian menus, although they also served fish.

     Various kinds of vegetarian chopped liver were and still are also made at home. And nowadays in New York City, even at Costco, you can buy prepared vegetarian chopped liver in the dairy case, next to the containers of hummus and babaganouj, the Arab dip/spreads that New York City's Orthodox Jews have adopted as their food. Let's remember that Israel is in the Middle East.

     Mid 20th century mock chopped liver was made with canned peas, and also with canned green beans, or sometimes the two together. There are also mocked chopped livers made with roasted eggplant, with fried mushrooms, with lentils, all of them with either almonds or walnuts, and sometimes with crackers as filler. Manischewitz's Tam Tam (pronounced "tom tom," tam being the Yiddish word for soulful flavor), is the usual brand of cracker, but there's also a popular old recipe using Ritz crackers.

     Whatever! The secret to making any formula taste like real chopped liver is lots of fried onions.

     "Does it really taste like liver?" you may well ask. Not really. It has a sense of chopped liver, but I have friends who won't touch liver in any form and love this stuff. You might want to call it something else: vegetarian paté? Still, the words "vegetarian chopped liver" strikes a resonant chord with many Ashkenazy Jews.

     I prefer to use fresh green beans, rather than canned. They have so much better flavor. But - and this is a serious warning -- they must be cooked through, not at all crisp-tender, not at all al dente. I have made this recipe countless times, so I know that the timing will vary from 8 minutes to nearly 12 of hard boiling, depending on the season and the maturity of the beans.

 

2 tablespoons salt, plus 3/4 to 1 teaspoon, or more to taste

2 pounds green beans, trimmed and washed (do not buy thin, new beans or so-called haricot verts, the slim beans with a French name)

4 medium onions, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)

3 tablespoons canola oil (or other light vegetable oil)

5 eggs, hard-cooked and shelled

1 cup shelled walnuts

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

 

Bring about 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add the 2 tablespoons of salt and the green beans. From the time the water returns to a boil, cook the beans for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on their maturity, until they are fully tender. Drain very well in a colander and set aside to cool.

 

In a medium skillet, on medium-high heat, heat the oil and fry the onions, tossing continually, until the onions have wilted, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and fry until the onions are well browned, about 15 minutes longer. Set aside to cool.

 

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine half the walnuts, half the fried onions, and half the green beans. Chunk up 2 or 3 of the eggs and add to the processor. Pulse the processor until the mixture is quite fine (but not pasty) and resembles chopped liver. Stir down the mixture a couple of times during the processing. Turn into a mixing bowl.

 

Process the remaining ingredients as above.

 

Stir the two batches together, adding more salt, if necessary, and pepper to taste. (I like mine peppery.)

.

Cover and refrigerate at least a few hours before serving. The "liver" tastes even better the next day, and it will keep for up to a week.

 

 

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