Chopped liver

Chopped liver like my mom makes. Mainly because my mom made it with me.

To Mom and to me, cooking is like breathing. I know that cooking is a skill that has to be taught, but both of us have been cooking for so long that it feels like we’ve been doing it all our lives. So I understood what she meant when I walked in with my camera and notebook to learn to make chopped liver and she shook her head.

“People think making my own chopped liver is such a big deal, but it’s practically the easiest thing in the world to make.”

It never occurs to her how daunting a recipe with several steps, even easy steps, can seem to a non-cook, and before I started this blog in 2009, it really didn’t cross my mind much, either. For the blog’s sake, I take photos and jot down quantities, but I don’t remember when I learned how to tell how long to cook something or how much onion to use, and I don’t write those things down in my normal day-to-day life. Knowing how to achieve the taste and texture I want feels like a part of me, and that’s mainly because Mom has been letting me help with the cooking since I was able to stand on a stool in the kitchen.

When I was planning what to cook for my first recipe back after a long break from blogging, I looked over the list of Mom’s recipes, the ones I’ve already done here, and was surprised not to see chopped liver. I grew up on the stuff, and it’s one of those things that is never as good in a restaurant or store as it is homemade. I think many of us have those things that we only like done a certain way, and the livers are like that for me.

While we made these this morning, Mom told me about a time when a friend of a friend from Israel was visiting and Mom made chopped liver for her. The woman from Israel was so happy to have some food that reminded her of home, and today, I’m feeling that, too.

If you haven’t had chopped liver before, it may remind you of pâté. Pâté is delicious and fancy, but chopped liver is, well, chopped liver. It’s cheap and homey and casual and the perfect thing to eat on toast as an easy, quick meal. Mom likes it best on rye toast. I am more likely to use white toast or crackers (or just a spoon).

If you’re a novice cook and you like chopped liver, this really is a great starter recipe, and it’s something different to add to your hors d’oeuvres repertoire. There’s nothing difficult about it, and I’ll even help you with shortcuts and substitutions. Plus, the quantities are forgiving. Just make sure your livers are fresh and you’re good to go.


Chopped Liver


Either a meat/food grinder or a food processor
A frying pan (nonstick isn’t necessary)
A large bowl


1 pound of fresh chicken livers
1/3 cup schmaltz. If you don’t have schmaltz, you can use oil or butter. There’s also a mayo alternative — see note
1 large onion, chopped (the pieces should be small enough to fit into your grinder chute or processor bowl)
3 hard-boiled eggs (if you’re not sure how to boil an egg, Elise will help you out)
2 or 3 good-sized slices of white bread. We used home-baked today; if your bread is especially soft, you might want to use an extra slice.
salt to taste


Mom's antique grinder

If you’re using a meat grinder (also known as a food grinder), set it up with a coarse disk on it. If you’re using a food processor, a regular metal blade is what you want. If you have neither, this can absolutely be done by hand with just a knife, but expect it to take quite some time, and that’s really just a last resort.

frying chicken livers in schmaltz

Heat schmaltz in a frying pan over medium heat. Add chicken livers without draining. Cook and stir over medium heat until the livers are firm, around 5 minutes. Cut into one of the livers and make sure most or all of the pink color is gone. If not, cook a couple more minutes and test again until they’re cooked through. A tiny bit of pink is okay, but if the livers aren’t firm, they’ll end up soupy once they’re ground up.

chopped onions

Remove the livers from the heat and place all the ingredients near the grinder or food processor.

frying chicken livers in schmaltz

With a slotted spoon, remove the livers from the schmaltz and run through the grinder or pulse in the food processor until coarsely chopped.

running chicken livers through a grinder

Put the bread slices into the schmaltz to soak it up while you grind the onions and eggs.

Pan of bread soaked in schmaltz

Next, grind the rest of the items in this order: onions, eggs, soaked bread.

grinding the onions

hard-boiled eggs being ground in a grinder


bowl of ground ingredients for chopped liver

Mix everything together. Test the texture and salt to taste. I usually don’t need much salt, if any. Some people like it saltier.  Remember that the livers will firm up in the fridge, so you want the texture to be a little thinner and looser than you’re hoping they’ll be when they’re cold. If the livers are too soft for your taste, add more bread. If they’re too dry, add a little schmaltz.

Jar of chopped liver

Note: In a pinch, you can skip the schmaltz and use a good brand of mayo. In this case, cook the livers in a small amount of oil or butter, process all the other ingredients in the grinder or food processor, and then mix the ground ingredients with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of mayo, to taste. The flavor is similar, but not as good as with schmaltz.

Pantry Cooking Project, Day 6

Buttermilk pancakes and a brief report on day 6.

Just a quicky today.

Breakfast was my basic buttermilk pancakes (recipe below) and a ham-and-green-onion frittata.


Lunch was the leftover rice from the day before and some of our farmer’s market bounty: strawberries and donut peaches.


Dinner was a fancy restaurant with a friend, so basically, I’m not doing all that well in my resolve not to spend much in restaurants this month. Oh, well.

Money spent on groceries: $16.25 (project total $55.86)
Money spent in restaurants: $55 (project total $92.76)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, hamburger patties, pork chops

Simple buttermilk pancakes
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
Dry ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1-3 Tbsp sugar
Wet ingredients
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I use the thick Bulgarian kind; it makes a difference)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter, plus more for the pan
  1. Combine the dry ingredients with a fork in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl and add all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is smooth.
  3. Stir in the melted butter.
  4. Fry the pancakes in melted butter. If you're unsure how to cook pancakes, leave me a comment, and I'll be more specific.


Ah, bliss. (Pantry Cooking Project, Day 5)

First weekend post-graduation. So nice to just putter around my house and relax!

It’s my first weekend as a college graduate, and it’s off to a wonderful start. Slept in a little bit (until 8am! yay!) and then delighted in a gorgeous breakfast James made us: morel omelettes, potatoes, V-8, and tea. Later, scarfed an entire pint of raspberries all by myself. Life is good.

Today’s food:

The aforementioned breakfast.


Lunch was veggie burgers with homemade mayo (you may recall we ran out of store-bought pretty early) and oven fries. James made lunch, as well. He’s a really useful guy to have around.


(I made the mayo from this recipe from the Frugal Farm Wife, Elise New.)


For dinner, I thought I’d try my hand at making flour tortillas using my friend Koko’s instructions, but I ended up feeling less ambitious than that, so I just made “Spanish rice” instead, and served it with refried beans and a tomato-and-avocado salad.


(I haven’t been mentioning snacks. Today’s snacks were the aforementioned raspberries, some milk and cookies, and a couple of white peaches. Ah, summer!)

Money spent on groceries today: $0 (project total $39.61)
Money spent in restaurants today: $0 (project total $37.76)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, hamburger patties, pork chops

Easy Spanish rice
Recipe type: Side dish
Cuisine: Pseudo-Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small bell pepper (any color), finely diced
  • 1½ cups medium- or long-grained white rice
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 2½ cups stock or water (I used a knorr beef tub in hot water)
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes with the liquid)
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for a couple of minutes, until softened. Add pepper and rice and cook and stir 5-8 minutes, until rice starts to turn light brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  2. Add in broth and tomatoes. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer 20 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.


Pantry Cooking Project, Day 3

What to drink when you don’t want to buy drinks at work.

Growing up, our beverage choice at dinner was usually water or water. We drank a lot of water in our house. Sometimes there was juice or milk at breakfast or lunch, and in the summer, Country Time lemonade or instant Nestea iced tea (you do know to boycott Nestlé, right?), but usually, it was water, and it’s still my favorite beverage. Preferably cold with no ice, but I’m pretty flexible. Am I the only one who sees people using a garden hose and wants to go over and get a quick drink? Yeah, probably the only one over the age of seven.


These days, I still mostly drink water, but I’ve gotten in the habit at The Best Job Ever of buying a drink in the afternoon: usually sweet, usually caffeinated, usually cold. Today, it’s jasmine and honey iced tea with lychee jelly. Delicious. But I want to see about moving to homemade drinks for my afternoon treat. One of the main reasons I don’t do that is that I don’t want to deal with washing out a container, but maybe I can find one that’s wide enough that I can just wash it the way I would a drinking glass. I’ll be on the lookout.

Possible afternoon bring-along drinks:

ice water (feels like more of a treat than just water from the tap)
sweet iced tea
chia lemonade or other chia drink
V-8, tomato juice, Clamato (all faves, but in hot weather, they don’t tend to satisfy thirst as well for me)
[your suggestion here]

Food today:

Breakfast was delicious. Frozen O’Brien potatoes fried in oil; eggs over easy; a little sriracha; a cup of V-8; some yellow pepper strips.


Lunch was an embarrassment of food in packets. I had taken some ham out of the freezer to make sandwiches with, but it wasn’t thawed yet when I went to make my lunch in the morning, so I just grabbed some stuff to take.


Dinner was some really amazing cheeseburgers, with those awesome homemade buns. Mom often thinks we’re not eating enough meat, so she sends us boxes of meat from Omaha Steaks. These are their burgers, topped with melted Swiss cheese and caramelized onions. Usually, I eat half my burger and give James the other half, because I’m just not all that into big chunks of meat, but this time, I ate the whooooooole thing, and it was just. so. good.


Money spent on groceries today: $0
Money spent in restaurants today: $2.99 (project total $11.52)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, milk, hamburger patties

The Pantry Project starts tomorrow

Day One of the pantry project is tomorrow. Here’s my plan.

I’ve planned our meals until Saturday (see below). I’ve found my camera cable. I’ve made my last trip to the grocery store (for snacks for our Torchwood marathon this evening). And, oh yeah:

I’ve graduated!

Anywho, tomorrow, we’re going to start a project to see how long we can go without buying groceries, with these exceptions:

Coffee (because seriously)
Fresh produce

James is up for it; when he realized we were out of mayo, he said, “but you can make it from what we have, right?” So I’ll make some mayo tomorrow and take pics. I’m curious to see what kinds of things we run out of first. I’ll tell you one thing: it won’t be beans. We have so. Many. Beans!

Here’s the menu for the rest of the week, and then Saturday I’ll sit down and figure out next week’s based on my master menu and what we have in the house. Have I shared my master menu yet? It’s a way for me to do meal planning without thinking too much:

Mondays: pasta
Tuesdays: Mexican food
Wednesdays: Udon or yaki soba or ramen — basically, Asian noodle night
Thursdays: Sandwiches or burgers
Fridays: Stir-fry
Saturdays: Something with chickpea gravy (my favorite vegan food in the world)
Sundays: Whatever I feel like making

So the rest of the week looks like this:

Tuesday: Beans and Mexican rice with roasted corn and baby carrots
Wednesday: Miso broth with veggies, tofu, and noodles
Thursday: Grilled cheese and soup
Friday: Seitan stir-fry and rice or noodles
Saturday: Marble potatoes and chickpea gravy; big salad