Cook: Readers cravings – lower-fat liver, fruited vegan kugel

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What do chopped liver and a sweet kugel have in common? Well, they are both iconic Ashkenazi Jewish specialties that are full of flavor and full of fat.

Over the years friends have requested lighter versions of both, a task I hadn’t wanted to take on since, to be honest, there is only so much tinkering you can do with something like chopped liver before it ceases to be chopped liver. But I kept getting requests for an enlightened chopped liver and for vegan kugel. The recipes below aren’t trying to be healthy substitutes for the real thing, but they are satisfying, somewhat healthier and maybe a tad less guilt-inducing.

The Chicken Liver and Mushroom Spread uses poached chicken and sautéed mushrooms to lessen the cholesterol without losing the character of traditional chopped liver. It is best made at least a few hours before serving. The Strawberry Kugel skips the eggs and dairy and bursts with fresh fruit.


Chicken Liver and Mushroom Spread

Makes about 2 cups

3⁄4 lb. chicken livers

1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt

1⁄2 tsp. salt, divided

1⁄2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. oil

1⁄2 cup thinly sliced onion

2 medium portobella mushrooms (about 3 oz. each)

1⁄4 tsp. plus 1⁄8 tsp. ground black pepper

1⁄8 tsp. ground nutmeg

2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered

3 Tbs. to 1⁄4 cup sweetened Concord grape wine

Rinse the livers and pat dry. Cut off any fat. Put on a perforated broiler pan with a drip pan beneath. Sprinkle the livers on both sides with kosher salt. Broil, turning occasionally, until cooked through. (Or kasher the livers as desired.) Bring a small pan of water to a simmer. Add 1⁄8 tsp. of salt and chicken thighs. Return pot to a simmer, cover and poach until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove from hot water.

Put 2 Tbs. oil in a large fry pan and sauté onions over medium-low heat until very brown and completely soft. Remove mushroom stems and cut caps into thin slices. Add the mushroom slices, 1⁄4 tsp. salt, 1⁄4 tsp. pepper, and the nutmeg to the onions. Raise heat to medium and sauté until the mushrooms are cooked through and very soft.

In the container of a food processor, add the poached chicken thighs and process until roughly chopped. Add chicken livers and process until the livers are just broken up. Add mushrooms and onions (along with any oil left in the pan), eggs, the 1 tsp. of oil, 3 Tbs. of wine and the remaining 1⁄8 tsp. salt and 1⁄8 tsp. pepper. Process until mixture is well combined and finely chopped but still a bit rough and not puréed. Taste and add salt, pepper and additional wine as desired.


Strawberry Kugel

Serves 6-8

8 oz. uncooked butterfly or bowtie noodles

oil or oil spray

14 oz. container of soft tofu (fresh, not vacuum-packed)

2 cups soy vanilla-flavored yogurt

1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided

2 Tbs. sugar

1⁄8 tsp. salt

21⁄2 cups quartered fresh strawberries

1 Tbs. nondairy margarine

Cook and drain noodles per package instructions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use oil or oil spray to grease an approximately 8-by-12-inch baking pan. Drain tofu and crumble into a large bowl so it resembles small curds. Mix with yogurt, 1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon, sugar and salt. Combine with drained noodles. Mix with strawberries and pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with remaining cinnamon. Cut margarine into small bits and scatter on top. Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, about 40 minutes.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs at Contact her at [email protected].

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].