Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We're Organ-izing: Liver, Mediterranean-Style!

I have to give a big shout-out to the Darling Husband. He's been a real sport over the last few months as I've been tweaking our diets. He's been seeing a lot less of his favorites, like rice, and a lot of more of things that really don't light him up... like liver. Oh yeah, and he's been paying a little more for the privilege. Good food doesn't come cheap.

Anyway, back to liver. I had some years ago in this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in France. I don't remember loving it, but it wasn't super nasty. I mean, it was France. Pretty much everything in France is yummy.

Liver has really fallen out of favor in my lifetime, but the more I've been reading about it, the more I've been wanting to incorporate it into our diets. Here's why:

Liver is massively, wildly, insanely nutritious. It is absolutely a super food, especially beef liver, which is very high in Vitamin A, folate, copper, biotin, phosphorus, Vitamins B6 and B12... I could go on and on. This post by Chris Kresser includes an interesting chart on how beef liver stacks up to muscle meats, apples and carrots. No contest--beef liver wins every time. And it doesn't just have a little more of most of these nutrients. It has WAY more.

Liver is also blissfully cheap. Even grass-fed beef liver is cheap. Cows are supposed to eat grass, not grains. It's better for them and it's better for us, but meat (and milk) from grass-fed cows is more expensive. I recently bought a pound of grass-fed beef liver at Whole Paycheck for... wait for it... FOUR DOLLARS!! The cheapest I've ever seen grass-fed any-cut-of-beef was ground beef for five dollars a pound on sale (it's normally at least $7 a pound), so four bucks is crazy cheap for a nutrient powerhouse like liver.

So what's the problem? Why isn't everyone slurping down liver with reckless abandon??

The Taste

It's just too much of a coincidence that 'offal' and 'awful' are homonyms. It's yucky. Oh dear. Liver is so yucky. The flavor is very strong, the texture is weird and it really stays with you. I mean, aftertaste... whoa. A few months ago I bought a very small piece of beef liver for only $1.50 and fried it up with onions for my lunch. I couldn't even choke it down. I threw it away. And that's saying a lot, because I *never* throw food away. But I hadn't given up on liver. It's a food worth fighting for.

So I was very excited to crack open a cookbook I just bought and find several recipes for liver! 

Mediterranean Paleo Cooking is a compendium of recipes created by Algerian-born chef Nabil Boumrar and his nutrition-consultant wife Caitlin Weeks. I heard about this book from Diane Sanfilippo, author The 21 Day Sugar Detox program I did earlier this fall and the NY Times bestseller Practical Paleo, which is pretty much open on my kitchen counter all the time. Diane collaborated with Nabil and Caitlin to produce an absolutely beautiful cookbook with great recipes and LOTS of information and modifications to accommodate a host of dietary conditions.

A couple of weeks ago I packed into a local Barnes and Noble shop for a book signing and talk by Nabil, Caitlin and Diane. It was quite a thrill for me and all the other health geeks seated around me. Nabil gave us some great cooking tips and look! We took a picture!
Nabil, Caitlin and Diane
I came home all fired up to cook from the book, especially, you know, the liver dishes.

Liver, Take 1

I decided to try Braised Liver and Mushrooms (page 300.)
The recipe description said, "Braising liver in a sauce is a great way to improve it's texture and flavor." Well, those are our primary beefs with liver (haha! couldn't resist) so I decided to give this one a whirl. I told the DH we're having liver tonight! He wasn't super psyched but was willing to give it a go. I decided to just tell the small people we were having beef, which was entirely true.

The dish was easy to prepare and smelled delicious. I simmered it much of the afternoon and, as is my custom, forbade snacks to get everyone to the table nice and hungry ready to sup on our marvelous healthy dinner. The small people tucked right into it. Only at the very end did Darling Son #1 say, "I don't want anymore of the meat, Mommy. But I like the mushrooms." He ate most of it, and the DS#2 schnarfed down the whole thing. Win!

The DH, however, struggled with the liver. He said, "I liked the recipe. It definitely took the edge off the liver. But if you had made it with stew meat, I would have eaten three bowls." Ok, good to know.

Liver, Take 2

I remained undaunted, and scoured the book for another recipe. I settled on Liver Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy (page 312. By the way, both these recipes are located in the 'odd bits' section of the book, which cracked me up.)
I know. It looks a lot like the other recipe. I blame the cilantro.
This one involved mixing the liver with ground beef to disguise it's, shall we say, less palatable qualities? The recipe called for calf's liver, but I decided to use chicken liver instead. I couldn't find beef liver that day, and I had read the taste of chicken liver is a little milder. It isn't quite the nutritional badass that is beef liver, but it's still pretty potent.

Score! It was delicious. No discernible liver flavor whatsoever. Super yummy. Small people asked for seconds.

The DH said, 'Is there liver in this?' Why yes, my Darling, I cannot tell a lie.

"Well. It's good."


I highly recommend Mediterranean Paleo Cooking. It doesn't just contain organ meat recipes. There are tons of tasty dishes using a variety of ingredients... not just variety meats. Later this week we're having the cover recipe, Chicken and Olive Tajine. It looks delicious and should go over well, since no one in the family finds fowl, well, foul.

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