Potluck Passover Preparations: Mock Chopped Liver and Nigella Lawson’s Spinach

As you will soon read, tonight I sedered at Billy and Kate’s. The rule was: everyone brings something! (This is known in Judaism as “potluck.”) So I scratched my head and did some investigation (what were other people bringing) and settled upon mock chopped liver and Nigella Lawson’s Passover spinach.

I can’t type “mock chopped liver” without thinking of my grandmother. She LOVES the stuff. She buys kegs of it at Whole Foods and does mock chopped liver keg stands with grandpa watching. For a woman who decries regular chopped liver an “organ meat” as if to say it’s poison, mock chopped liver is the perfect solution. Grandma is to mock chopped liver what that Campbell’s soup lady is to Campbell’s soup. She thinks it’s oy oy good.

There are two recipes for mock chopped liver in Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking in America”: the one at the front of the book and the one in the back of the book. The one in the front of the book comes from Mandy Patinkin and Isaac Bashevis Singer (they had a cooking show together: “Mandy and Isaac”) (Just kidding–I think think they’re both mentioned as liking that recipe) and the one in the back of the book has no celebrity endorsements. The one in the front of the book requires that you cook 5 onions for an HOUR until they’re golden. The one at the back of the book lets you cook the onions until translucent.

I made the Isaac/Mandy recipe two years ago for a seder I went to. It was a hit but caused much shvitzing with all the onion-chopping and sauteeing and rendering. I wanted to avoid that today so I went with the easier back-of-the-book recipe. I’m glad I did!

I doubled the recipe because the original only makes one cup. So here’s the doubled recipe and you can halve it if you want to make a cup (and honestly, I made too much so maybe the halved recipe is better).

I took two small onions and roughly chopped them. (I chopped them big so they wouldn’t dissolve in the food processor.) I took 1 lb of mushrooms (about two cartons) and also roughly chopped them. Put 6 Tbs of vegetable oil in a large sautee pan and heat. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook until the onions are translucent:

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Then put 2 cups chopped walnuts into the food processor. (I put whole walnuts in and pulsed a few times before adding the other stuff.) Then add the other stuff (all the cooked mushrooms and onions) and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (be generous, it helps!) and 2 Tbs of water.

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I pureed it but not too much—you need that chunky consistency to make it feel livery. Here’s the end result:

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You have to admit it looks like chopped liver, no? And it’s healthier and easier to make. (Plus it was a hit at the seder! People really liked it.)

Now as for Nigella Lawson’s spinach recipe. It’s in her “Feast” cookbook under PASSOVER. I chose this because there was a need for side dishes and this seemed simple and unusual (you add pine nuts and sultanas—golden raisins.)

Spinach is an economist’s nightmare. For this recipe I bought 5 bags–count ’em, 5 bags–of baby spinach at $3 each. That is so expensive! I also sliced an onion:

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You sautee the onion (which you slice into half moons) in 2 Tbs of olive oil until golden and soft.

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Then you add two Tbs of white wine (it sizzles and deglazes) (I opened a whole new bottle for this because I thought it would be worth it, but I’m not sure it was!). Now you add all that spinach:

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Isn’t that a ton of spinach? You push it into the heat and eventually, miraculously, it begins to wilt. “I’m wilting! I’m wilting!” it might say if it were in The Wizard of Oz.

Once it’s wilted and you cook off the water you add 1/4 cup of sultanas which you soak beforehand in boiling water. (I didn’t find sultanas but I found green raisins.) You also add 1/3 cup of pine nuts which you’ve toasted in a skillet.

Here’s what you’re left with:

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It’s pretty, yes, I know–but think of all the spinach that went in there! And look how little there is now!

But it tasted good. A little watery, I must admit. I should have let the water cook off for longer. Anyway, this was popular too. Jewish Popeye was very grateful.

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