Thursday, September 17, 2015

Recipe: liver the venetian style

After speaking about macronutrients, micronutrients, biochemical individuality, food cravings and nutrient density, the question is... how to achieve it? Some philosophical moments first.

In our society, there is a common misconception:

Food is either tasty or healthy

That's a big lie, nutrient dense food can taste good. Like in today's recipe, where the nutrient content is so high that I recomment to prepare it no more than once or twice per week to avoid an overload of vitamins.

The main protagonist is liver. Despite the bad rap, liver is the ultimate and most nutritious food you can ever imagine to introduce in your diet. Common critiques to liver include:
  • it is a filter
  • it stocks toxins
  • it contains too much Vit-A
I'll discuss better these and other common wisdom fallacies in my future articles on myth-busting. For the time being just remember this: liver is a superfood.

The recipe

This simple and quick (10 minutes max) recipe is a crossover of the liver the venetian style - a dish my grandmother used to prepare for me - and a lebanese liver recipe, which I discovered in a restaurant not long time ago.

How to proceed:

  • butter or ghee, or tallow: enough to sauté the onions
  • finely chopped shallots or onions: 2 medium or one big
In a large frying pan, sauté the onions in the fat of choice.

  • dry white wine: 1/3 glass
Add white wine and keep sautéing the onions.

  • liver (veal, rabbit, chicken), in pieces: 600 grams... makes for 3-4 servings
  • balsamic vinegar: 3 tablespoons
While the onions are frying, cut the liver into pieces. If you chose to prepare rabbit or chicken livers, it will take more time so my suggestion is to cut them in advance.

Add the liver, mix with the onions. Keep mixing in order to cook the chops from all directions.
As the liquids evaporate, add the balsamic vinegar to keep the recipe moisty. A good one is generally quite expensive, but a cheap one is just plain vinegar with added sugars and colorants: choose the good one.

  • cognac or brandy: 1/6 glass
  • lighter (???)
Pour the cognac over the liver and... flambé! (optional: you don't have to if you don't feel at ease with open flames in your kitchen, just add the cognac and let it evaporate).

  • sumac: ½ or 1 teaspoon
  • salt: to taste
  • freshly ground black peppercorn: to taste
  • freshly ground parsley: for decoration, (and for the Vitamin-C)
  • extra virgin oil of olive: for taste (and Vitamin-E, of course)
When the flames are extinguished, add the last ingredients.

To be served immediately, this recipe is not good re-heated.


As I mentioned, this dish truly is a vitamin bomb, in its disarming simplicity it is so well designed that no vitamin is missing (grandmothers knew better). I have it once or twice per week.

If you are not accustomed to eating organ meats, the best options are chicken liver or rabbit liver, thanks to their milder taste and softer consistence. In the picture I used duck liver, another excellent choice if you manage to find it. Veal and lamb liver are still good and possibly "pass the customs" of everybody. Beef and pork liver have definitely a stronger taste and fibrous consistency, I myself reserve them for other recipes (to come).

Liver, just like some other organ meats such as sweetbread or kidneys, should not be cooked too much: if you do, you destroy thermolabile nutrients and the texture becomes horrible (and that's why most people think they don't like offal meat). For this reason it is important to cut the liver into pieces so that it is possible to cook it rapidly and efficiently.

The flambé part is optional but has such a playful aspect I can't renounce to it. The advantage of doing it is that the short, but intense heat will lightly caramelize without burning the external layer of the liver chops, while keeping the core soft... yet cooked.

Sumac is a difficult spice to find but I really invite you to look for it, it has as very distinct acidic flavor and I use it in almost every middle-east recipe I do. A tagine, a hummus, just don't taste the same without it.

You'll notice that, when the recipe calls for them, I always add parsley and EVOoO at the end, to preserve their nutritional values. Peppercorn is also added at the end, in order to maintain its impressive anti-oxidant properties. Cooking peppercorn  also disperses its aroma, one additional reason to add it at the very end.

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