As recently as last month if I had been given the choice between eating liver and stabbing myself in the eye with a crochet hook, it would not have been an easy decision. Miraculously, things have changed. I recently met a holistic health practitioner, who knows much more about the delectable details of nutritional science than I do — Christopher Smaka, founder and director of the School of Traditional Western Herbalism here in Portland. http://portlandherbalschool.com/ Hopefully, we’ll hear more from his formidable mind here at the kitchen table in the future. He convinced me to eat not only a piece of liver but an entire skewer off the grill. Oh. Wow. Gulp. As a good guest, I managed to get it down. Lo and behold, the next day I felt different — the only way I can describe it is more alive — clear and full of energy. I didn’t want to admit that the liver had anything to do with it, but underneath, I knew it did.
For a while now, I have suspected that according to Chinese medicine, I may be a bit blood xu (deficient). Sometimes this overlaps with a Western diagnosis and symptoms of anemia, but not always. In either case, the blood requires nourishment. I see this so often in women in my practice. According to Chinese medical theory, women’s physiology is based in Blood, while men’s is based in Qi. This provides women with the extraordinary power required to give birth (and accomplish so many other feats of endurance) but also means they are more vulnerable to becoming ill when the blood is deficient.
Iron supplements are helpful, and I do recommend them all the time, but I also feel getting nutrients through food is what our bodies were designed to do, and I always try to go there first. From my personal experience, I’ve never felt from an iron supplement what I feel from eating liver. I’d be curious to hear about anyone else’s experiences with food vs. supplements. Also, do experiment with different animals. Renee Rosenfeld, an amazing soon-to-be graduate of the Natural College of Natural Medicine, where I study Chinese Medicine, recently made this point to one of our patients at the school clinic, and I think it’s worth echoing here. Try this recipe with different kinds of liver. See what feels good to your body. *AND ONE MORE THING* … for anyone who’s pregnant — this would be a terrific recipe to make with your placenta, when your baby is born. Just substitute your fabulous, home-grown placenta for this amount of liver. We humans are the only mammals who don’t regularly eat our placentas, and I’ve found that many new mamas feel great with the extra nourishment that their own body provides them in the form of the amazing, beautiful placenta. You can also dry it and put it into capsules, which I’ll address in a future post, but this would be a super easy, quick, do-at-home option.
- 1 1/2 lbs. organic chicken livers (*organic important here — you don’t want the toxins in non-organic liver)
- 12 oz. bacon
- leftover fat from another 12 oz. bacon
- 8 – 12 oz. mushrooms
- up to one head of garlic (as many cloves as you want)
- 1 large red onion
- few tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- few tablespoons capers (optional)
- chili powder to taste (chipotle is nice — I find I absolutely need the spiciness to get on board with this.)
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Peel and coarsely chop garlic cloves and onion. Saute in bacon fat until soft; add coarsely chopped mushrooms, vinegar, rosemary and thyme, and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms have released their liquid, and it’s mostly evaporated. Let everything cool for a few minutes, and then dump it into a food processor. Next, fry your bacon until fairly crispy, remove from the fat, and put into the food processor. Let the fat cool down a bit before adding the liver so you don’t get burning hot fat splattering all over. Cook the livers until no longer pink in the centers. Toss in the chili powder and capers, and give a few stirs, then turn off heat. Process what’s already in the food processor until fairly smooth, then add the livers. Everything should turn to a nice, smooth, spreadable paste that, honestly, will look quite disgusting, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you taste it. This is the time to add salt, more chili or vinegar.
This recipe makes a lot and freezes well packed into small tupperware containers. I like to serve this on slices of Daikon radish. The bitter, crunchy radish is a great counterpoint to the very rich pate. You definitely want to consume a LOT of veggies with this. You can make little “reverse oreos” — easy to pack for lunch or snack! Also nice is to use swiss chard leaves to roll up the pate with some shredded carrots or sprouts for a little energy-packed burrito … stuff small tomatoes and top with a little half radish “hat” — or just scoop up on celery sticks, bell pepper slices, baby carrots … veggies and protein … give it a try!