Chef Fran Costigan

Mock Chopped Liver Recipe

Shirely B with Sister Arlene

Arlene Chernin Lillian and Shirley Chernin Bernstein


Some of you know that my mother, Shirley Bernstein passed peacefully in Florida at the age of 91 on October 30th. I was with her. As family came to visit Shirley – mother, sister, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt – we told stories.  As most families do, we talked quite a lot about family gatherings, which always revolved around food. My mother gave me permission years ago to say that she was not a good cook. She was amazed at my enthusiasm for time spent in the kitchen and my career as a cooking teacher and author. My mother’s chocolate pudding, always from a box was lumpy, her jello creations had thick skin and her attempt at brownies – well, think burnt chocolate matzo and you’ll have an idea. What she did extremely well were big composed salads and chopped liver.



My mother Shirley with my daughter – her granddaughter – Tracy, and Tracy’s son great-grandson Seth.

I gathered some family and close family friends in my small apartment last weekend to commemorate my mom, who everyone called Grandma Shirley. Food was always the main player in our family gatherings and this was no different. What I knew for sure was that  I had to serve my friend Liz Hoffman’s unbelievable Mock Chopped Liver. Everyone loved this vegan version. (I’d made a double batch and it was all eaten.) Because I was so interested in the stories I heard about Mom, I forgot to take a photo of the lettuce-lined bowl of the spread I put on the table. Try it. You’ll like it! This is the easiest, tastiest and as it’s oil-free, healthiest of the mock liver spreads I have tasted. Let me know what you think!


Mock Chopped Liver

Liz Hoffman’s Mock Chopped Liver Spread

This mock chopped liver, which as I said is oil free, tastes even better the day after it is made, and it will last in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.  I followed the directions as written, but Liz tells me now she puts everything into the food processor at the same time, pulses the machine a few times and processes  until the ‘pate’ is almost smooth. Taste, add black pepper and decide if you want to process the spread longer. My mom and her mother, my Grandma Ida would definitely love this recipe. Actually, it is pareve as are all vegan arecipes, so it works in kosher homes too.
Note: Measure the miso carefully, and use tamari for a gluten free version.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings, depending on appetites. 



  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely shredded
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3/4 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon red miso
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper



  1. Combine the water, lentils, and salt in an open 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium, and cook uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still firm.
  2. Grind the walnuts in the food processor until almost smooth.
  3. Add the shredded carrot, onions, brown rice, miso, soy sauce, and pepper to the walnuts in the processor. Drain and discard any excess liquid from the cooked lentils and add them to processor. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth.
  4. Transfer the mixture to an attractive lettuce-lined serving bowl or platter and garnish or serve chilled.

Keeping: Refrigerate  in a covered container for up to a week.

Serving suggestions:  rye bread, crackers, celery, endive leaves


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Chocolate Pecan Pie


Thanksgiving snuck on me this year, although I did have a pre-thanksgiving good time in September baking Chocolate Studded Spiced Pumpkin Muffins with Grant Butler, food writer for the Oregonian, when I was in Portland, OR,  and again in October at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary ThanksLiving. At this sold out event, the turkeys were served their dinner first. Human guests ate dinner by Ms Rachel’s Pantry and desserts from Vegan Treats that were served family style! The assortment of individual cakes was fabulous! At Thanksgiving though, my family prefers pies, cobblers and slumps and even Chocolate Cranberry Trifle for Thanksgiving. The featured pie this year is the Chocolate Pecan Pie from my book Vegan Chocolate. I never liked pecan pie, finding it too sweet but I love pecans. This pie definitely features pecans, and the chocolate accent is wonderful. I hope you will give it a try.

If you like pie for Thanksgiving and are in the habit of making them, do you make or buy your pie crusts? Do you have a must have Thanksgiving dish year after year?


Chocolate Pecan Pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pecans, which are native to North America, are one of the healthiest nuts. But the typical filling of the classic American pecan pie is super-sweet and made with a trifecta of ingredients we are increasingly determined to avoid: eggs, sugar, and corn syrup. Pour them into a pie crust made with saturated fats and we are confronted with a dessert that is as unhealthy as the pecans are healthy. What to do? I started by looking at the best for inspiration—the exemplary chocolate pecan pie in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts—and eventually created this recipe for a tender, cholesterol-free pie crust that holds a thick and chewy, chocolate-laced, abundantly nutty filling sweetened with maple and rice syrups. Miraculously, the pie even tastes fresh after three days in the refrigerator, and it freezes beautifully, too. You will need to plan ahead, since the pie crust is baked and cooled before it is filled and the nuts roast slowly for thirty-five minutes in a low oven. (This can be done ahead of time; see Note.) The pie filling takes about twenty-five minutes of cooking, and you do need to pay attention.


Makes One (9-Inch / 23-Cm) Pie, 8 to 12 Servings, or more



  • 1/2 cup / 120 ml brown rice syrup, warmed in the jar until liquid
  • 1 cup / 240 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
  • 1 tablespoon / 15 ml freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
  • 3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons / 52 grams smooth cashew butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 31 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons / 30 ml almond milk, soymilk, or coconut milk beverage
  • 2 1/2 ounces / 71 grams dark chocolate (66 to 70%), finely chopped
3 1/2 cups / 364 grams slow-roasted pecans, cooled (see Note)
  • 1 teaspoon / 5 ml pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon / 5 ml almond extract
  • 1 Tender Olive Oil Pastry Dough pie crust, blind baked and cooled (recipe can be found HERE)


  1. Make the filling. Pour the rice syrup and the maple syrup into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with high sides. Bring the syrups to a boil over medium heat, stirring with a long silicone spatula. Syrups expand and climb the sides; be careful to avoid a boil-over mess on your stovetop or a serious burn. Reduce the heat to low, but expect the syrups to continue to bubble. Adjust the heat as needed so that small bubbles rise to the surface almost continuously. You do not need to be concerned about the mixture reaching a particular temperature, but it needs to boil slowly for 6 minutes.
  2. Add the lemon juice and then the salt. The syrups will bubble furiously when the salt is added, so be careful. Simmer on the lowest heat for 1 minute. Adjust the heat as needed and cook at a low boil for 8 minutes.
  3. Put the cashew butter into a small heatproof bowl. Add 1/4 cup / 60 ml of the hot syrup mixture to the nut butter and stir vigorously until combined. Repeat with another 2 tablespoons / 30 ml of the hot syrup mixture. Set aside the now-tempered nut butter.
  4. Whisk half of the cocoa powder into the remaining hot syrup until dis- solved and then whisk in the other half until dissolved. Adjust the heat so that the mixture boils very gently for 6 minutes.
  5. Position the oven racks so one rack is in the lowest third and the other is in the top third of the oven; preheat to 425°F / 220°C.
  6. Whisk half of the tempered nut butter into the syrup. The mixture may appear curdled but will become smooth as you whisk. Repeat with the rest of the tempered nut butter.
  7. Add the nondairy milk and simmer 5 minutes. Add the chopped chocolate. Wait a minute for the chocolate to melt. Add the nuts and stir with a silicone spatula until the spatula is coated.
  8. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Pour the filling into a heatproof shallow dish and cool on the counter for about 10 minutes, or until it is barely warm. Don’t refrigerate the filling or it will become too thick to spread into the crust.
  9. Place the pre-baked crust on a baking sheet to make moving the pie in and out of the oven easy. The bottom of the pie crust will set fastest on a dark sheet, making it a great choice for baking pies (and a poor choice for baking cookies, as the bottoms will burn).
  10. Spoon the filling into the crust. Spread the filling—it will be thick and sticky—with a small offset spatula or spoon. Make sure the pecans are distributed evenly. You can move them around with a fork if need be.
  11. Bake the pie on the lower oven rack for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400°F / 200°C and move the baking sheet to the upper rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling. (The filling will appear soft, but will become firm as it cools.)
  12. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Wait 10 minutes before moving the pie pan directly onto a wire rack.



It might be hard to wait, but the pie needs to cool completely before slicing. This will take about 2 hours. Slice and serve the pie at room temperature. If the pie has been refrigerated or frozen, allow it to come to room temperature. It will be fudgy after about 10 minutes. Or, warm the pie first in a low (225°F / 110°C) oven if you like yours a little gooey. Any way you choose, it tastes rich enough to be served without any accompaniment.



Cover the pie in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to three days, or wrap tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and freeze for two months. While a room temperature pie slices easily, you will get the neatest slices when the pie is cold.



Slow-roasting pecans for 35 minutes in a 275°F / 140°C oven takes far longer than the standard directions for roasting nuts, but you will be rewarded with a more concentrated pecan flavor. Slow roast the pecans in quantity. Cool to room temperature. Put the nuts into a zipper-lock bag and close tightly. Slip the bag into a second bag and seal, pressing out all the air. Freeze the nuts for up to four months.



Recipe from Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan. Photo © Kate Lewis 2013



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Vegan Italiano Festival – July 2015


I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be joining Tierno Tours and Green Earth Travel for their Vegan Italiano Festival Saturday July 25 through Saturday August 1, 2015 for a travel tour in Italy’s Amalfi Coast region. 

On this tour, you will be taken to Cilento, Vetri Sul Mare, Felitto, the Monastery of Padula,Villa Cosilinum, Palinuro, the Castle of Roccadaspide, the Amalfi Coast, the port of Salerno, Pompeii and Peastum. Attendees stay at one of six B&Bs in the National Park of Cilento – Italy’s second largest national park. Cilento is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in the area. Historically, the Cilentana diet is hugely plant-based, and organic too. So the area is incredibly vegan-friendly!

The fully escorted one-week tour will include:

  • 7 Breakfasts continental
  • 4 Lunches, including wine
  • 7 Dinners, including wine
  • 7 Nights in four-star Villa/B&B
  • Transfers to and from Naples Airport
  • Admission to sites on tour
  • English speaking guide the entire stay
  • First class motor coach
  • Tips for baggage handling, taxes and hotel gratuity, except Tour Director



Optional departure from U.S. on overnight flight to Naples (D, B on board flight)

Day 1 – Saturday
Arrive in Naples airport (NAP), ride down to Cilento, stopping in Vetri Sul Mare – a small town where we will see ceramic making demos in almost every shop along Main Street. Then continue on to check into villas and gather together for a welcome dinner with your special guest/s (L, D)



Day 2 – Sunday
Felitto – Harvest nature walk, where we will learn about all the wild greens, vegetables and herbs that have been used for centuries in the local dishes of Cilento. After our harvest walk, we will have lunch in a local farm house. After lunch, we can choose to take a
ride down the river on a paddle boat* or a nature walk throughout the mountains of Felitto (B, L, D)

Day 3 – Monday
Our first stop is the Monastery of Padula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest antiquity of southern Italy. We will have lunch in Villa Cosilinum, a beautiful restored villa at the top of this village. After lunch, we will have a tour of Joe Petrosino’s home before heading back to the villa for dinner and cooking lesson (B, L, D)

Day 4 – Tuesday
Drive down the Coast of Cilento to the village of Palinuro, where we will get our boat ride to the five grottos (caves) of the cape. We will have lunch overlooking the water and then free time on the beach. Dinner includes a cooking lesson. (B, L, D)



Day 5 – Wednesday
Tour of the Castle of Roccadaspide, built in 1242 by Fredrick II, passed down to the Duke Ettore Giuliani, who will give us the tour himself. After lunch at a local trattoria we will take a ride to the city of Agropoli where we will have free time to explore the city. Next we will drive back to the villa for Pizza Night, we will make our own brick oven pizza (B, L, D)

Day 6 – Thursday
We are heading to the Amalfi Coast. Leaving from the port of Salerno you can choose to spend the morning in Positano or the Island of Capri. Dinner back at the villa (B, D)

Day 7 – Friday
We are spending our last day in Pompeii we will have a two hour guided tour of the ancient city then drive back to the villa stopping at Peastum where you can see three of the best preserved collections of Greek temples outside of Greece. (B, D)
We will provide a list of things to do and vegan friendly places to eat and offer the option to come with us to see your favorite spots on free days.

Day 8 – Saturday
Transfer to Naples airport (NAP) (B)
*Boat rides are subject to weather and seasons

Please contact Donna of Green Earth Travel for bookings, questions, etc. at (301) 229-5666 or


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