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Fried Calf Liver with Cumin, Parsley, and Sumac

Fried Calf Liver with Cumin, Parsley, and Sumac

I picked up some veal liver on 50% off special at the Swiss Coop because I buy almost anything that’s 50% off in the meat section, and then I tossed it in the freezer. Tonight, I was in the mood for it, but I was bored silly at the idea of the usual milk-soaked liver & onions, European style.  I wanted something tart and tasty and fresh, and I kept thinking about sumac and… something.  Turns out that the Turks use sumac in their liver recipes, and I found a nice version to riff off of on  My version is a lot spicier and more tart than the original, but just as easy to make.

Calf Liver with Cumin, Parsley, and Sumac

A tart, spicy, fresh alternative to the usual soggy liver and onions
Course Main Course
Cuisine Turkish
Keyword fresh, liver, red onions, sumac, tart
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Marinating Time 12 hours
Total Time 12 hours 25 minutes
Servings 2 people
Calories 771kcal


  • 1 lb calf liver Lamb liver is also excellent.
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 T masa harina
  • 2 t cumin seeds Toast the seed whole in a dry pan for a few minutes over medium heat, then grind or crush in mortar. If you have ground cumin, you can toast that gently in a pan, but be careful not to burn it.
  • 1 T dried red pepper Grind finely. Any tangy hot pepper will do. Stay away from smoked peppers.
  • 1 T fresh thyme chopped fine, leaves only
  • 3 T safflower oil or other vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup parsley chopped, preferably flat-leafed
  • 1 red onion medium sized, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced thin
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 T sumac
  • 1 t coarse salt


  • Soak the liver in the milk the night before you want to make it.
  • Put the masa harina, ground cumin, red pepper, and fresh thyme into a bag (paper or plastic) big enough to hold the liver and the masa and shake it around, because that's what you'll do.
  • Drain the milk, cut the liver into about 3/4" (2 cm) cubes. Toss the cubes in the bag of masa and spices and shake until coated. If the liver is still wet, add a bit more masa. Cubes should be coated and dry to the touch, but not very thick with the corn flour.
  • Heat the oil in a pan over a medium-high heat. You want the oil hot enough that the liver will sizzle when it hits and stay sizzling while it cooks. I use a well-seasoned cast-iron pan because it heats evenly and stays hot easily. Make sure the pan is big enough to hold the liver cubes in a single layer. Let the cubes brown on one side before turning them -- about 2-3 minutes. Turn and cook for another minute or two, so the second side browns, then gently flip them with a spatula until all sides are cooked, but not overdone. This whole process should take about 6 minutes if the oil is the right temperature. Right before the liver is cooked (at around 4-5 minutes), add the garlic and saute for a minute, then turn off the heat, put the pan on a cool burner and stir in the parsley. Turn immediately into a serving bowl. I use a salad bowl that can handle warm ingedients.
  • Squeeze the half lemon over the liver and then gently toss the liver with the red onions, sumac, and coarse salt.


This goes well with Turkish bread, and a salad made with fruit and greens.

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