Recipes typical of Georgia (a Caucasian Country)
from: Anya vonBremzen and John Welchman, Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook (NY: Workman Publishing, 1990).
Spinach with Walnut and Garlic Sauce
2 pounds fresh spinach
WALNUT SAUCE AND GARNISH
3/4 cup ground walnuts
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds or 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
3 tablespoons water
Salt, to taste
Pomegranate seeds or walnut pieces for garnish
1. Rinse the spinach thoroughly and discard the stems. Cook in salted water until tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Drain the spinach and cool until manageable. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
3. Chop the spinach as fine as you can, or mince in a food processor, being careful not to overpuree. (The Georgians insist that it is best to put it through an old-fashioned meat grinder.)
4. To make the sauce, mix the ground walnuts with the garlic, onion, cilantro, coriander seeds, cayenne, fenugreek, vinegar, and water in a bowl.
5. Add this mixture to the spinach and stir until thoroughly blended and smooth. Season with salt. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours.
6. To serve, spread the pkhali on a plate and smooth the top with a spatula. With a knife, make a pattern of diamonds in the top and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if available, or with walnut pieces.
Serves 4 to 6
Chicken with Herbs and Tomatoes
The name of this Georgian dish, chakhokbili, derives from the word khokhobi, which means "pheasant" in Georgian. But although this dish was evidently made with pheasant at one time, today either chicken or lamb is used. Chakhokbili is a refreshing, slightly tangy fricassee, with tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, and lots of fresh herbs. Double the recipe and serve at a large dinner partyëit's healthy, simple, and inexpensive. Serve with a steamed rice pilaf or bulgur pilaf.
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 chicken (4 1/2 pounds), cut into 12 to 16 pieces, well rinsed and patted dry
6 cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press
3 large onions, coarsely chopped
10 fresh, ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus additional for garnish
5 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
8 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven. Add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, and brown on all sides over medium heat. Replace all the chicken in the Dutch oven.
2. Stir the garlic and onions into the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover tightly, and cook without stirring for 15 minutes. The chicken will release quite a lot of juice.
3. Add the tomatoes, wine, l/4 cup lemon juice, half the herbs, all the peppercorns, the bay leaf, and salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, until the chicken is tender, about 35 minutes.
4. Stir in the rest of the herbs and simmer for 10 minutes more.
5. Taste and correct the seasoning. Remove the bay leaf. Sprinkle with fresh basil, and serve at once.
1/2 cup dry red wine, pomegranate juice, or sparkling water
3 cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press
1 small onion, grated
8 to 10 black peppercorns, crushed
Salt, to taste
2 1/2 pounds boneless lean sirloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
3 small onions, cut into wedges
3 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
Radicchio or red kale leaves
2 lemons, cut into wedges
8 scallions (green onions), trimmed
1 long zucchini, cut into six 1-inch-thick slices
1. In a large glass bowl, combine the wine, garlic, grated onion, peppercorns, and salt, then add the meat and toss to coat well. Refrigerate, covered, for 6 to 8 hours, turning the meat occasionally. Bring to room temperature before grilling.
2. Prepare hot coals for grilling until coated with white ash, or preheat the broiler.
3. Toss the onion and pepper wedges in a bowl with the oil.
4. Remove the meat from the marinade and string it on long metal skewers, alternating meat cubes with onion and pepper wedges and pushing everything closely together.
5. Grill or broil the skewers 4 inches away from the heat, turning frequently and sprinkling with the marinade every 3 minutes, 9 to 10 minutes for medium-rare, 12 to 13 minutes for medium.
6. To serve in a traditional way, line two serving platters with radicchio leaves or red kale. Cut into the tomatoes as though you are cutting them into quarters, but leave intact at the stem ends. Place one in the middle of each platter. Scatter lemon wedges and scallions on the platters. Stick the sharp end of each skewer into a zucchini slice. Place three skewers on each platter and bring the open ends together to form a tripod. Wrap the ends with a linen napkin to hold them together. Serve at once.
Note: Although it is traditional to marinate the beef in wine or vinegar, the truly experienced Georgian cooks suggest that they actually toughen, rather than tenderize, good beef. They recommend using sparkling water instead.
Georgian Cheese Pie
In the restaurants and khachapuri parlors of Georgia, the pie is made from a dough that combines local yogurt, eggs, and flour, or from yeast dough. The shape and the fillings vary from region to region.
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup club soda, or more as needed, at room temperature
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 recipe Cheese Filling (recipe follow)
1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, and make a well in the middle. Pour in the egg, oil, and club soda and stir into the flour, adding more club soda, if necessary, to make a rather soft dough. Transfer the dough to a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with a linen or cotton (not terry cloth) kitchen towel, and let stand for 1 hour.
2. Divide the dough into four parts and shape each one into a ball. Let stand, covered for 15 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two large baking sheets.
4. On a floured surface, roll out one of the balls to an 1/8-inch-thick square. Brush the dough with some of the melted butter. Dip your fingers in melted butter and pull the edges of the dough in different directions, stretching it evenly until it is almost transparently thin. Don't worry if the dough tears, as you will be folding it up. With a sharp knife, trim the edges of the dough to form an even square. Fold the square in half, brush the surface generously with melted butter, and fold in half again crosswise, to form a smaller square. It should be approximately 6 to 7 inches. If it isn't, pull it out slightly to fit the dimensions.
5. Brush the square with butter. Shape one-fourth of the filling into a ball and place in the center of the square. Fold in the corners of the square like an envelope. With your palm, flatten the pie so it is about 1 inch thick. Brush the top with melted butter, and carefully transfer to a prepared baking sheet.
6. Repeat the procedure with the rest of the dough and filling.
7. Bake the pies in the middle of the oven until golden brown; about 35 minutes. Serve warm.
10 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
8 ounces feta cheese, preferably Bulgarian, crumbled
6 ounces cottage cheese
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
Salt, to taste (optional)
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the salt and mix well. Taste and season with salt, if necessary.
Makes 4 pies, to serve 8