Jada Calypso Brotman of the Californian North Coastal Journal shares her recipe of the go-to Georgian vegetarian (that are very few) dish, pkhali.
“I first heard of Georgian food in my college days when my bogglingly beautiful friend Ketevan described the mouthwatering grub her mother prepared back in Tbilisi. It piqued my greed, which went unfulfilled. It was with joy that I found, years later, that my indefatigable parents had independently gotten into Georgian food,” she writes.
Jada describes phkhali as a summer dish that goes well with any grilled main dish. “It’s very nutritious and loaded with that special piquancy Georgian flavors afford: sweet, buttery walnuts contrasted with sharp vinegar, spicy raw garlic, slightly bitter greens and round, full herbs.”
Below we share Jada’s recipe:
Ingredients and method:
1 ½ pound spinach, washed, drained, stemmed and chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted
4 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek
Optional: ½ teaspoon powdered marigold (adds a saffrony note and hue, and is sometimes available at the North Coast Co-op)
1 pinch cayenne
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or to taste
1 medium yellow or white onion, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the spinach and cook it just until tender, about 1 minute. Drain well and let it cool. When it’s manageable, wrap the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the liquid. Chop it as finely as possible (don’t use a food processor or blender, which may puree it; it should have some texture) and set aside.
With a blender or mortar and pestle, combine the walnuts, garlic, coriander, fenugreek, cayenne and vinegar. Add 3 tablespoons of warm water and blend until you have a smooth sauce like a coarse mayo, adding a little more water if needed. Add the walnut sauce to the spinach and stir until it’s thoroughly blended and smooth. Stir in the minced onion, cilantro and tarragon, and season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for at least a few hours or overnight. Taste again before serving and adjust the salt and vinegar if needed.
To serve, spread on grilled bread and top with edible flowers, walnuts or pomegranate seeds. Or just enjoy it alongside any mixed grill as a salad.