It looks like my next tasting menu will be related to Georgian cuisine. The Caucasus Mountains and Caucasian flavors are very dear to our family. My Mom was born and raised in Ossetia. My parents met each other in Vladikavkaz. Obviously, we were familiar with Caucasian regional food, and we loved it. I am refreshing my memories, notes, favorite recipes from my childhood and from my adult experiences…
Pkhali (ფხალი) is a signature Georgian appetizer. Its consistency is similar to pesto and tapenade. Pkhali’s main ingredients are cooked vegetables and walnuts mixed with traditional herbs and spices. Georgians are fond of greens. Many pkhali recipes include leaf cabbages/lettuces, chard/beetroot greens, or spinach. “Pkhali” is, actually, a Georgian name of chard. Other popular ingredients for this dish are green beans, eggplants, cauliflower, white winter cabbage, and Georgian specialty — young shoots of Smilax excelsa. Here, in the U.S., I experimented with broccoli and brussels — they are excellent ingredients for pkhali.
Vegetables should not be overcooked. For most of them, blanching is enough. In case of frozen vegetables, there is no need for any cooking. Ice crystals already destroyed their cell membranes. Thaw them in a strainer, squeeze extra moisture out, finely chop or mince, and they are ready to be mixed with other ingredients.
When planning to cook pkhali, keep in mind that raw vegetables will loose at least 60% of their weight (squeezed out water) by the time you’ll mix them with chopped walnuts. It means sometimes you need to start with three times more of raw vegetables. Eggplant is one of the exceptions, because it doesn’t loose that much moisture when roasted.
Basic vegetables to walnuts ratio is 5:1, e.g., 15 oz of blanched and squeezed spinach : 3 oz shelled walnuts. Cooked, not garnished phali can be stored refrigerated for up to 2 days.