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.

Eggplant Pkhali

Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Georgian
Keyword: dip, eggplant, lycooking, lyukum cooking lab, recipe, spiced, spread, vegetables, walnut
Servings: 8 portions

Ingredients

  • 15 oz eggplant grilled, mashed
  • 3 oz red onion sliced, diced
  • 4 oz walnuts shelled, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 tsp utskho suneli
  • 1 tsp khmeli suneli
  • 1/2 tsp coriander ground
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1 tbsp vinegar white wine
  • 1 tsp kosher salt adjust to your taste

Instructions

  • In the U.S., I prefer Asian eggplants. Score and grill or broil them till their skin is black. Peel the skin and chop the flesh.
    Eggplant Phali
  • Peel and slice red onion. Generously salt onion slices and let them soften and release some juice for about 10 minutes. Wash them under running water and squeeze extra moisture out.
  • Chop walnuts and toast them on hot skillet till fragrant, for about a minute, stirring.
  • Chop fresh cilantro.
  • Process toasted walnuts, onions, cilantro, garlic, spices, and dry herbs to a pesto-like consistency. Mix with eggplants, vinegar, and salt. Correct to your taste.
  • Garnish phali with fresh cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds. Serve it room temperature.

Notes

Georgian herbs and spice mixes are very important if you want to get close to an authentic taste. Order them online at www.argo-usa.com.
If you don’t aim for authenticity, and rather prefer to explore your own vegetables-nuts-herbs-spices variations, play with different nuts and seeds. Use your favorite spice mixes and herbs instead of Utskho Suneli and Khmeli Suneli. You won’t be able to name your dish “pkhali”, but you’ll enjoy it for sure.
Phali can be served for communal sharing or portioned.
Eggplant Phali
Eggplant Phali
Eggplant Phali
Eggplant Phali
Eggplant Phali
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