A hallmark of Georgian cuisine is mkhali, a vegetable puree to which herbs and ground walnuts are added. Mkhali is made from any number of different vegetables, though spinach and beets are favored. Some of the most interesting versions call for radish and even cauliflower greens.
In making mkhali, you must rely on your palate, since the amount of vinegar necessary depends on the sugar content of each given vegetable. It should be sharp but vinegary.
Georgians like to mix their vegetable by hand and that means both hands. But, in our modern society we can use a blender.
1 pound of beets
1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of dried summer savory
1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander seed
1 or 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar (to taste)
Bake the unpeeled beets at 375°F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until tender. If you are short of time, the beets may be boiled, but their flavor will not be as good. While the beets are cooking, grind together walnuts, garlic and salt. Add the cilantro, parsley and continue grinding to make a fine paste. Transfer to a bowl.
When the beets are soft, peel them and finely grate them in the food processor. In a medium size bowl mix together the grated beets and the ground walnut mixture, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Keep tasting, as the amount of vinegar needed will depend on the sweetness of the beets. The mkhali should be slightly tart.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but bring to room temperature before serving, mounted on a plate and cross-hatched on top with a knife.
Labels: Recipe from Niko Dadiani