Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica: An Eastern-European Supper

On the menu:
Charkhlis chogi (Roasted beets in a tart cherry sauce)
Katmis satsivi (Chicken in walnut sauce)
Pkhali (Spinach and walnut salad)

Here we have a hearty meal--one that took me almost three hours in the kitchen to turn out, but the time passed quickly, filled with glittering aromas of cinnamon, garlic, cherries, and my new spicy friend, fenugreek, among other things!

I'd never even heard of fenugreek before tackling Georgian cuisine (that is, Georgia the country, not the state. No peaches included.) But I was delighted to find that it smelled of roasted sugar, and balanced perfectly with the walnuts used in two of the above dishes.

My personal challenge this week was beets. My main association are the pickled sort from Thanksgiving. Not bad at all, but nothing I'd ever sought out beyond that holiday.

I wanted to do something a bit different, and when I found Saveur's menu for a "Georgian Supra," including Charkhlis chogi--or roasted beets topped with a tart cherry sauce--I rejoiced. Roasting tends to make any vegetable delicious, but I'd be able to put an exotic spin with flavors from an unexplored (culinarily speaking, but also in any other sense) country!

For the other dishes, I was pleased to find some shared ingredients, though the textures and resulting flavors were different enough to be complementary but not repetitive.

After I'd decided on the menu, the main issue was time management. I began with the beets, since their roasting would consume the most amount of time.

About halfway through the beets roasting (at an hour and a half, the skin charred, but the flesh underneath was juicy and perfectly tender), I began cooking the chicken. I would recommend having the sauces for the Katmis satsivi and pkhali ready to go.

Walnut sauce for the chicken

Browning chicken
As the chicken simmered in the sauce, I moved onto the salad.

Then I removed the beets from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes in the freezer so I'd be able to peel and dice them.

After which I made the tart cherry sauce and finished off the walnut sauce by scooping out a ladle, beating it with an egg yolk, and then stirring the mixture back in.

Sprinkled with parsley and cilantro, and voila! Or whatever they say to show off in Georgia!

Lamazi--that means "beautiful."

Georgian Supra (adapted from Saveur)
Serves 3 - 4

Charkhlis Chogi (Roasted Beets in Tart Cherry Sauce)
3 medium beets, scrubbed
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. unsalted butter2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

1. Preheat oven to 400. Place beets in a small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
2. Cover dish with foil and roast in oven for 1 1/2 hours. Skin will be charred on outside. Place in freezer for five minutes until the beets are no longer too hot to handle.
3. Peel and dice into 1-inch pieces.
4. Prepare tart cherry sauce. Melt butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and  cook until golden. Stir in cherries and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and let cook for 10 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Pour over beets and let dish rest until room temperature 

Pkhali (Spinach and Walnut Salad)
1 lb. baby spinach
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped

1. Blanch spinach in large pot of boiling salted water for 1 - 2 minutes, until wilted. Using slotted spoon, add to bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Then drain, squeezing out as much water as possible. Puree in food processor, then set aside.
2. Puree with walnuts with cilantro, parsley, spices, oil, vinegar, garlic, and onion. Combine with pureed spinach.

Katmis Satsivi
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts, plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped for garnish
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cups roughly chopped cilantro
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 jalapeno slices, seeded and finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 ½" pieces
1 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground fenugreek
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1. In food processor, combine walnuts and 1/4 cup stock in food processor and puree until smooth. Then add half of cilantro, garlic, and onion, plus jalapeno, salt and pepper and puree until smooth again.
2. Brown remaining garlic and onion in olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown, turning, for 7 - 8 minutes. Add in spices and cook until aromatic. Then add walnut sauce and stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and reduce for 35 minutes.
3. Scoop out one ladle of sauce and beat in a small bowl with an egg yolk. Return to sauce, stirring to combine, and cook for five more minutes. 
4. Garnish with walnuts and cilantro.


  1. I keep trying beets, and keep being disappointed. Perhaps this would sell me on them. I do love cherries. Everything looks gorgeous and mouthwatering as usual.