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Some More From Georgia

May 27, 2011

I’m not going to be too hasty about leaving Georgia just yet. I did just become reacquainted with yummy Georgia after a decade apart. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out my last post where I gush about how vibrant and delicious Georgian food is.

Georgians love to grill. Since it’s that time of year when we’re firing up our grills, these two Georgian accompaniments are pitch-perfect.  The Cilantro Sauce is great with really anything, from  grilled meats to grilled vegetables. It makes a kick-ass potato salad when poured over boiled and cooled potatoes. It also tastes amazing eaten with a spoon directly from the bowl (while you’re standing up at the kitchen counter showing no self control). Not only is the Hot Pepper Relish a fantastic match to grilled or roasted meats, it’s great with ripe, chilled melon – the zingy heat of the relish acts as a ying to the sweet melon’s yang.

Cilantro Sauce (Kindzis Satsebla)
The Georgian Feast by Darra Goldstein (University of California Press, 1999)

Prepare this several hours before serving since the flavours need a bit of time to meld. The apricot flavour adds a such a lovely sweet undertone to the sauce. You can’t quite put your finger on what makes the sauce taste so good. And then you pinpoint that subtle apricot taste that sets this sauce apart from the rest. Yum.

2 ounces apricot fruit leather*
¼ cup boiling water
½ cup shelled walnuts
4 peeled garlic cloves
1 ½ cups finely chopped cilantro
1 ½ cups finely chopped mixed parsley, dill, basil, tarragon**
½ cup finely chopped scallions (white and green parts)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
ground black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
1 cup walnut oil

*after a bit of internet sleuthing I found out that fruit leather is basically an all natural ‘fruit roll-up.’ Apricot fruit leather can also be called dried apricot paste. I found it at the grocery labeled dried apricot paste; it’s made by Cedar, a middle-eastern food brand.

**my herb mix included ½ cup each of parsley and dill and ¼ cup each of basil and tarragon but feel free to mix it up based on which herbs you like best.

Soak the apricot leather in the boiling water until soft and then stir until the leather dissolves into a paste. I put one whole 2 oz. piece into the boiling water and it took a while and a lot of mashing and stirring for it to dissolve into a paste. I would recommend cutting the apricot leather into smaller pieces before adding the boiling water so that it breaks down faster.

Using a food processor, grind the walnuts and the garlic together. You don’t want to grind them too much at this point; it shouldn’t become a sticky paste.  Next add the softened apricot leather puree, all the herbs, scallions, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and cayenne to the walnut and garlic mixture. Process until well blended.  Then, keeping the processor on, add the walnut oil in a slow and steady stream.

Allow the sauce to rest at room temperature for a couple of hours before serving. It will thicken a bit after standing.  The sauce will keep, tightly covered and refrigerated, for several days.  Bring to room temperature before using.

Hot Pepper Relish (Adzhika)
The Georgian Feast by Darra Goldstein (University of California Press, 1999)

This should be made about 3 days in advance so the flavours really come together. Plan ahead.

8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large celery stalk, including leaves
¼ pound fresh hot red peppers
1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh dill
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped cilantro
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt

Using a food processor, grind the garlic slightly using the pulse option.

Roughly chop the celery, hot peppers (don’t seed them – this relish is supposed to be spicy!), and red bell pepper.  Add them to the garlic and pulse again.  Add the herbs and pulse again to medium coarseness.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the vinegar and salt.  Cover with saran wrap and let stand overnight.  Pack into jars and then keep the relish in the fridge. The relish tastes best when allowed to rest for three days before serving.

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