Category Archives: Georgian

No Bake Herbed Nut & Cheese Snowballs Recipe

It is official: the fall themes are over, the wreaths are being changed to Christmas and the Black Friday specials just zoomed themselves in. Christmas prep has just stepped into our house with these cute little coconut herb cheese balls appetizer to greet our friends in a jiffy and finally celebrate the end of the Black Friday expenses. I really needed some purifying after a long day of unnecessary shopping, so combining Boursin cheese 50/50 with minced parsley (great anti-inflammatory and tonic)) and adding some minced garlic sounded like a good idea. If you can’t find Boursin, a mix of cottage and cream cheese (in a traditional Georgian way, with addition of garlic, parsley and walnuts); or any other soft cheese of your choice (goat, sheep, etc.) make great alternatives. Tasty, light and totally unwinding, these little balls are easy, fast and delectable treat for any party (specifically, tapas party, yay!).

This appetizer was inspired by the flurry of birds swooping in unison we’ve spotted today while going shopping.  We were driving by the Richelieu river, doomed to freeze within hours, when suddenly flocks of white birds (I believe they were seagulls, although they looked like white ducks) were appearing ‘en masse’ simultaneously from East and West directions. Naturally, our aerial avian obsession pushed us to find the parking right away.

The birds landed on the rocks in the middle of the river in a peaceful and undetermined magic action and were loudly discussing what to do next. How come they were so late to leave South? Were they disrupted by the I-phones and other human electronics interfering with natural birds’ migration?

Few minutes after the clouds of ducks were arriving in queues peppering the sky over the same spot, all trying to scour some mini spots left in the water to take a break.  The scenery felt like both, a great blessing and a Hitchcock thriller at the same time – certainly powerful… Ready to go into the darkness of the sky an hour later all birds, were chatting loudly about their next survival step… How do they do that? I don’t know, but for sure it’s a very inspiring act of courage…

And here we are sharing more pictures of our great spotting…

Back home we fixed these little cheese balls within 5 minutes (plus 15 minutes in a freezer to cool), and shared the stories of birds and (mostly unnecessary shopping experiences).

All you need is to add a big bunch of minced parsley, a minced clove of garlic (optional), and then roll it in any chopped nuts or seeds of your choice.

Our choice was obviously coconut flakes, although we also tried black and white sesame as well as poppy seeds. All of them tasted heavenly. Definitely, this recipe is a keeper for the holidays…

Specifically wonderful with oatmeal crackers or bagel thins, but you can have them with anything else imaginable.  
Happy Holidays Countdown to You All!
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CHEESE COCONUT HERB BALLS APPETIZER
Ingredients:
1 5 oz package of Boursin cheese (or cream cheese, or cottage cheese mixed with sour cream)
1 bunch of parsley, minced
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
1 pinch of ground white pepper
1 handful of walnuts, chopped (optional)
pinch of sea or Hymalayan salt
1 cup flaked coconut (or any other crushed nut or seed of your choice), for rolling
Instructions:
Combine the cheese, parsley, garlic, white pepper and walnuts with fork in a bowl. Refrigerate for one+ hour. Roll the cheese mixture into small balls and then roll the balls into the shredded coconut or nuts or seeds of your choice (poppy, sesame, etc.). Serve on the tooth pics with the side of crackers or bagel thins.  

Tkemali Sour Plum BBQ Sauce

Another great recipe from the Republic of Georgia. This sauce has an unforgettable kick and identity. Plum sauce is commonly associated with a glutinous yellow sweet and sour condiment used with Chinese deep-fried dishes. Georgian Tkemali sour plum sauce has nothing to do with it (except the plum ingredient). It has totally different pungent, sour-tangy, spicy and herbal taste and goes with much bigger array of dishes, especially grilled or broiled.

Just like Argentinean Chimichuri, it’s perfect with grilled beef, pork or lamb, but is also very good with grilled or fried chicken, or fish. For some reason, I keep having this parallel of Georgian and Argentinean cuisines in my mind exactly after visiting and trying the Georgian grill (Mcvadi) + Tkemali and Argentinean grill (Parilla) + Chimichuri. Both sauces are sour and full of garden freshness; both go well with all kind of grilled meat and are delicious with vegetables; both can be also used as a marinade. “So do tomato or pepper-based sauces”, I can hear you saying. Yes, but you will not have that “garden in your mouth”, and that is the power of this sauce.
Genuine Tkemali is made of small yellow-green plums called tkemale in Georgia. In season, for a short period of the time, we have a similar variety of yellow plums in stores here at the end of summer. Red sour plums (under ripen), can serve as a good substitute to make this sauce and right now we have them as an import from Chile, Peru and California. You will need about 9-10 plums (about 23 oz or 650g) to make a decent amount of this sauce, which you can keep in the fridge for a few weeks after in clean sterilized jars. Add a splash of an apple cider vinegar while cooking it if you need to keep the sauce for a longer time.
Making it takes not more than 30 minutes in total. I tried to keep the recipe as authentic as I could (considering that there are hundreds of varieties of this sauce) to attain that “garden” taste effect and avoid adding any vinegar (stay away GERD!). Put less cayenne if you want to temper the heat. The mix of freshly ground coriander, fennel seed, cayenne and crushed garlic add a distinct smoky dimension when incorporated into the plum paste.
As one Russian chef said in the heydays of cold war and Soviet bonanza: “Georgians can eat sauce on sauce”. Sauces are so important in Georgian cuisine, nothing is eaten without them. Known to have lots of aromatic herbs and spices in most of their variations, each and every sauce is very different and designed to be taken with a specific dish. Tkemali sauce is very versatile though. And with the new trends for salty-sweet-sour and/or use of fruits in place of veggies, you can literally take it with anything, even the ice cream. I find it tastes especially good with lamb and chicken, others love it with broiled fish, burgers or grilled veggies. 
 Lace your dish with or dip it in, this sauce successfully contends with the best BBQ sauces I know.
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TKEMALI SOUR PLUM SAUCE
Yields: 6 to 10 servings
Ingredients:
9-12 (650-800 g or 23-25 oz) sour under ripe plums pitted and sliced
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons coriander seed, grounded
1 teaspoon fennel seed, grounded
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, grounded
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
black pepper to taste
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1/2 cup fresh coriander, minced
Instructions:
Bring water to boil, add plums, simmer for 10 minutes, remove from heat. Transfer to the blender, add garlic, salt and give it a few runs to blend the mixture to paste. Transfer blended mix back to the saucepan. Add grounded spices: coriander, fennel seed, cayenne and black pepper to taste. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add minced fresh mint and coriander. Mix and boil for 1 minute. Cool to room temperature and transfer to clean sterilized jars. Keep refrigerated. Great with lamb, chicken, fish, beef, pork or grilled veggies.
TIP: Dry fry the coriander and fennel before grinding to powder in a pestle & mortar to enhance the flavor of the spices in the sauce.

Crispy Chicken Tabaka

Chicken Tabaka is a traditional dish from Georgia (the country, not the state below the Mason-Dixon line). The name has nothing to do with misspelled ”tobacco”, but refers to Georgian ”tapha”: heavy skillet in which the dish (the spatchcocked/butterflied chicken) was traditionally prepared.

This recipe is a rear catch for anyone who loves fried chicken. Crispy, juicy and packed with garlic infusion, this fried chicken is delicious and as healthy as the fried chicken can be. No crumbs coating, no deep-fry oil, no messy marinade – all you need is: one chicken, one garlic bulb, salt & pepper, frying pan. And 30 minutes of your time. Major tip: you will need a brick, or other heavy thing (I used a gallon-size stockpot filled with water) to flatten the bird for quick and even cooking.
Earlier this year, British Woman & Home magazine cited Georgian cuisine as one of the emerging global food trends and I was not surprised. Georgian cuisine is simply fantastic! In the Soviet Union with hundreds of different ethnic food influences, Georgian cuisine played a role similar to the French cuisine in the West. To the point that many Russian dishes (i.e. “shashlik”) today are, in fact, of Georgian origin.
Photo credit: Woman & Home Magazine
As long as you have some weight to flatten the bird/parts, there is no need for a special skillet. I use a regular frying pan. Split the chicken along the breast bone and flatten it (see the image). Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the frying pan to high, place the chicken covered with weight (I use no oil at all to let chicken cook in its own fat: for that you have to use a good even skillet without scratches). Flip it once, pack the skillet with garlic and fry with the weight on until brown and crisp. 30 minutes and Ta-Dah! It’s ready!
The genuine recipe calls for a sophisticated way of preparing pressed chicken, which I do not do, but just will show you an image from a cookbook Russian Cooking, Time Life Books, circa 1969. The back and breast bones are removed and the legs are drawn through the openings in the breasts to flatten the chicken before frying. Absolutely no way I am re-enacting this in my kitchen (who has time or patience for it these days?), plus the weight will do the desired magic trick anyways.
Don’t have a whole chicken? Do the same with chicken parts. In fact, it turns out to be even better to apply the same technique to fry chicken legs, for example: it seals the juices individually and you don’t have to cut the chicken into the portions upon frying. Also, many prefer dark meat to white – there is never enough of drums or thighs when you prepare a whole chicken. Be it organic or the cheapest chicken cuts, this recipe is a winner with its almost no-grease+flattened+garlic infused technique. 
Serve hot or cold, at home, party or picnic with another Georgian classic: Tkemali sauce (see the next post).
Right and bottom images credit Russain Cooking, circa 1969
With tons of unique methods of cooking, aromatic herbs & spices and huge focus on the fresh ingredient, Georgian recipes hold a special place in my heart. I will continue testing and posting many others, for this cuisine is a real bomb.
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CHICKEN TABAKA
Ingredients:
1 small-to-medium chicken, or Cornish chicken, or 4 chicken legs with bones
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated and crushed with the skin on
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon frying oil, or butter
Instructions:
Rinse and pat dry the chicken and place it breast side up on a large cutting board. With a sharp knife, slice down the middle of the breastbone, to separate the rib cage. Do not cut all the way through the chicken backbone as it should remain in one piece.
Optional: if you wish, make a small slit at the lower edge of each breast half and push the tips of the drumsticks protrude on the skin side. Make similar slits on the upper edge of each breast half and push the wing tips through. Each breast half should be covered by drumstick and a wing (see the above images). Flatten the chicken gently with the meat pounder.
Rub the chicken with salt and pepper. Preheat the frying pan at the high and add oil. Place the chicken skin up into the heated frying pan for 2-3 minutes, then turn to the skin side down and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Cover with the heat proof plate that fits into the pan and place a heavy object over the plate to flatten the chicken. Fry over medium high heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove the weight and plate carefully flip chicken skin side down and distribute crushed garlic cloves evenly around it. Re-cover with plate and weight and fry for 15-20 minutes more, until the skin is brown and crisp. Discard the garlic cloves. Serve with Tkemali sauce and the side course of your choice.