There is no Georgian meal that does not start with pakhali dishes – vegetables stuffed or mixed with a seasoned walnut puree with garlic and lots and lots of cilantro. The mixture is the base for all the Georgian mezzes of this category and you can find in it, among other things, eggplant rolls, grated beets, and more.
Spinach Pkhali, made from spinach oil and seasoned nuts, is one of the most popular dishes in the category, especially in the cuisine of Kutaisi Jewry in Georgia, where Jews and Christians have co-existed for thousands of years. The recipe is prepared, in a stately version without garlic and hot pepper – by my grandmother Becky, my grandfather’s second wife – whose family immigrated in the early 20th century from Kuatisi to Turkey.
My version – which I learned to make several years ago from my friends at the Georgian embassy, Lika Vanika – is spicier and also contains pomegranate seeds, as is customary in Georgia today
Ingredients for Spinach Pkhali
- 2.2 lbs (1 kilogram) spinach rinsed thoroughly
- ½ cup cilantro chopped
- 7 oz (200 grams) walnuts
- ½ teaspoon coriander seeds crushed
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek ground
- ½ teaspoon dried chili pepper
- 3 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- ¼ cup oil
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- 3 tomatoes quartered (optional)
1. Pour water into a large pot, add salt and bring to a boil. Add washed spinach leaves and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and cool under a stream of cold water. Squeeze out excess water and thinly chop.
2. Process all other ingredients in a food processor or an immersion blender until a thick paste is obtained. Stir together with the chopped spinach.
3. Add the pomegranate seeds to the chopped spinach and mix well. Serve lukewarm or cold with tomato quarters.