This is great winter food. It hails from the Republic of Georgia, a place I may or may not have known existed until I tried the recipes.
There's a lot to get excited about. They make a strain of yogurt, matsoni, that can be cultured at room temperature. (!) They use loads and loads of walnuts to thicken their food, and they use subtle, unique spice combinations. I've used lots of coriander, cinnamon, and cilantro, but never like this. It was my first time using powdered fenugreek, and like the dried leaves, it imparts a mellow sweetness that is unbeatable in soups and stews. This particular stew I have made many times, and while no one ever jumped at the sight of it, everyone loves it. For your sake I hope you are not allergic to walnuts.
If you try this and fall in love like I did, I recommend taking a look at Georgianrecipes.net, which has an amazing collection of home recipes. It's fun to look through. The chicken and walnut stew recipe I post here was adapted from Saveur. While it may not be as traditional as I'd hoped (based on what I read in Darra Goldstein's The Georgian Feast), this is a really simple version that can be made quickly for dinner. According to Goldstein, satsivi is usually made with the whole bird on the bone, made with ground marigold petals, and served at room temperature.
If by summer I have grown marigolds, I'll let you know how that version turns out.
3 cups walnuts
5 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup cilantro
1 onion, chopped
10 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken thighs seasoned with salt and pepper
olive oil for browning the chicken
3 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
For reasons I don't understand, nuts prepared this way taste better. They are light and crisp and make a great snack which researchers speculate improve your health by displacing other less healthy choices. (Click here for a link that will make you want to run out and buy walnuts.) I discovered this preparation in Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.
According to Sally Fallon, soaked and dehydrated nuts are better for you since nuts contain enzyme inhibitors that make them hard to digest. Soaking the nuts in salt water overnight helps to neutralize these, making them easier to digest. She adds that the Aztecs used to soak pumpkin and squash seeds in a brine and sun dry them before eating them, presumably for this reason.
I've seen nuts prepared this way sold at farmers markets, but of course you pay extra for the work that goes into them. This is a good time of year to buy lots of walnuts and prepare them yourself. Walnuts happen to go rancid very easily, so any walnuts, soaked and dehydrated or not, should be refrigerated.
4 cups shelled walnut pieces
2 teaspoons salt
Put the walnuts in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Cover them with a generous amount of filtered water. They will swell some as they soak, just like dried beans do.
After allowing them to soak overnight or for a minimum of seven hours, strain them and spread them out either on dehydrator trays or baking sheets. Dry them for 12 to 24 hours at 150 degrees. Store them in an airtight container.
Long after I gave up on my sweet pepper plants, they finally produced an abundance of beautiful green, yellow and red peppers. And unlike most of what I grow, these were full-sized. It was a pleasant surprise and a good reason to keep gardening. Last year I used peppers in all the Hungarian dishes I tried and also in the Portuguese recipe for spareribs roasted in a salty sweet pepper marinade, but this year I went Italian and roasted them with onions and sweet Italian sausage. Of everything I've made, this is the one dish where I loved the peppers themselves the best. They are flavored by the sausage and onion, and the result is greater than the sum of its parts.
This can be served with salad and some bread, made into sandwiches, or turned into soup later. It doesn't take much effort either, though I still managed to ruin it once. The last time I made this, I couldn't find Italian sausage and used chorizo instead. It was equally good, just spicier, so I could have used less sausage. The leftovers I made into a soup with leftover rice and sautéed greens.
I originally tried the recipe from The Soprano Family Cookbook, but it's hardly a recipe, more just a great combination.
a combination of red and green bell peppers cut into one inch squares or sliced
1-2 onions cut the same size
1 potato, cut to match the other vegetables
salt and pepper
one pound mild Italian sausages
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Toss all the vegetables with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out onto one or two baking sheets and pop them into the preheated oven. Watch them, because how quickly they cook depends on how you cut them. After about half an hour, when the vegetables are starting to look soft, prick the sausages in a few places and set them over the vegetables to cook. If your vegetables have shrunk down to nothing and you have them on two trays, be sure to combine them. You don't want to burn your vegetables. Once the sausages have cooked through it's ready to eat.
I've served this with rolls, rice, or a side of spaghetti squash.
I always use long beans in a Thai curry, but last summer I tried something different. Unfortunately, it took me months to finish writing about it. But then, this is California, and there are loads of green beans at the farmers market, so who is to say this isn't seasonal?
Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation has a recipe for Fermented Yard-Long Beans which she based on a recipe from Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation. I haven't seen his version, but I realized that this is made exactly the same way kim chi is made. My favorite kim chi recipe uses 1/4 cup salt to a cup of water, and this one uses 1/2 cup salt to 12 cups of water, but the idea is the same. Submerge vegetables in a brine long enough for the fermentation to work a transformation. It's the chile powder, garlic and ginger that make the kim chi taste Korean, so I was curious to try long beans pickled with nothing but chile pepper.
They taste Chinese! And wonderful.
I tried these in a stir fry and thought they were very good. A few of these add a bright acidic note which I really like. My children, however, hated it. You decide.
Two bunches of yard-long beans (they are long, but not a yard long...)
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup salt
12 cups water
Trim the beans and cut them in half. Put them in a food-grade bucket or a big mason jar and sprinkle the pepper flakes over them. Dissolve the salt in the water and pour enough over the beans to just cover them. Now pour the rest of the brine into a gallon zip lock bag and seal it well. Put it on top of the beans to keep them submerged. Or make your life easier with this pickle press. I use mine regularly.
Now you wait three to five days. Some scum may form on the surface of the brine, and you can just skim that off. After three days, start tasting the beans to see if the appropriate sour pickle flavor has developed. It can't get much easier!
Roasted butternut squash is so delicious, and because spinach stands up well, the leftovers are just as good as when you first make it.
Begin by peeling and roasting the squash. Cut off the top and bottom ends, and separate the neck from the bulbous portion. Use a vegetable peeler to take off the skin, and carefully scoop out all the seeds. Cut the squash into one inch squares and toss them in olive oil. Spread them over a baking sheet and season them with salt and pepper. Roast them in a 425 degree oven until they are soft and the edges have blackened.
Meanwhile, rinse and dry the spinach and lay it out on a platter or serving dish. If you are using a lot of spinach, you will have to toss it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar, but if there is relatively little spinach to the amount of squash you are cooking, the squash alone may provide all the seasoning you need for the spinach once it is mixed together. When the squash is done, put the hot, oily squash right on the spinach leaves. Crumble goat cheese over the top and add a sprinkling of pine nuts. Drizzle all of it with balsamic vinegar and stir it a little to combine.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!