Georgian (Black Sea, Russian)
We just returned from San Francisco, where we happened upon a Georgian deli and bakery. We sampled two wonderful salads. One was made from beets and walnuts, with a mild cheese (maybe cream cheese?) and the other was carrot and smoked salmon. Both were shaped into baseball sized balls, and garnished with a black olive. Seemed simple enough to make at home.
The other item we tried was a type of candy-pastry. It looks like a bright purple sausage, about 1" in diameter, filled with walnuts. Basically, the walnut halves were strung together and dipped into a pliable, mildly sweet beet colored taffy substance.
The owner spoke some English, but it was difficult to remember the names of the items, and find out detailed information. HELP...any information is greatly appreciated!
Shindiganna, would you mind posting the name/location on the SF board? I go to SF frequently and urgently, deeply crave Georgian food.
Your sweet (i think) is Tklapi. The version I've had served by Georgians in Russia is the same setup but the taffy-like substance is an apricot leather. That wouldn't explain your purple, though. According to my Georgian cookbook its likely to be a sour plum. Was it slighlty sour?
I have taken to making a version of your beet and walnut dish, which involves pureeing walnuts with some raw garlic, salt and pepper in greek-style yogurt and mixing that up with diced beets. Go easy on the garlic as it will be consumed raw. The walnut thickens the dressing. Various walnut/garlic/cilantro combinations form the basis of much georgian cooking. Though I don't know the name of this dish.
Many Georgians speak Russian so if I do go I might be able to get you more info.
There is a really fabulous cookbook called the Georgian Feast, which is worth reading both for its food history and recipes.
I really can't believe that Georgian is not more popular in the West.
I looked through my copy of "The Georgian Feast" by Darra Goldstein. Unfortunately, I could not find salads like you mentioned.
However, I did find an entry for Walnut Roll (Churchkhela, page 192). It is described as "a long string of nuts that have been dipped repeatedly in concentrated fresh grape juice (badagi) to form a confection." Apparently, it was carried by soldiers in campaigns because a single piece has enough calories for the whole day! The recipe calls for white grape juice, so maybe the one you had used purple grape juice instead. It takes half a day to prepare and 4 days until it is ready (though the flavor becomes more concentrated as it ages). I can type out the recipe if you're interested in making it.
re: Joe MacBu
All the churchkela I recall seeing in Georgia was purple; I wonder why Goldstein specifies white grape juice.
I admire the proprietors of the deli. So many key ingredients in Georgian food are just not available here. Perhaps that's why the Goldstein book (which I have, btw) doesn't include recipes like the ones Shindiganna recalls. I bet the cooks have to do a fair amount of improvising, and Goldstein has an almost anthropological emphasis on authenticity.
Incidentally, if you want to get a feel for Georgian cooking w/o seeking out a Georgian cookbook, check out the Russian cookbooks at your local library. Often they will include a few Georgian dishes.
re: Joe MacBu
Churchkhela! that's what the proprietor called it! I'm sure he said he used beet juice. He said it would last a long time without refrigeration; makes sense that it is soldiers' rations. It's not very sweet, and isn't sticky at all. It sounds a bit complex to make, not sure I'm there yet!