Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Georgia on my Mind

Lobio, Kasha, and Khachapuri

First, let's get something straight: I mean Georgia the COUNTRY, not the US state! Georgian food is still waiting to be discovered as a cuisine over here, but I think it has a bright future. I discovered it in a little family-run cafe on the Fontanka in St. Petersburg, and it took a lot of self-control to keep myself out of there every day. Everyone I know who has experienced Georgian food it will tell you it is exceedingly tasty and fairly simple to prepare. The ingredients are easy to find in the US, and there's little that the American palate will find threatening.

Lobio is a savory bean dish that has numerous variations, all dubbed "Lobio", so I'm including my own recipe, which gets pretty close to the version I first ate in the Georgian cafe. I used canned beans simply because they're faster. It may or may not be traditional to serve this with buckwheat kasha, but I love the stuff and think they're great together.

The real crowd pleaser, though, is bound to be the khachapuri, which is Georgian cheesy bread. Likewise, this dish seems to come in a variety of shapes and styles, so I felt fine taking a few liberties. I used a blend of sharp cheddar and asiago to mimic the salty Georgian cheeses you'd find baked into traditional khachapuri.

Lobio (Georgian Bean Stew)
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp garlic
1 shallot, chopped
1 can red kidney beans or fava beans, rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup chopped kale (optional)
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp seasoning blend*
2 tsp lemon juice

*I used a prepackaged Georgian seasoning blend containing black pepper, salt, paprika, turmeric, oregano, basil and fenugreek. A goulash seasoning, or a blend called "Khmeli-Suneli" would also work well, but the seasoning of this dish seems to be wide open.

Sautee the garlic in oil on medium heat until lightly browned, and add the shallot. Add the beans and stir together, letting them cook for a minute or so before adding the wine. Keep stirring and add the chicken stock and kale. The consistency should be like a thick soup- feel free to add more stock if needed. Add the seasonings and lemon, and lower heat. Stir occasionally- it should be ready when the kale is cooked.

Buckwheat Kasha

1/4 cup oil
1/2 onion
1 cup buckwheat kasha
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dill

First make sure to inspect your kasha for small stones and whatnot; even the best American brands might have a pebble in them somewhere, but kasha is delicious and worth the effort. On medium heat in a deep saucepan, sautee the onion in oil until brown. Then add the dry kasha and toast it lightly in the oil for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken stock and dill and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover. Let it simmer while stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed (a 2:1 ratio of liquid to kasha usually works). Remove cover and stir, letting some liquid evaporate- the kasha should be soft, but the individual grains shouldn't be so mushy they stick together.

Khachapuri (Georgian Cheesy Bread)

1 packet quick-acting yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp *seasoning blend (optional- see above)
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 oz sharp white cheddar, in small cubes
4 oz asiago, in small cubes
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water along with the sugar and salt. Add the seasoning (if desired) and flour, mixing together. When well-mixed, cover and let sit in a warm place for 5 minutes. Then knead the dough for one minute on a floured surface. Divide the mixture into four parts, pressing each into an oval. Fill each with a mix of cheddar and asiago cubes, then pinch the narrow ends of the oval up until it looks like a boat (see picture). Be sure the sides are securely closed, and leave an opening at the center. Leave some flour on the underside of each boat to prevent sticking, and brush the tops with olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.


Yulinka said...

Thanks for the hachepouri recipe! This is different from my version, but I'd like try it.

Victoria said...

Foodichka - you are amazing. I love Georgian cooking and stole about 2 cookbooks from my college library on it.