Archives for category: Recipes

Well, this is CookiesandtheCaucasus.  Last week I finally baked up a batch of cookies to encourage my students to stop by and practice speaking.  That didn’t really work, but the cookies were a big hit, and some of my co-workers asked for the recipe.  So, I updated my old standby to make it easier for my Georgian colleagues to follow (ie…metric) and added some notes on ingredients.  I hope this is helpful for others trying to bake American things in Georgia.

Hillary Clinton’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (Em’s adaptation)

Ingredients:

  • 170 grams all-purpose flour
  • 6 grams salt
  • 5 grams baking soda[1]
  • 227 grams unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 200 grams packed brown sugar[2]
  • 115 grams white sugar
  • 15 ml vanilla extract[3]
  • 2 eggs
  • 180 grams oatmeal
  • 365 grams semisweet chocolate chips (2 regular size dark chocolate bars of your choice, roughly chopped)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (If you have one of the glorified Easy-Bake Ovens so popular in Georgia, I highly recommend an oven thermometer). Rub a bit of butter on the baking sheet. Cream together butter, sugars and vanilla in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy.

Gradually beat in flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir in oats and then chocolate chips. Drop batter by rounded spoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks (or a colander turned upside down)  to cool completely.

 


 

[1] Georgian baking soda is chemically the same as American baking soda, but it seems to work differently. I’ve been told you need to activate it with vinegar..

[2] American brown sugar isn’t readily available in Georgia (I’ve heard rumors they have it at Ozzy’s in Dighomi and some baking place in Vake).  You can substitute in regular white sugar, or German brown sugar (at most of the big supermarkets), though it won’t taste exactly the same.  German brown sugar is better than white sugar.

[3] American vanilla extract is liquid, not powder.  It’s no problem to use the powdered vanilla, but you’ll need to compensate with slightly less flour or more butter.

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Georgian dinner in America. I’m getting better at this!

Part of my prolonged absence this summer was due to a three-week vacation back home in America (thanks, bosses!).  When I’m back in the US, there are a few things I always must do: go to the public library and read all the books, go to the dollar store and be amazed by consumer culture and get some teaching materials, and go to the department store where I used to work and game their sales so I look less disheveled when I return to Georgia.  There are also always a few things I must eat: a few family favorites (pasta salad nicoise in summer, and pork, black bean, and sweet potato stew in winter), Mexican food, hummus, avocadoes, and Starbucks chai tea lattes.  Despite my glee at returning to American cuisine, I also start missing Georgian food.  Fortunately, my parents are also fans of Georgian cuisine, and my Mom has excellent kitchen skills and is often capable of turning my “Well, I watched my host mom make this by throwing X.Y, and Z together” observations into a cohesive dish.  Usually, we collaborate on one Georgian meal while I’m at home.  This year, our cooking efforts were improved by some functional souvenirs from Georgia.  I got my Mom a traditional Georgian tablecloth (სუფრა supra) as a Mother’s Day gift, and my Dad received mtsvadi (მწვადი Georgian meat on a stick) skewers for Father’s Day.  We made khachapuri (following G’s method and using a basic pizza dough recipe for proportions–it worked great!), beet pkhali (ფხალი vegetables pureed with nuts and spices) and a tomato-cucumber salad, and had pomegranate seeds as a garnish.  We also made meat on a stick, but since it isn’t possible to get proper mtsvadi meat in the US, we marinated it in pomegranate juice as suggested in “The Georgian Feast“.  We cracked open a souvenir bottle of tkemali, and enjoyed our Georgian meal served American style.

I spent the weekend visiting some friends in Saburtalo, and took advantage of their fully-equipped kitchen to do a little baking.  My parents sent me a care package somewhat recently, and it contained some pecans grown in our town.  Clearly they needed to be turned into something sweet and tasty.  My friend suggested these Pecan Puffs as a family favorite of theirs.  As an added bonus, the recipe doesn’t contain too many hard-to-find ingredients (we both brought vanilla extract with us, and everything else is easily available in Georgia).  Of course the pecans aren’t something you can buy here, but you could use walnuts (easily available in Georgia), though I think that wouldn’t be quite as special.

Homemade pecan puffs and fruit made an excellent dessert.

Pecan Puffs from “The Joy of Cooking” 

Ingredients:
 1/2 cup (1 block plus 25 grams) butter
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup pecan meats (chopped)
1 cup cake flour (the recipe says to sift, but I’m a rebel and never bother)
Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 300* F (about 150, if you have an oven in Celsius), beat the butter until soft.  Add the sugar, and blend until creamy, then add the vanilla extract

Stir the pecans and the flour into the batter mixture. 

Roll the dough into small balls.

Place balls on a greased cookie sheet and bake about 30 minutes. 

Roll while hot in confectioners’ sugar.

Pecan puffs dredged in confectioners’ sugar.

We made a double batch, and wished we had gone all out and made a quadruple batch–they were really delicious, and the recipe doesn’t make all that many cookies.  I brought some with me on my excursion to Kazbegi in order to buy the friendship of my fellow travellers. I think it worked.

My host brother helping make cookies.

I finally got to bake cookies!  As you might gather from the name of this blog, I’m a fan of cookies.  For American Mother’s Day on Sunday (Miss you, Mommy!), I told my host mother I would like to make her some “American cakes”.  I gave her my list of ingredients (there was some confusion over why I wanted oatmeal but not yogurt), and rummaged around under my bed to retrieve my brown sugar, vanilla extract, and American baking soda, and was ready to go.  The rest of the family were out of the house when I was scheduled to bake, so I made my host brother help me.  Turning on the oven was the biggest challenge; I don’t think I could ever manage to repeat the process.

Em baking cookies

Basically, my host brother and I both poked at it until it did something.  Once we were sure we would be able to bake the cookies, I set my host brother to chopping up the chocolate bars since I didn’t bother carrying chocolate chips with me  (that’s a good manly task, right?) while I mixed the dough.  Our cookies turned out excellent, and my host family has a good impression so far of American food.  (In addition to cookies, they’ve also been introduced to the joys of chili, Doritos and salsa, and French toast).  Here’s my trusty recipe (OK, Hillary Clinton’s recipe) that has yet to fail me.

The final product.

Eastern Orthodox Easter this year fell on April 15, so I have been relaxing and enjoying a long weekend.  My host family does celebrate Easter, but not as robustly as some Georgian families.  Traditionally, Easter marks the end of the fast for Lent, and so the Easter supra is quite a big one.  We did have a supra, but it wasn’t the biggest one that my host family has had while I’ve been here—the Ninoba supra was far more of an event.  From my understanding, it wasn’t determined if we would be hosting the supra or attending another one until mid-afternoon on Easter Sunday.  This meant that my host mother had quite a bit of cooking that needed to be done, and not a lot of time to do it in.  My host sister was out of the house for part of the afternoon visiting other family members.  In short, this meant that I got to help cook!  I wasn’t in charge of anything critical—chopping the onions, frosting the cakes, and plating the side dishes, but I got to see some real Georgian cooking.  I helped with the lamb and the cakes, so here are some recipes/techniques for them:

Lest you think my host mom isn’t a good hostess–these are just the side dishes!

Georgian Easter Lamb (chakapuli ჩაქაფული):

Ingredients:
Lamb, cubed (we used bone-in)
Water
Onions
Tarragon
Cilantro
Preserved sour plums (like the ones used to make tkemali)

First, begin stewing the lamb in the water.  When it is mostly cooked through, add in the onions, tarragon, cilantro, and plums.  Allow to stew until ready to serve.  Make sure there’s bread to mop up the juices!

This recipe is really quite simple and delicious– is tastes like spring–but the key ingredient is preserved sour plums—not sure where you can get such a thing in the US.

Georgian cake frosting:

Although my host mother does bake homemade cakes from scratch on occasion, since she was in a hurry for Easter she bought pre-baked sheet cakes and we added our own frosting.  These cakes are far drier than those I’m used to in America, and got moister when we added the frosting.  We made two three-layer cakes: one with a carmelly frosting, and one with a plainer frosting topped with chocolate.  The technique for making both of our frostings was the same. For the plainer frosting, we mixed a can of (sweetened) condensed milk (сгущёнка–sgushchyonka, yes, that is a Russian word, not a Georgian one) with butter.  When the texture didn’t seem quite what she wanted, my host mom added a bit of flour in a paste with hot water to thicken it a tad.  For the carmelly frosting, we did the same thing with a can of “boiled concentrated milk” or what I would call dulce de leche (confused my host family telling them the “English” name of that one)

I put that food on those plates!

The only Georgian food I’ve been able to help cook so far is khinkali.  Khinkali are a favorite national dish of Georgia, and though they are very similar to the plethora of dumplings made all over the world, they have one particularly unique trait: they’re filled with broth.  I didn’t participate in the whole khinkali-making process, but since it’s a rather labor-intensive job I got to help with the filling and folding.  I don’t have a recipe, but I can tell you that the trick to broth-filled khinkali is to add lots and lots of water to the ground meat filling.

To make your khinkali in the traditional shape, you start with a fairly small circular piece of dough, and add the filling to the middle.

Dough for one khinkali dumpling.

You then pick up the dough at the back, and pleat the dough, folding such that you put the folds on top (I’m not sure why this is important, but my host mother says it is very important).  Keep holding the pile of folds in your hand, and continue until you have made it back to where you began.

Folding khinkali.

If you’re a pro at this or a generally tidy person, the folds should all be the same size, and you should have quite a lot of them.  You will now have a nubbin of pleated dough in your hand.  Pick up the khinkali by the nubbin and spin and pinch a few times to get the dough glued together.  Now you only need to do about 100 more…

Homemade Khinkali.

(Photos by my host sister, Ani)

My Mexican Dinner

An American friend came to visit recently and told my host mother how she had cooked Mexican food for her host family, and all of a sudden I was invited into the kitchen to cook something the next day.  I hadn’t had time to go to Tbilisi to try to find proper American/Mexican ingredients, so my recipe options were limited to what I could make with the chile powder and cumin I had in with me and ingredients available in Georgia.  So chili it was!  I didn’t make a proper Southwest Chile con Carne or an official Skyline chili or anything of the sort and went with my trusty non-recipe for chili that’s more a Southwest-spiced stew with beans, meat and tomato sauce.

I went light on the chili powder for the benefit of my host siblings and grandparents, but put in enough to make me feel like I was making proper chili. We used the traditional Georgian mixture of ground beef and pork, and some formerly fresh tomatoes and tomato paste, and lobio beans, and it all worked out great!  We served it topped with sour cream and cilantro (my host mother insisted that fresh cilantro make an appearance somewhere, though she was skeptical about how little salt I added).  I was pleased with it, and my host brother (who is a pro at not eating when he doesn’t want to) inhaled his and asked for seconds.

I finally have a khachapuri recipe that works for me.  Calling it “simplified” is a bit unfair–it’s still rather tricky to get it right, but I took a simplified recipe and pared it down a bit more (bread dough is not my friend).  Despite the simplifications, this is also the closest to real Georgian (Imeruli style) khachapuri that I’ve been able to make.  It’s “Southwest” due to the Mexican cheese.

Adapted primarily from Nigella Lawson’s “Feast” with influence from “The Georgian Feast”, my Georgian teacher, and surfing the internet

Makes two breads approximately the size of medium pizzas

For the dough:
4 and 1/2 cups flour
2 cups plain yogurt, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda

For the filling:
3/4 cup Mexican Queso Fresco
2 cups feta
4 oz fresh mozzarella
1 egg

Other:
1 egg
A few tablespoons water (for egg wash)
lots of flour to roll the dough

Mix together yogurt, eggs, and butter into a smooth mixture.
Add salt and baking soda.
By hand, gradually add in the flour and mix it into the wet ingredients.  The dough will be quite sticky, but silky and will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Put the dough in a floured bowl, cover, and let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

When you’re ready to proceed, Preheat oven to 425 with two pizza pans to warm up.
Crumble together the cheeses, add the egg and beat together to make the filling.

Divide the dough into four equal portions.
On a heavily floured board, roll each portion of dough into a circle about the size of a medium pizza.
Place two of the dough circles on parchment paper, and top them with the cheese mixture (half on each) spread cheese nearly to the edge.
Use the other two dough circles to top, folding the edges to seal together, and pressing together with a fork.

Mix together the remaining egg and water, and with a pastry brush, brush a little of the mixture over the top of the dough.

Transfer the parchment paper to the hot pizza pan, and bake the breads at 425 for about 20 minutes until golden.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been to a real supra. Since I’m leaving soon, my parents and I had some friends over and cooked Georgian food. Since it was a Georgian party, I’m just going to call it a supra–or perhaps, amerikeli supra.

Here was our menu: (I’ve posted before on Georgian recipe sources)
Lobio (from the Please to the Table recipe, where it is, erroneously I believe, called Lobiani)
Irma’s Eggplant Mush
Beets in Cherry Sauce (from The Georgian Feast)
Khachapuri (adapted from Nigella’s recipe in Feast, my version forthcoming)
Pork and Lamb Shashlik (The Georgian Feast)
Herb Plate (but I couldn’t find tarragon! ::gasp::)
Satsebeli (purchased)
Tkemali (purchased)
Cilantro Sauce/ “Georgian Pesto” (The Georgian Feast)
Churchkhela–Georgian walnut candy (The Georgian Feast. I believe in Georgia red grape juice is usually used, but this recipe called for white–I assume because Concord Grape isn’t the same flavor. If I were to make it again in the States, I would add a bit of food coloring to the juice–beige just looked awkward)
Nigella’s Georgian-Inspired Walnut Crescent Cookies (Feast)
Sushki (Russian pretzels) (purchased)

Georgian wines procured at a Russian grocery while visiting my grandmother.

(Once again, I forgot photos.  Sorry)

As a transplant to the Southwest, I felt it was my duty to make some Biscochitos.  Basically, (with this recipe at least) they’re super-duper snickerdoodles.  I’ve also seen them referred to as “the original Mexican wedding cake” but my version of Mexican wedding cakes contains nuts, which these do not.  This recipe finishes with cinnamon and sugar, and I’ve also seen others rolled in powdered sugar.  My Mom took charge of the dough, so I can’t provide comments on that element of the baking.  We rolled them out and cut them like sugar cookies which worked beautifully.  This recipe is former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s, and it was the winner of Yankee Magazine’s Cookie Primary, the greatest fusion of cookies and politics ever!

Ingredients:

“6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound lard (a must, no substitutes)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons anise seed
2 eggs
1/2 cup sweet table wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream the lard with sugar and anise seed on medium speed until fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs to creamed mixture. Mix together, flour mixture and creamed mixture, then add in the wine to form a stiff-like dough, add more wine, if necessary.

Refrigerate dough overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand until dough is soft enough to roll. Divide dough in quarters and roll to about 1/16 to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until bottom of cookie is golden brown. Remove from oven. In a bowl mix together sugar and cinnamon. Drop baked cookies into sugar and cinnamon mixture and set aside to cool.”

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