This is a hot and spicy ground paste of chili peppers, sweet peppers, and spices that is widely used in the Georgian kitchen and on the table. It is usually prepared in large batches and used over the course of several weeks. Cooks use it to add spice to dishes; diners use it like a condiment to add a little heat to dishes that lack a bit of zing. Sometimes it is even used as a main spice in meat recipes, like the chop recipe offered earlier in the chapter. The ingredients lend many layers of flavor, which become deeper and richer as the days pass—so prepare it several days in advance of using it.
1 cup hot, dried, red chili peppers
1 celery stalk
1 red sweet bell pepper, cored and defleshed
1 heaping tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. In a blender or food processor, combine the sweet red pepper, celery, chili peppers, chopped garlic, and vinegar, and grind until you have a light pink paste.
2. Add the dill, tarragon, fenugreek and the coriander and grind again until well blended. Add salt (if desired).
3. Spoon into container, seal, and refrigerate until needed for use.
Makes about 1 cup.
This wonderful sweet and sour sauce is a Georgian-Armenian take on a common Caucasian and Caspian flavor. Throughout northern Iran and through Azerbaijan, pomegranates are used as “souring agents” for dishes and sauces, not unlike how tamarind is used in South, Southwest, and Southeast Asia. The take that the northern Caucasus and Caspian countries offer is a slightly sweetened pomegranate. In this sauce, the sweetness is provided primarily by sweet basil, but a bit of sugar can also be used. My advice, however, is to hold off on the sugar until you’ve tasted the sauce without it.
1 bottle pomegranate juice (unsweetened) (4 cups)
1/2 cup red onions, finely diced
1 heaping teaspoon coarsely chopped garlic
1/8 cup finely chopped fresh basil or 1 heaping teaspoon dried basil
1 small bunch fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped (15-20 sprigs)
1-2 hot, dried red cili peppers, crushed
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste (if desired)
1. Empty the pomegranate juice into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat. After the juice has come to a boil, reduce heat, bring to a steady simmer, and cook uncovered until reduced by half until about 2-2 1/2 cups of juice remain.
2. When sauce is at least halfway reduced, add onions, garlic, basil and coriander. As the coriander begins to thicken the sauce, add crushed pepper (if desired) and cook for another 15 minutes or so. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper, if desired.
3. Just before roasted or grilled meats and vegetables are served, reheat the sauce, add enough to the dish to flavor without saturating the meat, and pour into a gravy boat to allow guests to add as little or as much additional sauce as they wish.