Recipe: Charkhils Mkhali

ImageSome recipes stand out, and you realize that they have the potential to change your world...or at least your view of what can happen in the kitchen. Remember the first time you tasted – or made – hummus? What a revelation: the humble chick pea has never been the same. And then there was pesto, concentrating basil into an addictive paste. Here we want to introduce mkhali.
Mkhali is a hallmark of Georgian cuisine. A vegetable puree made from radishes, spinach or many other possibilities, the delicious version here features beets, mixed with ground walnuts, herbs, and garlic.
As with hummus or pesto, rely on your palate when making mkhali. The balance of flavors and amount of vinegar necessary depends on the sugar content of your vegetables. The end result should be a bit sharp and vinegary.
Traditionally mixed by hand (both hands: sure to be bright red if you try this method), you can use a food processor or blender to make a more modern version. Thanks to member-owner Jennifer Bass for recommending mkhali!

1 pound of beets
1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of dried summer savory
or parsley (optional)
1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander seed
1 or 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar (to taste)

Bake the unpeeled beets at 375°F for 1 to 1. 5 hours, until tender. (The beets may be boiled instead, but roasting imparts a delicious flavor.) While the beets are cooking, grind together walnuts, garlic and salt. Add the cilantro and summer savory or parsley, and continue to grind, make a fine paste. Transfer to a bowl.
Peel the beets when they are soft, and finely grate them in the food processor. In a medium size bowl mix together the grated beets and the ground walnut mixture. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Keep tasting, adding enough vinegar to counteract the sweetness of the beets. The mkhali should be slightly tart.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, and bring to room temperature before serving. Mount on a plate, and decorate the top with a bit of chopped cilantro or parsley.