This is P.K., Sr. writing this month. I just pulled rank on Rosemarie and asked her for the recipe portion of this column, requesting that I do the preamble.
The reason: She is a creative food wizard, and her wizardry deserves this accolade.
For my birthday, she decided to treat me, our daughter, and son-in-law, to a special lunch prepared by five Georgian chefs at Neiman Marcus in San Diego. The event was part of the 1989 San Diego Art Festival “Treasures of the Soviet Union”.
What a feast! We had the following: Caviar; Lahvosh (Georgian “slipper” bread); Fresh herbs (Opal basil, Tarragon, Scallions, and Cilantro); Aragvi (Tomato, Cucumber, and Fresh Herb Salad); Kuchmachi Salad (Chicken livers with garlic, Fresh herbs and pomegranates); Chicken Bazha (Classic Georgian chicken with Walnut sauce); Ajap Sandali (Eggplant and vegetable casserole with yogurt); and a beet appetizer that was not listed on the menu.
We lunched for two hours. Everybody was a clean plater.
Naturally we wanted to meet the chefs, and they obliged us with a visit to our table. Head chef Georgi Gorgodze led the delegation. He was the only one that spoke English. Naturally Rosemarie immediately sprung him for recipes, but alas! They were personal secrets of the chefs, he saidwith a typical Far Eastern coy facial expression!
I am a beet freak. I love fresh beets prepared any way. The appetizer we were served was a new one for me. I challenged Rosemarie to reproduce it.
And by golly, she did! It is very similar to what we had.
GEORGIAN BEET APPETIZER
4 medium sized fresh beets
1/2 tsp dry dill
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp Tahini* (available at Middle Eastern markets)
Cover beets with water, add a little salt, cover and cook until tender. Cool. Peel beets and put through a hand dicer or use the shredding disc of your food processor. Place beets in a bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix until well blended. Mound the appetizer on a small dish or in a shallow bowl. Garnish with fresh basil leaves for holiday colors! Serve with Armenian lahvosh crackers or your favorite kind.
*Tahini is a paste made from crushed sesame seeds. Almost like peanut butter in consistency but “sesame butter”. This is also used in “Homous”.
I am sending Chef Georgi Gorgodze a copy of this newsletter with a message: “Defend yourself by publishing the recipe or accept our version. En Garde!”
In the meantime for any fresh beet fans out there, this is superb!
– P.K., Sr.