If you imagine a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles signifying dip, spread, and salad, pkhali falls somewhere in the middle. That’s a weird category for many Americans—we don’t quite know what to do with it.
Trust me, though: you’ll understand when you taste it. The garlicky, slightly salty, vinegary kick of this combo is as addictive as chips, yet you can enjoy it entirely without guilt. Georgians simply eat it with a fork or scoop it up with bread or a slice of khachapuri, but I’ve offered several other serving suggestions below as well. If you have time, make it a couple of hours ahead–it benefits from some time to chill in the fridge to let the flavors meld and the garlic mellow.
Spinach spread or dip with walnuts and cilantro (Ispanakhis Pkhali)
Serves a crowd as an appetizer
32 oz. fresh spinach leaves
1 1/2 cups walnuts, ground
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or mashed
1 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
5 Tbsp. walnut oil (or vegetable oil)
4 tsp. tarragon vinegar or white wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for salting water
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground fenugreek
¼ tsp. ground red pepper or a pinch of cayenne pepper
Several grinds of black pepper
½ cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach, stirring to submerge the leaves and make room for more. One all the spinach has wilted (about 3 minutes), drain the hot water and run cold water over the spinach. When the spinach is cool, squeeze out as much water as you can. (This is most effectively done by squeezing it, a chunk at a time, between your hands or in your fists.) Put the spinach in the bowl of a food processor or chop it very finely with a large knife and place in a bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients except the pomegranate seeds to the spinach and mix well. If you are using a food processor, puree the mixture lightly. (It should still be thick enough to roll into balls.) Adjust seasonings to taste. If possible, chill the pkhali in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.
- Spread on crostini or baguette slices and garnish each with a few pomegranate seeds
- Serve as a dip with pita chips, crackers, or crispy vegetables. Mix in the pomegranate seeds or leave them on top. For a creamy dip, mix pkhali with yogurt in equal parts.
- Use as a sandwich spread with mozzarella cheese and tomato slices or roast chicken and red leaf lettuce
- Form the mixture into small balls (about ¾ inch in diameter), garnish with a few pomegranate seeds on top of each, and serve with khachapuri or mchadi (fried corn cakes).