Green Bean Salad with Peppers and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Green Bean Salad with Peppers and Roasted Cherry Tomoatoes

Green beans are so often an afterthought, seemingly included only to add a bit of green to a plate dominated by protein and potatoes. Not so here: the natural sweetness of green beans plays off the acidity of the dressing, the smokiness of the roasted tomatoes, and an extra kick from the raw red onions to make this a salad second to no main. Serve it with grilled lamb and tkemali plum sauce, Trout with cilantro-walnut sauce, or alongside Ajaran khachapuri.

Green Bean Salad with Peppers and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4-6

1.5 lbs. green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-in. pieces.

2 Tbsp. oil for frying (olive, grapeseed, canola, or other)

3 mild chili peppers (such as poblano, Anaheim, or Italian frying peppers), chopped into thin 2-in. strips

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup cherry tomatoes

Dressing:

¼ cup walnut or extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses

Kosher salt

A few grinds of black pepper

Dash of crushed red pepper flakes

On Top:

Fresh cilantro leaves

Thinly sliced red onion

1. Arrange a rack in the top slot of the oven and preheat the broiler. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil on the stove. Boil the green beans until crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain in a colander and run the green beans under cold water or place them in an ice bath to stop the cooking.

2. Heat the oil for frying in a saute pan. Add the onions and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, under crisp tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more, until very fragrant. Remove from heat.

3. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the tomatoes on it. Broil about 5 minutes, turning once, until the tomatoes blister and begin to fall.

4. Make the dressing: whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl.

5. Mix the green beans, onions and peppers together in a medium bowl. Add the dressing and stir to combine. Top with roasted cherry tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and very thin slices of raw red onion.

Georgian Potato Salad (Kartopilis Salati)

Georgian potato salad

I grew up eating classic Midwestern potato salad, with a healthy glop of mayo and chunks of celery and hard-boiled egg mixed in. It was always on the buffet table at family picnics for summer holidays like Memorial Day and Fourth of July, and even shows up from time to time at Christmas. (When you have to bring a dish large to feed 75 people, potato salad goes a long way.)

I still love that familiar version, but at home I like something with a little more kick to it. This Georgian version is a creation of my own kitchen rather than an adaptation of a traditional Georgian dish (though it wouldn’t be out of place there).

I prefer to keep the skins on the potatoes for the flavor they add, but you can peel the potatoes after you boil them if you like. Experiment with different combinations of herbs. For the most authentically Georgian flavor, seek out the glossy purple “opal” basil, which is sharper and clovier than the green Genovese basil most commonly found in the US.

This salad can easily be made a day ahead of time and stored in the fridge overnight.

 

Georgian Potato Salad (Kartopilis Salati)
Serves 4-6

2 lbs. boiling potatoes, preferably fingerling or red, scrubbed clean
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
½ tsp. kosher salt + another teaspoon for the boiling water
Several grinds of black pepper
Dash of crushed red pepper (I use about ¼ tsp.)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3-4 scallions, finely sliced
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (any mix of cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, dill, tarragon, and/or basil)
Sprinkle of ground sumac to garnish, if desired

1. In a pot, cover the potatoes with an inch or two of cold water and add a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender all the way through, around 10-15 minutes. Drain and rinse several times under cool water to stop the cooking. Chop the potatoes into bite-size chunks and transfer them to a mixing bowl.
2. Add the mayonnaise, ½ tsp. salt, black and red pepper, vinegar, scallions, and herbs. Mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste.
3. You can chill the salad at this point if you are making it in advance or prefer to serve it cold. Otherwise, transfer it to a serving dish and sprinkle ground sumac over the top if desired.

Eggplant-Pomegranate Dip (Badrijnis Khizilala)

eggplant pomegranate dip

You can find this dip throughout the Caucasus and the rest of the former Soviet Union, where it’s often called “eggplant caviar.” Creative branding, to be sure, since it tastes nothing like fish eggs and costs a fraction of the price. Maybe the eggplant seeds reminded someone of sturgeon roe, or eating it made the plebes feel like kings.

I first encountered this dip in Russia, where college students buy it in jars from the grocery store and eat it on slices of dense, tangy black bread with caraway seeds–a sort of Slavic equivalent of a peanut butter sandwich. It even comes in a creamy variety (like this recipe) and a chunky one (more of a salad). Later, I made a variation of it with my friend Inna for her son’s birthday party. Her husband Gena lit up the grill in the backyard, skewered whole eggplants on sharp iron rods, and let them roast over the open flame until they glistened and oozed drippings into the grill box. Inna and her mother-in-law let them cool in a bowl of salted water, then beat the smoky pulp to a smooth paste and added tomatoes, oil, herbs, and spices to make a dipping sauce for the shishkebabs Gena was still grilling out back.

This version is my own. You can mix up the herbs you use, add a squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle oil over the top of the bowl if you like, or throw in a handful of pomegranate seeds if you really want to play up the caviar analogy.

Eggplant-Pomegranate Dip (Badrijnis Khizilala)
Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 large globe eggplant or 3 of the smaller, narrower kind (Asian or Italian)
¼ cup pomegranate juice
2 Tbsp. olive or walnut oil
¼ cup fresh mixed cilantro and dill, chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ tsp. kosher salt
Dash crushed red pepper flakes

  1. Prepare the grill or preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prick the eggplant in several places with a fork and place it on the grill grate or on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Grill or bake the eggplant until its skin wrinkles and it collapses into itself. In the oven, this takes about 45 minutes. The flesh should be totally soft by this point. Allow to cool, then scrape out the flesh into the bowl of a food processor.* Discard skin and stem.
  2. Add the other ingredients into the food processor and pulse until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with bread, pita chips, crackers, or vegetables.

*Note: You could also use an immersion blender to puree the dip.

Fried Eggplant Rolls with Walnut-Garlic Filling (Badrijani Nigvzit)

badrijani nigvzit

The one-two punch of garlic and salt melts into the subtle creaminess of eggplant in these addictive little morsels, which can be found on nearly every Georgian restaurant menu. They make a unique appetizer served simply on crackers or bread alongside a glass of red wine, but are rich enough to stand up to heartier fare like grilled pork ribs and cornbread.

Georgians make this dish with Chinese eggplants, which are long and narrow, with thinner skin and sweeter flesh than the elephantine “globe” variety found in most American supermarkets. Either will work for this recipe, but it’s easier to cut and fold the Asian variety, which are sometimes available at farmers’ markets in the US. Ground fenugreek imparts a slightly tart, nutty flavor and is worth seeking out. It can be found in Indian, Persian, and Middle Eastern grocery stores, purchased in small quantities from stores that sell bulk spices, or purchased online at Penzey’s. Georgian utskho suneli (“foreign spice”) also known as blue fenugreek (trigonella caerulea), is less bitter than its Asian counterpart (trigonella foenum graecum), the kind typically sold in the US. Use it in this recipe if you can find it (and let me know where you got it!)

The filling can be made up to three days ahead if stored in the refrigerator. The eggplant slices can be fried the night before combining and serving.

Fried Eggplant Rolls with Walnut-Garlic Filling (Badrijani Nigvzit)
Serves 10-12 as an appetizer

12 Chinese eggplants or 3 medium globe eggplants (about 1 lb. each)
Neutral-tasting vegetable oil (e.g. canola, sunflower or grapeseed) for frying
1 cup walnuts
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ tsp. white wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
1 tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground fenugreek (if you have utskho suneli from Georgia, use 1/2 tsp.)
¼ tsp. ground red pepper flakes or small pinch ground cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup water
Fresh cilantro, thin-sliced onion, and/or pomegranate seeds to garnish

1. In a food processor, grind the walnuts, garlic, vinegar, spices, and water together until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. (Ideally, do this several hours or up to 3 days before you plan to serve the dish, as the flavors benefit from time to meld. Store in the refrigerator if making ahead.)

2. Wash and cut the tops off the eggplants. Do not peel. Cut lengthwise into ½ in.-thick slices.

3. Optional but recommended: Salt the eggplant slices generously and let stand for 1 hour, then press out the dark juice, rinse, and pat dry thoroughly with a kitchen towel or paper towels. This is one common technique for minimizing bitterness in eggplant. Using very fresh eggplants will also cut the risk of bitter flavor.

4. Heat 2-3 Tbsp. of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown eggplant slices on both sides, working in batches so as not to crowd the pan and adding oil as necessary. Wait until both sides have turned golden brown, then remove eggplant slices to a plate lined with paper towels. (They should be floppy, not crisp.) Continue until all slices are fried and set aside to cool.

5. Spread a layer of filling on one side of each eggplant slice and roll up to enclose the filling inside. Arrange the rolls on a platter and sprinkle with fresh herbs, thin-sliced onion, or pomegranate seeds (if desired) to serve. You could also serve the rolls on top of crackers or crostini to make them easier to eat neatly as finger food.