Granola

GranolaThere is no more addictive snack than this simple do-it-yourself mix of healthy, hearty foods.  Granola can be so much better than the stuff you buy at the store.  This makes a lovely hostess gift, yogurt-topper, between-meal munchie… the list goes on.  Credit for this recipe goes to the Manhattan restaurant Eleven Madison Park, where chef Daniel Humm sends guests off with a half pound of this granola as a parting gift.  The recipe was published in the May 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine.  I’ve made a couple of minor modifications to my own taste. Continue reading

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Charkhlis Mkhali (Georgian Beet Salad)

BeetsThe Georgian table is always filled with a vast array of salads and appetizers.  Often at a Georgian restaurant, I don’t even make it to the main dish because I stuff myself on starters.  This is one of the culprits.  Mkhali (or pkhali) is a general term for a vegetable puree mixed with herbs and ground walnuts.  Yesterday I made the version with beets.  You could just as easily substitute spinach or other greens.  This recipe comes almost verbatim from Darra Goldstein’s masterpiece The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. Continue reading

Lobio (Georgian bean salad)

LobioAlong with generous amounts of khachapuri, the other item that I almost always order in a Georgian restaurant is lobio.  It comes different ways.  This particular recipe is fairly standard.  This recipe is a perfect example of how the Georgians can take something as ordinary as kidney beans and turn them into something wondrously exotic.  If your friends are deathly allergic to walnuts, you can leave them out, and the dish doesn’t suffer too much.  This dish can be served either at room temperature or hot.  The hot version usually has the consistency of a stew and is often made with hot pepper. Continue reading

Baklava

Baklava overheadI first made baklava at home in Fort Worth, during my high school years, using a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cookbook, one of the best volumes in my mother’s shelf of cookbooks.  This was probably the recipe that got me started in cooking, as I discovered that with a little time and effort, I could make something with my own hands that could impress and delight people.

Many years later, when I traveled to Florida to meet my future wife’s Greek-American family for the first time, I brought them a pan of my tried-and-true homemade baklava.  Yiayia Katty, the 87-year-old matriarch of the clan, was impressed.  “It’s very good,” she said in her old-country accent. “But… there’s just one more thing.”  She reminded me never to put hot syrup on hot baklava right out of the oven, which makes it soggy.  Instead, let the syrup cool before pouring it onto the hot baklava, or alternatively, pour hot syrup onto cool baklava. And ideally, let the syrup soak in for several hours before serving.

I’ve sampled baklava around the world, and the best I’ve tried is this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. My Greek in-laws agree that this is πόλη νόστιμο. Continue reading