This Georgian Spinach Salad (Ispanakhis Pkhali) absolutely saved our waistlines during our time in Tbilisi, Georgia. Here there is a bakery and a cheese shop on almost every corner, and when putting them together, some of the best cheese bread (called Khachapuri) that we’ve even eaten. Georgian’s are also very fond of plump pasta dumplings filled with spiced meats, cheese or potatoes (khinkali). They are all absolutely delicious. In order to curb our insatiable appetite for the rich Georgian food, we began ordering the spinach salad (Ispanakhis Pkhali) as a starter. The salad is a minced blend of cooked spinach along with cilantro and walnuts and then sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Granted there are plenty of calories in walnuts, but combined together with the spinach, the salad is actually very filing. It can be eaten alone, or piled on top your favorite bread. If you ever get the opportunity, try it with some Georgian fresh baked stuffed cheese bread (Mingrelian or Imeretian Khachapuri). It’s absolutely fantastic.
In this version I’m using a Georgian spice blend (khmeli suneli), which is very common to the area. It features ground blue fenugreek, coriander seeds and ground marigolds. The flavor is unique and I’d suggest looking for it in Russian specialty stores or online. I’ve included a substitute spice blend that will also work well.
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Yield: 2 cups, 2 – 4 servings
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach leaves
- 1 cups walnuts (raw or toasted)
- 3 medium cloves garlic
- 3/4 cup cilantro (about 3/4 bunch)
- 1/4 cup parsley (about 1/4 bunch)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable or walnut oil
- 2 tablespoon vinegar (red wine, white, or tarragon)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons khmeli suneli (Georgian spice mix - can be substituted with 1/2 teaspoon ground blue fenugreek, 1/2 teaspoon tumeric, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds)
- 1/4 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Pomegranate Seeds (as a garnish)
- Wash the spinach and place in a pot with boiling water until it wilts (about 3 minutes).
- Drain the spinach into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- When the spinach is cool, squeeze out the water with your hands, working in small batches. Then place aside.
- Add the walnuts to a food process and pulse until it is coarsely chopped.
- Add the remained of the ingredients (except the spinach) and blend until smooth.
- Remove and add the spinach to the food processor (a grinder can also be used) and process until it is finely chopped.
- Add the walnut mixture and blend until smooth.
- The salad can be served warm or cold. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds
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