On one of my visits to sunny Georgia (a country, not a state), I saw two salads on the table crowded with many unique vegetable creations. These two, however, looked very similar to each other, but different colors. One was completely green. The other – oh, the other! – it was wonderfully green and red and purple. Both were flecked with crushed walnuts, as are many other Georgian dishes, and garnished with lots of dill. Having waited out the obligatory twenty-minute toast in honor of visiting journalists (i.e. my cameraman and myself), I politely inquired.
“This is radish greens, and that one is beet greens,” I was told.
“What’s in them?”
Strange look: “The usual. Garlic, kindza (cilantro), walnuts, oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. What else?”
“So what’s the difference?”
Another strange look: “This is radish greens, and that one is beet greens.”
“Have you tried to put them together?”
“No, – with infinite politeness,- This is radish greens, and that one is beet greens. This is how it is.”
Not wanting to offend my hosts, I shut up, quietly put a little of both on my plate and tasted them. The radish greens had a subtle bite and the beet greens – subtle sweetness. Both delightful. And, I thought, both would contrast and complement each other very well when combined, just like fierce djigity (men) and graceful women in the Georgian national dance Lezginka.
These are just family and friends having fun at a wedding! Watch the girls’ footwork, the men’s incredible agility, watch the older women gliding and the little boy already trying to imitate the moves. Astounding!
So I made sure I got both daikon radishes and young beets with huge “tails” of greens. Iced and salted, and washed them thoroughly, as usual. For instructions how to ice and salt greens, please click here. Meanwhile, I put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
Totally unceremoniously, I dumped the whole lot into boiling water, breaking the stems just enough to fit into the pot. I brought it to boil again, threw in a pinch of salt, reduced heat to medium, covered the pot, and let it cook. While it’s cooking, I have two comments to make:
- Georgians cook both kinds of greens, as well as many other veggies, until very soft, for about 20 – 30 minutes. If you prefer them al dente, cook them for five to ten minutes or steam them to your liking.
- I have seen many recipes that specify “kosher salt.” I want to clarify that ALL salt is kosher, and there is nothing special about salt labeled “kosher salt,” other than its coarseness. It is called kosher because course salt is traditionally used for kashering meat, a process that requires covering meat with salt to extract blood from it. Salted meat is left on an inclined board for one hour in order for blood to drain into a tub, then triple rinsed. It could be done with finely ground salt as well, but it is just easier and better to do it with coarse salt.
This is cooked the Georgian way, for 25 minutes, until very soft. Drain the greens and put them aside to cool. When cooled sufficiently, cut them into bite-size pieces.
Meanwhile, you can get the rest of the stuff ready. As my Georgian hosts said, it’s “the usual”: garlic, cilantro, and walnuts. Chop fresh cilantro or use fresh frozen already chopped, as I do, crush or coarsely grind walnuts, and squeeze garlic into the greens.
Disclaimer: for blurry photos blame my feline helper Barmalei who keeps nudging my elbow from under the table. To dress and season, use “the usual” again: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon (that’s my addition), salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for a while to let flavors blend. Tear a whole bunch of fresh dill sprigs to throw on top. Serve Adjika or Harissa (both are hot pepper sauces), or any hot sauce you like, on the side for more adventurous. Don’t incorporate any hot peppers into the salad as it will ruin the delicate balance of flavors.
Ah, how I would love a glass of Georgian Psou to go with it! Barring that, a Chilean Terra Vega Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, fruity and soft, will do nicely.
- Beet greens to fill 2-quart bowl when loose
- Radish greens to fill 2-quart bowl when loose
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Large handful fresh dill
- 1/2 cup crushed or coarsely ground walnuts
- 3 – 4 garlic cloves, squeezed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: hot sauce on the side
- Place beet greens and radish greens together into boiling water, add a pinch of salt, reduce heat, cook for 20 – 30 minutes for soft and 5 – 10 minutes for al dente texture. Alternatively, steam to desired texture.
- Drain greens, allow to cool completely. Cit into bite-size pieces.
- Add cilantro, walnuts, and garlic. Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with cinnamon, salt and pepper. Toss well, cover, refrigerate for at least 10 – 15 minutes.
- Garnish with large sprigs of fresh dill. Serve hot pepper sauce on the side.