(adapted from various sources)
1/3 cup dried sour cherries
4 oz walnuts
2 cups parsley or cilantro leaves, washed and thoroughly dried (about half a bunch)
3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoon khmeli suneli* Georgian spice blend
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (freshly-ground is best)
1/4 teaspoon dried mint
1/4 cup sesame tahini
juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon honey (optional)
- Bring sour cherries to a boil in water to cover (in microwave if desired), turn off heat, and let soak 20 minutes or so. Drain, reserving juice.
- Toast walnuts for a few minutes in oven or microwave, until they are sizzling, fragrant, and lightly brown, but not burnt. Grind up finely in processor or mortar.
- Combine everything except cherry juice and honey, and grind in processor or mortar until thoroughly pulverized, scraping down sides several times to mix in all ingredients. Add a little cherry juice if needed: mixture should be thick, but slightly runny.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking: the sauce should taste very tart, spicy, full of complex flavor from all the spices, and pleasantly salty. Add a little honey if it is a touch too tart or bitter.
- Set aside several hours to let the flavors blend; if refrigerated, bring the sauce to room temperature before serving. This keeps in refrigerator for at least a week.
This condiment is virtually ever-present with Georgian food. (It's said that there are as many different recipes for walnut sauce as there are Georgian cooks.) It can be served with meat or spread on bread; thinned with chicken stock it is used as a sauce for cooked chicken; diluted with a little red wine vinegar, it makes a dipping sauce for flatbread or just about anything else.
* Khmeli suneli is a Georgian specialty spice blend containing, among other things, basil, savory, fenugreek seed and leaf, cassia, tellicherry black pepper, cloves and coriander. Available from spice specialty markets and online from World Spice Merchants
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