basil: 2 posts

Georgian Chicken Stew with Tomatoes and Herbs : Chakhokhbili

Before the tomato season ends I would like to share a recipe for chakhokhbili, a Georgian chicken stew. It’s a dish that tastes and smells of summer, and I try to make it as often as I can during the months when ripe tomatoes are available. The idea is to cook chicken with onions and towards the end add almost twice its weight in tomatoes and herbs. The tomatoes are cooked only to soften them, which gives the stew a bright, sunny flavor. Few other preparations showcase the simple ingredients–chicken and tomatoes–to such advantage. And if you haven’t cooked Georgian food before, I urge you to start with this recipe and be ready to be dazzled.

Georgia is a country of about four million people wedged between Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. In my travels through Georgia it never failed to amaze me how such a small country could produce so many outstanding writers, artists, sculptors and dancers, from painter Niko Pirosmani and poet Tizian Tabidze to ballerina Nina Ananiashvili and choreographer George Balanchine. Today, however, I want to give you a taste of the famed Georgian cuisine, because it’s a heritage worthy of being enshrined by UNESCO, along with Georgia’s unique polyphonic singing.

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Hot and Spicy Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is when I miss the US the most. While life in Belgium goes on as usual, my friends and family back home are buying sweet potatoes, roasting turkeys and preparing for a long weekend of indulgence. Our oven here is so small that it wouldn’t even fit a turkey. Come to think of it, I haven’t even seen a whole turkey in stores. Cranberries, on the other hand, start showing up around the beginning of October. They are usually imported from North America, and the selection ranges from organic and handpicked (and priced accordingly) to the conventional Ocean Spray brand.

I love cranberries so much that I buy several bags at once and freeze whatever I can’t immediately use. Their exuberant tartness and hint of bitterness make them an interesting component in tarts, jams and sauces. My grandmother’s pickled cabbage is liberally studded with these shiny red berries– after pickling they become even more mouthpuckeringly tart but also quite addictive. She even uses them in desserts to make a whipped semolina and cranberry porridge that feels like a light mousse and is a relative of the Finnish dish called vispipuuro.

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