Red bean pkhali (Georgian red bean and walnut paté)

Yields Each of 8 servings:
Red bean pkhali (Georgian red bean and walnut paté)
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

In a large bowl, soak the beans in a generous amount of water for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.


Drain and rinse the beans, then transfer to a sauce pot. Cover with fresh cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the beans are very tender and the skin starts to split apart, 40 minutes to an hour, possibly more, depending on how soft the beans are after soaking. Add more water if needed during cooking to keep the beans covered. Drain the beans, reserving about ¼ cup of the cooking water. Set the beans aside to cool completely.


In the bowl of a food processor or using a meat grinder with the smallest die, pulse or grind the cilantro until finely chopped. If the food processor or meat grinder has trouble grabbing hold of the cilantro, add some walnuts to the machine. Transfer to a bowl. Add the rest of the walnuts with the garlic to the work bowl or meat grinder and pulse or grind until finely ground. Add to the cilantro. Add the beans to the work bowl or meat grinder and pulse or grind until almost smooth and combine with the cilantro, walnuts and garlic. Add the vinegar, coriander, fenugreek, salt, pepper and chile powder. Mix with your hands until well combined to form the pkhali. The mixture should be very sticky and hold together when squeezed. If it feels dry, add the reserved bean cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.


To serve, divide the pkhali between 2 small, round dessert plates. Shape the pkhali into a disc and smooth the sides and top with a knife. Using a fork, make a criss-cross pattern on the top and garnish with pomegranate seeds or fresh herbs.

Adapted from a recipe by Elmira Avetian of the League of Kitchens. She advises against using canned red beans, as they don’t have the same firm, meaty texture as dried beans. When buying walnuts, Avetian checks for freshness by looking for whole pieces that are smooth and plump. If possible, she’ll break a piece between her fingers to make sure the nuts are still oily and don’t taste bitter. Avetian prefers using the meat grinder for a smooth texture, but a food processor can be used instead.

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