FoodDiscover Badrijani: Georgia's Culinary Gem and the Power of Eggplant

Discover Badrijani: Georgia's Culinary Gem and the Power of Eggplant

Badrijani
Badrijani
Images source: © Getty Images | Nikolay_Donetsk
8:01 AM EDT, March 24, 2024

This dish is a treat to the taste buds and a feast for the eyes. Badrijani epitomizes Georgian cuisine, showcasing nature's bounty. Crafting this appetizing starter is straightforward.

Georgia, rightfully dubbed the "pearl of the Caucasus," is celebrated for its architectural marvels, splendid Black Sea Riviera, and mountains adorned with glaciers and perpetual snow and its renowned culinary delights.

"The culinary art in Georgia flourished, thanks to the extremely favorable climatic and geographical conditions. Georgia has it all. Numerous herds of cattle and sheep graze in its mountain meadows, filled with aromatic grass, offering exquisite, tender meat. The sun-kissed slopes are home to tea and citrus plantations, vineyards yielding sweet grapes, and orchards bearing the finest pomegranates, peaches, apricots, pears, and apples in the Caucasus. The intermountain valleys burgeon with gardens and cultivated fields where tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis, eggplants, and various aromatic plants essential to Georgian cuisine thrive," enthuses Grażyna Strumiłło-Miłosz, author of "Georgian Cuisine".

It's no surprise that feasting holds a special spot in the traditions of this magnificent Caucasian country, with local dishes forming a crucial aspect of the identity of contemporary Georgians. Among these is the simple yet delectable appetizer badrijani, consisting of eggplants stuffed with walnut paste. In a recent Taste Atlas ranking of the world's most delicious vegan dishes, badrijani claimed third place, outdone only by Syria's muhammara (a roasted red pepper and walnut paste) and Iran's zeytoon parvardeh (a snack made of olives, nuts, and pomegranate molasses). So, how do you make badrijani?

Eggplant – A Nutritional Powerhouse

The cornerstone of this Georgian delicacy is the widely cherished eggplant in the Caucasus, also known by names like the love pear (formerly believed to be a strong aphrodisiac), bush egg, or aubergine.

Eggplants boast not only flavor but also remarkable nutritional value. Comprising 90% water, they contain essential vitamins (vitamin C, B-vitamins), minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium), and other organic compounds, including anthocyanins. These potent antioxidants can boost the immune system, exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, and protect the cardiovascular system. Scientific studies have shown that anthocyanins may prevent and aid in treating various cancers, such as lung, colon, and stomach cancers, by alleviating chemotherapy symptoms. They also lower heart disease risks and benefit vision.

Eggplant
Eggplant© Getty Images | Agnes Elisabeth Szucs

Besides, eggplants are rich in proteins, particularly arginine, a muscle-building amino acid that enhances exercise capacity and accelerates wound healing. They're also a source of chlorogenic acid, known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and bile-enhancing effects, reducing sugar absorption in the gastrointestinal tract and improving insulin sensitivity.

Moreover, eggplants are full of dietary fiber, aiding digestion and reducing "bad" LDL cholesterol levels. They are low in calories, too, with 100 g providing just about 20 kcal.

Recipe for Badrijani

To make badrijani, start with two medium-sized eggplants, ideally of similar size. Slice them lengthwise into 0.2-inch thick pieces, spread them on a baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with salt, and let them sit for half an hour to remove excess moisture.

While waiting, prepare the filling. Finely grind 2 cups of walnuts (using a blender or mortar) and mix them with 4 cloves of garlic (pressed), 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, and 1 teaspoon each of fenugreek and ground coriander seeds, plus half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Add just enough water to achieve the right consistency, similar to hummus.

Spread a tablespoon of the walnut paste on each eggplant slice. Roll them up, and before serving, garnish the badrijani with pomegranate seeds.

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