When I was ten, still living in the Soviet Union, I went with my family for a vacation in Abkhazia, a province of Georgia. The memories that I retain from that trip are all sensory: the sharp, cool scent of cilantro that grew everywhere, the musky aroma of ripe figs, and the taste of a crusty cheesy pie our Jewish landlady baked for us. Many years later, when I bit into a khachapuri in a Georgian bakery at Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, memories from that long-forgotten holiday came rushing back to me.
Georgian cuisine arrived in Israel during the 1970s with a large wave of immigration from the Soviet Union, but for a long time this unique cuisine, merging influences from neighboring Russia, Turkey, and Armenia, remained a secret known only to the somewhat secluded Georgian community. It took two decades and some good Georgian restaurants and bakeries for the Israelis to discover it, and one of the first foods that got noticed was boat-shape khachapuri pies. The original recipe calls for sulguni, a Georgian cheese with a texture similar to mozzarella but with a salty-sour flavor. Here it is replaced by a combination of aged mozzarella and good feta.
Yields 6 pies