SIZZLE SIMMER SAUTÉ–Tangy feta cheese lends itself to more than just salad

Jennifer Ruple

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The Greek salad may be feta cheese’s claim to fame; however, its tangy and salty qualities suggest there is more than one way to enjoy this soft and crumbly cheese. Feta produced in Greece is made from sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep and goat’s milk and is commonly used in tandem with phyllo dough in many Greek dishes such as spanakopita (spinach pie) and tiropita (cheese pie). I recently discovered two more styles of feta to experiment with, Bulgarian and French, all three are sold locally at Sofo’s Market.
This week I present three recipes each incorporating feta cheese in a different way. In the first recipe, pizza gets a sprinkling of crumbled feta. The second is the viral hit Baked Feta Pasta. Finally, the third recipe is a creamy sauce for burgers made from Bulgarian feta cheese.

El Greco Pizza
One of my favorite go-to homemade pizzas utilizes naan bread as the crust. I use Stonefire Original Naan Bread sold in packages of two at many area grocery stores. Naan bread is sturdy enough to hold lots of toppings and can be baked in the oven or on the grill. A great topping combination is mozzarella cheese, baby spinach leaves, sliced red onion, Kalamata olives and crumbled feta cheese.
3-4 servings
8.8 ounce package naan flatbreads
Olive oil for brushing
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 cup red onion, sliced
12 Kalamata olives, sliced in half
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Heat oven to 400 F. Place naan breads on a baking sheet. Drizzle both breads with olive oil. Using a pastry brush, spread oil over the entire surface.
Top each pizza with half of the mozzarella cheese, spinach leaves, onion slices, olive slices and crumbled feta.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cheese bubbles and browns.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Baked Feta Pasta

I had to try it for myself, the Baked Feta Pasta recipe that rocked the world. The recipe was created by Finnish blogger Liemessa in 2019. It became a viral hit across Finland and seemed that everyone was cooking it. “The feta cheese sales went up 300 percent here, the shops were running out of baked feta pasta ingredients,” she wrote on her blog. The recipe went viral a second time after cookbook author and blogger McKenzie Smith translated it to English and posted it to TikTok and Instagram.
So, is this dish worth the hype? It is certainly eye appealing with juicy, blistered tomatoes and creamy, herb-sprinkled feta. And it is extremely easy to prepare. I did modify it a bit by adding extra herbs – oregano and thyme. I also used crushed red pepper flakes instead of the chili pepper.
My verdict… it’s good. If you have not made it yet, give it a try.
4 servings

1 pound pasta
7-ounce block Greek feta cheese
½ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ red chili pepper, or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Fresh basil leaves

Heat oven to 400 F. In the bottom of a baking dish, pour ½ cup olive oil. Place the whole feta block on top.
If using the red chili pepper, chop it and add it on top of the feta, or sprinkle on red chili flakes. Drizzle more olive oil on top.
Place the tomatoes around the feta cheese. To add the garlic, cut cloves in half lengthwise and toss them in with the tomatoes. Roll tomatoes and garlic halves in the oil until completely coated.
Sprinkle salt and pepper, oregano and thyme over everything.
Bake for 30 minutes. The tomatoes will burst, and the cheese will become softer. Turn the oven to broil and cook 5 more minutes or until cheese and tomatoes are lightly browned.
While the cheese and tomatoes bake, cook
pasta according to package directions.
Remove dish from the oven. Break up the feta a bit and mix with tomatoes. Mix the sauce with the cooked pasta and sprinkle with plenty of basil leaves.
(Recipe adapted from @liemessa)

Creamy Feta Cheese Sauce

The things you learn at the salon! I was having a conversation about feta cheese with my long-time hair stylist and friend Michelle LaPointe when she mentioned she makes a burger sauce with Bulgarian feta she buys at Sofo’s Market. Bulgarian feta is creamier than Greek feta, making it easy to crumble and stir into the other sauce ingredients.
This sauce makes a delicious topping for burgers. It’s also thick enough to use as a dip for vegetables or a spread for crackers. A tasty addition to your charcuterie board.
½ cup Bulgarian feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 or more teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine crumbled feta and sour cream. Mixture will be a bit chunky.
Add lemon juice, seasonings and parsley. Mix well.
(Recipe adapted from Michelle LaPointe)

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