Mediterranean Baked Feta and Tomatoes

I truly was the pickiest eater as a kid.  While I think it’s somewhat normal for kids to be finicky about vegetables, I have to wonder: is it normal for kids to be picky about cheese?  Because I actually was!  I liked cheddar, Monterey jack, mozzarella and parmesan, and that’s about it.  I hated Swiss cheese, and I cared not the least for provolone.  There were many out there that I just flat out never tasted, but probably would have turned up my nose given the chance.  But what I really hated, I mean seriously and utterly despised, was feta cheese.  That stuff could propel me right out of a room.  I hated the smell, the taste, and even the sight.  I would love to be able to tell you that I outgrew this around middle or high school.  Alas, I cannot honestly say such a thing. I specifically remember being in my mid-twenties and telling Matt that I wasn’t going to make a recipe we saw because “I don’t care for feta.”  Geez…

I don’t recall what compelled me to give it a second chance, but I can’t tell you how happy I am that I did!  I love feta now.  I have really opened up to Greek cuisine over the past several years, and it’s one I very much enjoy.  I love feta tossed in salad or pastas, which is usually how I eat it.  Occasionally, I crumble it atop my soup.  But I’d never had it as a dip.  So when I ran across this recipe, I was very intrigued and knew I’d have to try it.

I usually think of cheese dips as being the softer, melty cheeses like Cheddar or mozzarella.  And there’s nothing wrong with those, is there?  Queso Fundido is one of my absolute faves.  But those dips are also quite high in calories and fat, and serve as more of an occasional treat in our house.  Feta is very easy on the waistline as far as cheeses go, so I was pretty psyched to see it turned into one of my favorite snacking dishes.

This dish is superlative.  It was absolutely fantastic.  Easy to make, elegant, delicious, it would make a perfect appetizer for a fancy dinner or cocktail party.  The only thing that would have made it better is if I hadn’t been so eager to try it, because then I wouldn’t have burned the roof of my mouth.  Make this when heirloom cherry tomatoes are in season if you can.  If you missed the season, you should still make it with regular cherry tomatoes, and it will still be amazing.

Source: ever so slightly adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped, pitted Kalmata olives
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 8- to 10-ounce block feta, cut down the middle*
Pita chips

Directions:
In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, olives, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, oregano, olive oil, salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Check to see that your dish is oven-proof. Spread the feta pieces over the dish in an even layer. I used a square baker. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle on the rest of the parsley.

The feta will not melt, just warm and soften. Serve immediately with the pita chips as your dipper. As it cools, the feta will firm up again. The dish can be returned to the oven to soften it again, if need be.

*My 8 ounce feta came in two rectangular blocks. I cut them both in half down the middle so they were simply slimmer pieces in the same shape. I found that doing this let it get a slight bit more melty than it otherwise would have because each piece was flatter and there was more surface area. Hopefully that made sense. 🙂

One response to “Mediterranean Baked Feta and Tomatoes

  1. Pingback: Cheddar Pecan Wafers | The Texan New Yorker

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