Feta, plain and seasoned. Photo courtesy
If you enjoy a homemade Greek salad or other recipes accented with feta cheese, here’s how to make them even better:
Roll the feta cheese in dried or fresh herbs before cutting into cubes or strips, or crumbling. It adds instant flavor and dimension. For starters, consider basil, chives, cracked black pepper, dill, oregano and thyme. If you like heat, consider red chili flakes.
While you’re at it, develop your own signature Greek salad recipe by adding complex flavors and textures beyond the classic six ingredients: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, Kalamata olives and stuffed grape leaves.
RECIPE: CLASSIC GREEK SALAD
Romaine, torn into bite-size pieces
Tomatoes, cut into wedges (or cherry tomatoes)
Cucumber, peeled and sliced
Red onion or sweet onion, sliced
Bell pepper, sliced into strips or diced into squares
Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves)
Feta, cut into cubes or crumbled
Cracked black pepper
Oregano plus optional dill and/or flat-leaf parsley
Dressing: extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or red wine vinegar
The one thing you don’t need is salt: Feta, which is cured in brine (salt water), has enough on its own.
In Greece, the dish is horiatiki, which translates into country, peasant salad or rustic salad.
Serve it with crusty peasant bread and a dish of good olive oil for dipping.
1. TOSS lettuce with bell pepper, black pepper, capers, cucumber, herbs olives, radishes and tomato.
2. DRESS with oil and vinegar/lemon juice if desired (or serve dressing separately). Plate.
2. TOP with anchovies/sardines, feta and peperoncini.
WHAT IS FETA CHEESE
Feta is Greece’s most famous cheese*, a pure white, aged curd cheese that crumbles easily. While the cheese has been made since antiquity, the modern name came into the Greek language in the 17th century, from the Italian word fetta, slice, referring to slicing the cheese from the brick.
Authentic feta is a sheep’s milk cheese, or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milks. Outside of the European Union, where it is protected designation of origin (PDO) product, it can also be made of cow’s milk. The cheese is semi-hard, with a flavor that can range from mild and milky to salty with a very tangy acidity.
*Other Greek cheeses.
Feta cheese with olives, a drizzle of olive oil and bread: a delicious mezze (appetizer). Photo by Frente | Wikimedia.
Authentic feta is formed into bricks and salted and cured in a brine solution. It is aged in wood barrels for 60 days, creating a creamy, tangy cheese with citric notes.
Only 2% of the feta consumed in the U.S. actually comes from Greece. Much of it is saltier feta from Bulgaria and other countries. Some feta is simply too salty. You can soak oversalted pieces it in water or milk to remove some of the saltiness.
Find more favorite types of cheese in our Cheese Glossary.