In ragtag crumbles or fancy pieces, feta cheese adds a playful flavor to dishes. Its salty, sour-sweet spiciness gives a classic Greek salad its characteristic flavor. The cheeky cheese has a millennia-old tradition in Greece, where it is made from goat’s or sheep’s milk. Today it is generally made commercially in the United States from cow’s milk.
This rindless, bedsheet-white cheese is matured and stored in a brine made from salt and either water or its own whey (the watery liquid that separates from the curds during the cheese-making process). Curing stops the maturing process and keeps the cheese fresh and aromatic. Due to the salinity of the brine, this cheese acts as a salty element in recipes, something to keep in mind when adding salt to these preparations.
At about 264 calories for a 3 1/2 ounce (21 gram fat) serving, feta hovers midway between the higher-fat cheddars at about 403 calories and the low-fat half-fat ricottas at about 138 calories. The texture of feta can range from soft to semi-dry, and “fetaphils” vary in preference. Manufactured in Bulgaria, France, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Romania and Italy, as well as Greece and America, the products vary in texture as well as saltiness and acidity.
Some cookbook authors cite a particular style of feta, noting that French feta is slightly spicier and moister than Greek, sometimes adding that Greek feta is saltier, drier, and has a stronger flavor profile.
Pleasantly spicy and moist, American feta is available in supermarkets packaged in airtight containers, either plain (crumbled or in blocks) or combined with other flavors such as basil and tomato or garlic and herbs. Here are three of my favorite recipes that feature feta.
Chicken thighs with olives and feta cheese
Yield: 6 servings
2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
3/4 cup imported black olives, such as Kalamata, pitted
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano OR 2 teaspoons dried
Optional for serving: 8 ounces cooked and drained orzo; see chef’s notes
2/3 cup crumbled feta
Garnish: About 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Optional set: Sprigs of fresh Italian parsley and/or fresh oregano
Chef’s Notes: This dish is delicious served on a bed of cooked orzo, a rice-shaped pasta. Cook according to package directions, then drain and toss with chopped fresh basil and enough extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat the pasta. Season with salt and pepper.
1. Season chicken with salt and pepper (use salt carefully if feta used is salty). Heat oil in a large, deep skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium-high heat. Add chicken in a single layer and cook until nicely browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken to a plate or bowl.
2. Add the onion to the drippings in the pan. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until onions soften. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juices, olives, wine and oregano. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through (about 25 minutes). Remove the lid during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
3. Transfer the cooked orzo, if using, to a serving platter. Top with chicken and sauce. Sprinkle with feta and chopped parsley. Garnish with sprigs of Italian parsley and oregano, if desired. Surcharge.
Orzo and spinach salad
The vibrant flavors in this delicious salad make it a favorite on a buffet table. I found the recipe in The Vintner’s Table Cookbook by Mary Evely (Simi Winery, $29.95), the book that was long ago nominated in the First Book category of the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Awards, entitled ” Julia Child Award. In this dish, the flavor of fresh spinach combines beautifully with a flavorful pasta salad (orzo are rice-shaped pasta) accented with flavor dynamos like feta cheese, capers, imported black olives, and a herb-rich vinaigrette.
Yield: 8 servings
12 ounces uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 ounces clean baby spinach or 2 bunches clean large-leaf spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup crushed Kalamata olives, pitted
1 red bell pepper, seeded, seeded and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
2 spring onions, chopped (white and half of the dark green stems)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Chef’s Notes: If you want to add protein to make this dish a main course salad, add 12 ounces of cooked shrimp just before serving.
1. Cook orzo al dente according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Combine with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl; throw to cover.
2. For the dressing, combine the lemon juice with 1/2 cup olive oil, wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Add to the orzo and toss.
3. Add spinach, olives, peppers, green onions and capers; toss to mix well. Add the cheese and toss again. Taste and season properly if necessary. Divide among 8 plates.
Source: “The Vintner’s Table Cookbook” by Mary Evely (Simi Winery, $29.95)
Herb Marinated Feta and Olives – appetizers or salad dressing
This easy feta-centric mix should be made a day ahead (but stays delicious for up to a week), covered, and refrigerated. The chilling time allows the herbs and spices to beautifully flavor the oil, feta and olives. If you’re not a cilantro fan, substitute fresh oregano or parsley. The delicious mixture is a self-service starter on hearty crackers or slices of bread. Pita crackers, water crackers, or triscuits work well (cocktail napkins are a good idea). Bread options include 2-inch-wide rectangular slices of ciabatta or sourdough as a landing base (slices of baguette only work if they don’t have gaping holes). Guests are invited to serve themselves and spoon it onto the cracker or bread. Or use this irresistible concoction as a salad dressing by tossing it over chopped romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes and slivers of red onion.
Yield: For about 12 people
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated orange or tangerine zest (colored part of zest)
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces pitted, brine-dried olives, preferably some black and some green, see chef’s notes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
10 ounces crumbled feta cheese
To serve as an appetizer: strong crackers or rectangles of sliced bread such as sourdough, ciabatta or artisanal country white
To serve as a salad dressing: chopped romaine lettuce, red onion slivers, cherry tomatoes
Chef’s Notes: I like to use three types of olives, all pitted, but one or two can be used if you prefer: Kalamata, Manzanilla and Castelvetrano halved.
1. Combine cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes in a small pan; Set over medium-high heat for about a minute, or until fragrant, shaking the pan handle to redistribute the contents. Pour into the bowl. Add garlic, zest and oil; stir to combine. Add pitted olives, basil and cilantro; stir to combine. Fold in the feta. Cover and store in the fridge for 1 to 7 days.
2. Bring to room temperature before serving. Stir to combine. For a starter, place the bowl in the center of the plate and surround it with crackers and/or slices of bread cut into manageable rectangles. Prepare some small spoons and cocktail napkins. For the dressing, drizzle over a mixture of chopped romaine, strips of red onion and halved cherry tomatoes.
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/11/02/recipes-feta-cheese-is-the-key-ingredient-in-these-3-dishes/ Feta cheese is the main ingredient in these 3 dishes – Orange County Register