Earlier this week, I wrote about the wonders of Feta, its history, and the many cultures that enjoy the beautiful brine-cured (read: pickled) cheese. While I talked up its many applications in just about every food under the sun, I didn’t provide many examples of seasonal Feta dishes you could take to your table NOW.
But don’t worry, I have some recipes—more like sources of inspiration, if you will—to help you up your Feta game and make all your meals betta!
As always, these are suggestions: things that have worked for me and my family; quick ways to incorporate a great cheese into the good meal ideas you may already have in your arsenal. But experimentation adds the spice to life, so go forth and be creative, my dears. (And then come back and tell me what I should be eating next!)
- Salads with Feta
This section could likely provide its own databank of recipes. Feta is phenomenal on salads of all kinds.
It is late summer now in the Northern Hemisphere, so we are loving on seasonal produce like tomatoes, zucchini and other summer squash, corn, tender lettuces and sturdy greens, peppers, cucumbers, green beans, beets, cabbage, celery, chard, eggplant, kale, leeks, potatoes, tomatillos, spinach—and winter squash are just starting to come into season. It is one of the most diverse times of year for the produce harvest, and Feta goes with just about everything that grows.
Sure, you can crumble Feta over your basic green salad. Or you can also roast some squash, corn and peppers a day ahead, and then dress them with good olive oil, coarse salt, and a healthy rain of Feta.
Make a fresh, protein-packed salad with chickpeas, black beans, avocado, corn, cucumber, and tomatoes, and douse that with Feta, too. Add cooked-and-cooled pasta, and make it a fun pasta salad.
Or how about taking the tired old Caprese salad, removing the Mozzarella, and substituting in thin slices of Feta to add excitement to your heirloom tomatoes, basil, and balsamic?
Basically, take any raw or roasted combination of greens and veggies that sounds good to you, dress them however you like, and add crumbles or slivers of Feta. You won’t be disappointed.
- Feta on/in Pasta
I mentioned pasta salad above as an optional take on the seasonal veggie salad. But hot pastas are good, even in the last warm days of summer. (I’m ready for you, cold, rainy season!)
Macaroni and cheese—plus Feta. Pasta bake—plus Feta. Spaghetti and meatballs—plus Feta.
Think about the normal cheeses you would shred together to melt over your go-to noodle dishes, and then think again. Cheddar and Swiss-style cheeses don’t make the world go ‘round alone.
Feta, Cheddar, and Gruyere can make nice partners on a bed of steaming noodles. So, too, do Feta, Mozzarella, and Chèvre go well heated with a bit of cream, then poured over that soon-to-be pasta bake, sprinkled with bread crumbs, herbs, and maybe a little bit more crumbled Feta.
You can add in your summer-fresh tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, corn, and kale, leeks, and greens to just about any hot pasta combo to make the option more texturally interesting—and healthier!
- Mexican-Inspiration (Plus Feta)
Mexican-inspired foods are seasonal year-round, just like Feta. But there’s nothing like eating tacos on the patio with a cold margarita or Negro Modelo to make you feel like it’s really summer.
While most people stick with the pre-shredded “Mexican blend” from the grocery store, or scoop up a package of Cotija, Asadero, or Queso Fresco for their tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, or what-have you, this category of foods is yet another place where cheese creativity is a win for everyone.
Because let’s face it: the “Mexican” food we often cook at home, outside of Mexico, is only inspired by the culture, so there’s no harm in embracing the diversity of ways in which we can enjoy “Mexican” recipes and make them their own. I have eaten Mexican food in Germany and Austria; while I can assure you it’s just not the same for this Arizona girl, I could still appreciate the Central-European approach to preparing these foods with ingredients that just aren’t the same.
So take your favorite Mexican-inspired dish, and let Feta make it better.
Fish tacos are even fresher with crumbled Feta. If you’re making carne asada, pulled pork, or green-chile chicken to shred into tacos, burritos, or quesadillas, check out how much brighter the meats become when you pair them with Feta.
Melty enchiladas and quesadillas gain extra complexity when you combine Feta with a big melter like Fontina, Mozzarella, or even Comté. Or, crumble together Feta and Cotija if you love salt, or Feta and Asadero for a more interesting blend of textures.
Whatever you do, make sure you are including fresh, summer produce in your tacos, tostadas, tortas, and enchiladas—best if locally grown—to really let the cheese and proteins shine.
- Feta Pizza
One of my favorite recipes growing up was a “cool veggie pizza” we go the recipe for with some kitchen utensil my mom got from one of those product-selling parties. I have no idea what the utensil was, but that pizza lives on in my memory and my dinner repertoire.
You can absolutely crumble Feta onto your pepperoni pizza. You can add slivers of it to your extra sausage pizza, or your vegetarian mushroom-and-pepper pizza, or whatever. Hot pizza + Feta = Yum.
But you can also make a cold pizza to take away some of that pesky late-summer heat.
Essentially, you make your pizza crust ahead. Whether it’s an herbed-crust, a gluten-free crust, a cauliflower crust, or a regular-old wheat crust, you prepare it, bake it in the shape of your pizza, and then let it cool.
Then you can decide whether you want to first cover your pizza crust in olive oil, or in some blend of cream cheese or Fromage Blanc or whatever with herbs. Next, dice up a whole mess of summer veggies. You want corn on your pizza? Do it. (Just probably cook it first, ok?) Cucumber? Heck yes. Heirloom tomatoes? Duh.
Layer on those veggies, add any herbs and spices you want to pack in the flavor, and then get ready to get cheesy. Since you are likely not going to heat this pizza (although you can, if you want things to get messy), you can focus on cheeses that don’t melt well, or that do but you want to enjoy them in all of their unmelted glory.
Feta, goat cheese, blue cheese—anything that crumbles gets a gold star. You can shred Gouda or Cheddar or Alpine-style cheeses, Manchego, Drunken Goat, whatever you want. Just make sure the crumbled cheeses are on top of any shredded or grated cheeses, to weigh them down a little better once the pizza is cut into slices.
Cut that pizza, eat it, and enjoy.
- Dessert Feta
If you think I’m crazy for this category, then you’re the one who’s crazy. We all know the old standby watermelon-and-sweet onion salad, often crusted with a healthy serving of goat cheese or Feta in crumbled form. If watermelon goes with Feta—which it does—there’s no reason why Feta can’t go with other dessert-type foods.
Think of all the beautiful fruits that are in season throughout the summer, and then give me one good reason not to enjoy them with Feta. Aside from wanting to taste their flavors alone, you’ve got to stretch to find a good reason.
Sliced peaches with balsamic and crumbled feta? Yum. Late-summer blackberry pie, hot out of the oven, with Feta crumbles? Divine.
Making a crumble with those first-of-the-season apples? Throw some Feta on there. Melon salad? Wouldn’t be the same without Feta.
The saltiness of the cheese—which you can also reduce out of the package by rinsing your Feta before preparing it—balances out the sweetness of the fruit. Believe it or not, Feta is the perfect partner to make those peaches, plums, cantaloupes, and cherries sing.
What else can we do with Feta before the Autumnal Equinox? So many things.
But, of course, the fun doesn’t have to stop when summer ends. If you start experimenting with your Feta repertoire now, you’ll likely get carried away all the way into winter. And that’s no shame!