Tag Archives: Feta

A Toast to Summer: Honey Roasted Tomatoes on Whipped Feta Toasts

3 toasts
If I’m being completely honest, I really only have myself to blame. It all started with a trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy in 2011. It was there I first discovered the joys of Prosecco and “Aperitivo.” The literal translation is an alcoholic beverage that is consumed prior to a meal with the intention of stimulating the appetite. It almost always involves a few nibbles to have along with your drink, and I’m not talking about a “happy hour” dish of peanuts.

Depending on your location in Italy, the snacks change. In the south it is typically freshly roasted warm salted almonds, a bowl of spicy marinated olives, home made potato chips, or little squares of pizza.

Several years later we visited Umbria in Northern Italy. Aperitivo here meant little crostini topped with pecorino cheese and drizzled with local wildflower honey, suppli (deep fried breaded rice balls stuffed with cheese) and all sorts of amazing charcuterie.

I decided to adopt Aperitivo hour at our cottage. It was recieved quite well by all our visiting friends and family. (What a shock, I know!) It’s gotten to the point that around 6 pm, my husband, children, siblings and friends will ask, “What are we having for aperitivo tonight?” I have conditioned them to expect a little snack along with pre-dinner drinks. Like I said, all my own fault! Truthfully, I love aperitivo hour. Everyone comes together on the back deck, cell phones are put away into pockets and we chat.

I am always looking for interesting snacks that can be put together without too much fuss or bother. A  few months ago, my sister Bo sent me a recipe for whipped feta. I filed it away, thinking it would be perfect, spread on some crusty bread for aperitivo hour.

I decided to top the whipped feta with roasted tomatoes. Little grape or cherry tomatoes get tossed with garlic, olive oil, honey and thyme.Drizzling tomatoes with honey30 minutes in a hot oven until they are slightly shrivelled and bubbly. You can roast the tomatoes early in the day and just leave them out on the counter until you need them. roasted tomatoesThe whipped feta dip was a recipe from Ina Garten. I adapted her recipe, cut back on the feta and added some whole milk ricotta to the mix. It love the lightness it added to the spread. This can also be made in the morning. Just wrap well and chill until serving time.Making whipped Feta-RicottaStart with some really good bread. A baguette or ciabatta loaf are perfect for this. Good quality bread will have big holes in it like this. I bought a ciabatta lunga from Ace Bakery. Ciabatta LungoIn bread freak lingo, these big holes are known as “an open crumb structure.” They are achieved by a long slow cold fermentation, gentle handling so you don’t deflate all the built up gas and  a high hydration dough.

I like to split the loaf horizontally, toast it gently on a grill or in the oven, and then cut it into serving size pieces before topping them.5 toasts2 toasts with prosecco

Click here to print recipe for Honey Roasted Tomato and Whipped Feta Toasts.

1 toast with a bite taken


Ruts and Tomato Watermelon Feta and Mint Salad

F3 625 sqPeople lament, all the time, “Oh, I’m in such a rut”. Their gloomy tone implies that it’s a bad thing. But really, if you think about it carefully, being in a routine is not necessarily an unfavourable state.

Take me, for example. Every day, for the past two years I have eaten the exact same lunch of hummus (I am especially fond of the Fontaine Santé brand!), carrots and celery. Sometimes I throw caution to the wind and add some sugar snap peas and cucumbers, and when I’m really feeling wild, I might add a hard boiled egg, but pretty much it’s hummus, carrots and celery every day.

What I have come to realize is that by having my brain on auto-pilot at lunchtime, and not having to think about what to make for lunch, it frees up valuable space in my brain to contemplate other weighty matters. Such as, what to have for dinner or whether or not a two state solution is a viable option for peace in the Middle East. Recently most of my grey matter has been been heavily pre-occupied with how to annihilate the entire population of Deer Flies in Eastern Ontario. Has any body else noticed how fierce they are this year? They don’t just bite, they take a chunk out of you and it hurts!

So my mind was otherwise occupied when my daughter called me at lunchtime one day last month and burbled all excitedly about what she made for lunch that day. Diced watermelon, tomatoes, chopped fresh mint and a little bit of feta cheese crumbled on top. She boasted that it was a fantastic 2 point lunch on Weight Watchers, which we periodically follow. After we exchanged all the news, we said goodbye and as I looked at my sad little plate of carrot and celery sticks and bowl of hummus, I knew it was time for a change.

Lately my local fruit and vegetable store has been carrying these sweet golden tomatoes. Lush, intense and chock full of juice, their sweetness masks the acidity.slicing tomatoesSummer watermelon has been fantastic the past few weeks. That heavy dense flesh so refreshing and bursting with sweetness.watermelonThere really is no recipe for this salad. Just slice the tomatoes and watermelon, chop up some fresh mint and sprinkle on some crumbled feta. The contrast of the sweet melon against the tangy tomatoes is intensely satisfying. The salt from the feta and the freshness of the mint add a final grace note that is quite addictive. F5 625 sqsliced on platter 1In the interest of full disclosure here, I must be honest and admit that the above photos do not in any way resemble what my lunchtime salad looks like. I dice up everything in a stainless steel prep bowl and eat it standing over the sink. Just thought you should know! in ss bowl 1

Grilled Pumpernickel Bread Salad

This salad is all about the ingredients. Let me say, right up front, if you can’t find any good pumpernickel bread where you live, substitute a sourdough or other hearty type bread. Do not buy supermarket pumpernickel bread. It is too light and fluffy, and when grilled, it will just burn and then become sponge like in the salad.  It is not what you are looking for here. You need a dense heavy bread that can stand up to the rigors of the grill. I once actually made pumpernickel bread. It was good, but not great. Luckily, in Ottawa, where I live, we have the Rideau Bakery. They make a fantastic pumpernickel. Dense and chewy, it is the perfect vehicle for soaking up all the flavours of this salad.

This salad is the creation of grillmeisters Chris Schlesinger and John (Doc) Willoughby, from their book “Let the Flames Begin.” Now you wouldn’t expect to find a great salad in a book about BBQ, but these guys take grilling everything seriously. They give very detailed instructions for grilling the bread properly.

“Making a good piece of toast on the grill is actually not that easy. You want to get it really toasted – not just grill marked – but to stay tender on the inside. So cut the pumpernickel thick (1 inch) and make sure the fire is medium, not hot.”

I overdosed on this salad several years ago, when I made it for lunch every Saturday for 8 weeks in a row. We finally got sick of it and I retired the recipe. But I was having a manicure a few weeks ago and my esthetician was telling me about a Macedonian feta cheese that she always buys. When she is not telling me filthy jokes, we talk food. She is originally from Bulgaria and I have learned so much from her. So when she talks about feta from Macedonia, I listen!  Macedonia, if you don’t know (and, I didn’t!), is bordered by Serbia to the North, Bulgaria to the East, Greece to the South and Albania to the West.

Macedonian Feta is very creamy, much like goat cheese. If you can’t find it, a Greek feta would also do very well in this salad. Just make sure you find a feta that is not too dry and chalky.

Fresh oregano is called for in this salad. It really adds an earthy quality. If you can’t find any, substitute fresh basil instead. I like to use a variety of coloured tomatoes in the salad. If you can find Lebanese (sometimes called Israeli) cucumbers for this salad, use them. If not, an english cucumber will also work. I don’t bother peeling them, but I do take the time to scrape out the seeds, with a little teaspoon. Just slice the cuke in half lengthwise to remove the seeds. I find that sometimes the seeds can be bitter and they can also make the salad a bit watery.

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Pumpernickel Bread Salad.