Monday, January 14, 2013

Baked Feta with Tomatoes

Withholding feta cheese from Looly is considered cruel and unusual punishment. So, when I made this baked feta for a potluck crafting party (Thanks Girl G!) a few weeks ago, I couldn't get it out the door without her finagling a taste. She's a fan. I hope you are too.
The feta is so stellar here because unlike its softer milder cousin, mozzarella, who's constantly trying to monopolize the yummy-when-melted-with-tomato-sauce glory, feta maintains its chewy firmness when baked. And the salt! The briny feta is spectacular alongside gushy, sweet, herby tomatoes.
Speaking of tomatoes I use a combo of fresh and canned. I like the saucy juices of the canned tomatoes alongside the bright bits of pulp and skin from the fresh. Feel free to use all of one or the other, just double up on your quantity.

With the Super Bowl just around the corner, what could be more crowd-pleasing and gut-thawing than a dollop of simple, soothing, savory warm cheese on crusty bread? File under perfect hearty winter party fare.

Baked Feta with Tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
salt and pepper to taste
16 ounces best quality Greek feta cheese you can find

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add red pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds more. Add fresh and canned tomatoes and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in oregano leaves and season with salt and pepper, but go easy on the salt. The feta will provide lots of salty flavor. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. In an ovenproof dish, break the feta into pieces large and small. Scatter over the the bottom of the dish. Pour the tomato sauce over the cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and thick and the top is just starting to char. Serve with crusty bread.

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