Marinated Feta is simply feta in olive oil with herbs and flavorings added. It is served in a bowl and ladled onto crackers or any other edible raft you might conjure. This recipe is for the herb mix used in marinated feta, but the recipe contains instructions for using it. The beauty of this recipe is that it makes enough herb mix to make bounteous amounts of marinated feta cheese. And this might seem like a crazy thing to do, but if you are like me, once you see how easy this is to make and set out for guests (or snacking by the fridge) you will make it over and over again. With only feta and olive oil needed in addition to a spoonful of herb mix, you will find that it is simply too easy and too good to not make often. On top of that, it is a cinch as a dish to bring to a party. Further, this herb mix makes a great gift.
This recipe makes 2 ounces of mix, or approximately four level tablespoons. Two ounces is the ideal amount to store in a mini jar or a small metal tin. Each batch of marinated feta will fit in an 8 ounce jar and needs only (up to) a teaspoon of the herb mix. I like the short cup size jars because they double as a useful serving dish, right out of the fridge, set on a butcher block, surrounded by assorted crackers and meats and, perhaps, Tomatoes with Herbes de Provence. That one is another must know, super simple, entertaining recipe, incidentally.
This is my mix. Your mix might feature some other herb or spice. This is ripe for modification. I like a little more crushed red pepper. I think next time I’ll up the cumin just a hint. There is no need to add salt, though. Feta is plenty salty all by itself. When you have eaten almost all of the cheese and there is only olive oil and herbs and a few chunks of feta floating around, add 1/3 as much vinegar or lemon juice as there is olive oil, put the lid back on and shake it up for a really great salad dressing.
So, a little explanation of the method and dish is in order. First, a whole bay leaf is a challenge. You need to crumble it up with your fingers before even trying the mortar and pestle. It is annoyingly crush resistant. Second, the whole rosemary needs a go in the mortar, too. These are both herbs that you don’t really want a whole hit of in one bite. Throw the rest of the herbs in and give them a few rounds of crushing if you please. But the bay and the rosemary really need it.
This mix calls for lemon peel powder, which is simply dried and ground zest, and it is a wonderful thing. Much like garlic powder a little goes a long way, but unlike garlic powder it is not so easy to procure. If you have a spice shop nearby or order often, give it a go. I use it because it allows me to make a quantity of a spice mix that is all dry, keeps for a long time, and makes my cooking less dependent on grocery shopping. This recipe and process was envisioned as a nice lake house or camping treat with limited access to grocery stores and simplicity being valued above other things. However, you are completely encouraged to skip the dried lemon and instead zest a fresh lemon each time you make the marinated feta. Garlic powder is also used because it is dry, and fresh garlic and olive oil are actually not long term friends and can create a food poisoning situation. Again, go for it, if you prefer to use fresh garlic. However, the beauty of this mix for me is that once you have a jar or tin of it in your pantry, all you have to remember at the store is feta, olive oil and crackers. And, you probably have the olive oil and crackers at home already.
Use a block of feta, not the pre-crumbled type. Use cow or sheep feta, according to your preference. And be aware that good olive oil may cloud in the refrigerator. So don’t curse me if you go to get your marinated feta out of the fridge and it looks like butter. This is normal (and actually a good sign of quality oil) and it will go right back to its oily state when it approaches room temperature again. Just get it out a little bit early.
|Marinated Feta Herb Mix|| |
- 1 bay leaf, crumbled
- 3 teaspoons dried whole rosemary
- 3 teaspoons dried thyme
- 3 teaspoons dried basil
- ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon lemon peel powder
- ¾ teaspoon crushed red peppers
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- For the Marinated Feta:
- 4 ounces of cubed feta cheese (1/2" cubes)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Crumble the bay leaf into a mortar. Add the rosemary leaves and grind them with the pestle until they are broken down.
- Add the remaining ingredients, crush them with the pestle a bit, and mix them thoroughly.
- Place in a jar or airtight container for storage.
- To make the marinated feta, add half of the oil to an 8 ounce jar and mix in up to a teaspoon of the herb mix. Stir to combine. Add the feta cubes and the remaining oil. Place the lid on the jar and shake gently to combine, allowing the herb mix to distribute throughout the jar. Place in refrigerator to marinate for several hours before serving. Serve with crackers or sliced baguette.
Let’s be honest. When I wrote of not having access to grocery stores and whatnot, I’ll admit to my fantasy and inspiration. I was thinking of the kind of camping I would do in West Marin, north of San Francisco, where I might grab a bottle of olive oil from a vineyard that happens to have a few olive trees, too. Then I would swing by Point Reyes to grab some cheese at Cowgirl Creamery before retiring to some lovely camping spot with a view of the ocean. Not exactly roughing it. I can admit that. And, it is highly unlikely to happen because I like sleeping on mattresses. Still, laugh with me, not at me, please. But, this dish will be equally fantastic on my hot back porch in Clay County, Texas, where the nearest grocery store is 20 miles away. I think the Diamond has feta. Oh, I hope so.