A similar dish, made with considerably less love, was popular at a bistro Tim worked in. They served two versions: Onions and Tomatoes, Olives and Pickled Peppers. Yet, and don’t you agree, it makes such a lot of sense to put All of these things together for a full spectrum of colour and sociable minglings – The onions mellow, tomatoes collapse, the olives say ‘Ooh!’ brightly, and the pale green pickled peppers add a convivial kick. The feta, amiable as always, soaks up everything its friends have to say, and is lighter, wobblier – as though inebriated – in the end.
If baked feta is not already a thing you call home, I implore you to experiment with the ever-so simple formula: Quality slab of feta, your favourite colours (in the form of edible vegetables and herbs*), drizzles of oil, salt & pepper.
*Tim adds, that you should add herbs that are intrusive, loud, pushy or garish (Aufdringlich – like your imaginary Italian grandmother**) He means, herbs that say “I’ve got all this flavour in my Rucksack, and you should better take it!”. For example: Rosemary! Thyme! Maybe even sage! Oregano! Leave subtler verbs (to basil, to parsley) for post-bake sprinkling.
** referring blatantly to the possibly inaccurate stereotype here of a busy and impressive woman, producing continuously rustic loaves and hearty stews for feeding herds of arriving relatives, singing ominous folk ballads and intermittently bellowing sensible orders to her seven dark-haired grand/daughters before arranging seven presumptuous (albeit, respectable) marriages with broad-shouldered olive growers from each of the neighbouring villages – all before the cows come home and chew the cabbages in the garden.
But the feta. It’s a perfect thing for sharing, and quickly. Its soft nucleus is one you’ll want to dig into while still warm and oozy: Out of the oven, and into your face, with some kind of flatbread to aid the manoeuvre. And you’ll be wanting for something to mop up the confusion of oils at the bottom of the baking dish.
One slab of feta (about 200g) will serve two hungry humans happily, as a centre-piece. Dip-worthy breads or crackers would be wonderful for scooping up the delicious, or just, you could – pile it on a fork, and pick the peppers and olives with your fingertips, feeling all the warm feelings. If it’s warm weather where you are, this would also be an ideal Thing to Grill, wrapped cosily in tinfoil. And there’s this very pretty recipe too (which I bookmarked and fawned over some years ago) for further inspiration.
Baked Feta, endlessly adaptable
Feeds 2 definitely (3 possibly)
Good quality feta (200g)
A clove or two of garlic, sliced
1 small onion, halved and sliced
2 small bright tomatoes, roughly chopped
Handful (1/4 cup) of Kalamata olives, pitted
6-8 pickled green peppers
Pinch of salt
Drizzle some oil into a small ovenproof baking dish, nestling feta in its middle. Arrange the other ingredients all around and over the feta, that’s lovely – and feel free to be more generous, and swap out ingredients for things you love better – now sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and a little pinch of salt (keep in mind feta, olives and pickles already rather salty) and good olive oil to finish. Pop in the oven at 200C for about 15 minutes. Consume at once! But if you’re Too Slow – because you’ve made too many other dishes, or somebody has gone and lost themselves on a tangential rant, momentarily forgetting the beauty that surrounds them – it can be reheated in the oven, just like that.
With the wisdom of hindsight, “pushy” herbs and hot pepper flakes are good ideas also. Very good ideas. Hindsight also: A little pat of butter, 5 minutes before serving, wouldn’t that not be a bit dreadful?