This Fantastic Lemon Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad fits the bill for a meal anywhere, anytime…especially picnics. Horiatiki is the traditional greek salad made without lettuce. Many restaurants will list Greek Salad on their menu, but they always contain lettuce. This salad is chock full of crispy red onion, fresh cucumber cubes, briny black olives, salty feta, tangy tomatoes and vinaigrette infused pasta. This salad is sure to have your family reaching for more! It is perfect picnic food, but is also a treat as a packed lunch during the week.
This dish also perfectly solves the dilemma of choosing pasta or salad. So, with this easy to pull-together meal, you get both.
My first introduction to really really good feta cheese
My friend Bonnie and I visited Greece many years ago during our year long adventure. You can read more about our travels in my earlier post about Egyptian Basboussa. I had chosen Greece as the warm place that I wanted to spend my always cold January birthday. I can still recall the briny olives, the anise scented bread and the licorice flavoured ouzo. But what I can still vividly recall to this day was the amazing creamy, salty feta cheese that we ate at many outdoor cafes.
Feta cheese is a very important component of Greek food. And this pasta salad is loaded with it. While we were in Greece, Bonnie and I worked at an orchard near Corinth, Peloponnese picking oranges to make some money so we could continue travelling. After breakfast, we would walk over to the orange orchards from our campground. We always worked alongside a few of the local greek women. Everyday they would bring a packed lunch with them to share with us. Their lunch always included homemade Greek bread and big hunks of creamy, salty sheep’s milk feta cheese for lunch, as well as bottles of red wine. Heavenly! And so kind.
Different Types of Feta
There are many different types of feta cheese available in Canada and other countries around the world. But, it’s very difficult to get true Greek feta cheese outside of Greece as they just don’t produce enough. If you would like to learn more about Greek Feta Cheese or want another delicious recipe using feta cheese, head over to my blog about Alevropita.
A tip for raw red onions
My recipe for this Fantastic Lemon Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad also has raw red onions in it. If you love onions, but don’t always enjoy them raw, I have included a really handy tip in this recipe for people just like you. If you soak diced red onions for ten minutes in boiled water, it removes the strong, bitter onion flavour, but maintains the crunch and the sweeter milder flavour of onions. I love this technique.
This salad comes together in a snap. While the pasta is cooking, you can slice the tomatoes, cube the cucumbers, crumble the feta and drain the olives. After you have drained the pasta, pour in the lovely veg, drizzle on the vinaigrette and lunch is ready!
You can eat this salad slightly warm or at room temperature.
I love this Sizzling Tofu with Ginger Pepper and Garlic. It’s quick and easy to prepare and packed full of deliciousness!
Why I like Cooking with Tofu
A lot of people don’t want to cook with tofu because they think it’s too bland. Well, for me, I love cooking with it because it’s a fantastic vehicle for absorbing flavours. And there are so many flavours that work with tofu: orange, sesame oil, sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey or brown sugar, or spicy flavours like sriracha, or curry.
Tofu is very versatile, like cooking with chicken, if you want something to compare it to as it doesn’t have a strong flavour of it’s own that will compete with other seasoning. You can either cook tofu in a pan after pressing, and it has a lovely soft texture, absorbing all the lovely flavours in your dish. But you can also coat it in cornstarch and whatever seasoning you desire and bake it flat on a cookie tray in the oven. It crisps up nicely with a nice soft creamy centre. This is a nice way to cook tofu for children, especially if they like things served separately on their plate, or they like to eat with their fingers. So yummy!
This dish is made with only 8 ingredients. Most of which you probably have in your pantry. Pick up a block of tofu in the refrigerated deli or produce section next time you do your groceries and you will have everything you need to make a quick, delicious dinner for your family.
How to Press Tofu
I always buy firm or extra firm, but I still press it. You just don’t need to press it for as long as you would with medium or soft tofu.
remove tofu from the package, draining away all of the liquid
slice the tofu through the centre of the block, so you have 2 rectangular pieces
cut each rectangle into bite size pieces (maybe 8 squares for each rectangle)
put all of the tofu pieces on a plate, and cover with another plate
place something heavy (non-breakable) on top of the top plate – a couple of tins of tomatoes, a bag of flour (about 3-4 pounds)
press the tofu for about 1 hour
drain away the liquid that has been pressed out
now you’re ready to cook with your tofu
Tofu is very nutritious. And is a great alternative source of protein.
A 100-gram serving of tofu (about 1/4 of a package) contains:
Protein: 8 grams
Carbs: 2 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Fat: 4 grams
Manganese: 31% of the RDI
Calcium: 20% of the RDI
Selenium: 14% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI
Copper: 11% of the RDI
Magnesium: 9% of the RDI
Iron: 9% of the RDI
Zinc: 6% of the RDI
I hope you enjoy my Sizzling Tofu with Pepper, Ginger and Garlic
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! And a very special Happy Birthday to my sister, Ruth. I have created this very special Torta di Ceci with Rosemary especially for your birthday!
Our Mum always baked a nice big birthday cake decorated with green icing for her birthday on St. Patrick’s Day. I baked her 17, yes seventeen, mint green birthday cakes when she turned 17. We had 17 guests and we sang Happy Birthday 17 times. That was fun.
On my blog’s one year anniversary, my sister wrote “make me something nice”. And I’ve been racking my brain since then about what to make that she would enjoy because she follows the keto diet. It was challenging but not impossible!
In the last few months I have been scouring my cookbooks, favourite blogs and websites searching for something that’s easy to make but unique and made without grains or sugar. When I found a recipe for the super yummy savoury Torta di Ceci it seemed to be the perfect discovery.
Torta di Ceci is made with chick pea flour, olive oil, water, salt and rosemary and that’s it. And oh my! If you have never made this yourself or tried it in a restaurant you must make this recipe. It’s so so good. Torta di Ceci is crispy on the outside and creamy almost like a custard on the inside. It is so amazing right out of the oven, you will want to eat the entire pan yourself. But, I suggest you share.
Torta di Ceci is dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and keto-diet friendly. So you can’t go wrong when you serve this up.
In Europe, Torta di Ceci is a popular street food snack. It is found in many areas and goes by a few different names such as Torta di Ceci, Farinata or Socca in France. Traditionally it is eaten plain, although sometimes people will put rosemary on top. That’s really good. The second time I made it, I added coarse sea salt. Also really good. I think parmesan cheese would also be delicious grated on top…and I wouldn’t rule out bacon either.
I looked at many recipes for this popular snack food. The main difference between everyone’s recipe is the amount of water to use. Some recipes called for a ratio of 1:1 of chickpea flour and water. Some called for a ratio of 3:1 and some called for 4:1. My recipe uses a ratio of 2:1. I liked this flavour and texture best.
Recipes also soaked the chick pea flour in the water anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours. I found 2-4 hours just right. Although I have not let it soak for 12 hours. I can’t imagine the taste improving any better than what I made.
After you soak the chickpea flour and water and add some olive oil, salt and pepper, you bake the torta in a piping hot oven for about 15 minutes. So fast.
This Frozen Vanilla Mango Yogurt with Lime is about the quickest sweet treat you will ever make. It’s so quick it’s almost instant. But I like to put it in the freezer for about an hour or so to firm up.
My sister reminded me recently of how we used to buy an ice cream cone in the middle of winter. We would eat it while we walked home from the local mall amidst swirling snowflakes. We would still be eating it when we got home which would give our Mom the shivers.
Frozen yogurt isn’t usually the first thing people think of for a sweet treat in the middle of the winter. Especially when it’s – 30 ° out. But, I don’t really mind the cold so much. I stay nice and warm bundled up in all my favourite winter gear.
What I miss the most during the long winter months is colour. I miss the green grass and leaves on trees, colourful flowers and even the colourful clothes that everyone wears. So, that’s what appeals to me with this Frozen Vanilla Mango Yogurt with Lime. I love the tropical mango, the fresh burst of lime and the coolness of the frozen yogurt. The colours of this frozen yogurt are eye-popping, yet soothing.
You can make this frozen yogurt in a snap. All you need is a tub of your favourite vanilla yogurt and a bag of frozen mangoes. Puree these ingredients in your food processor or blender until all the mangoes chunks are blended into the yogurt.
You can eat this frozen yogurt right away, as a kind of soft serve ice cream. But I like it more firm, so I pop it in the freezer for about 1-2 hours. I serve up a couple of spoonfuls in a fancy bowl or parfait glass and saveur every spoonful!
Christmas Cookie baking has begun! I started my baking season with these Vegan Mocha, Almond, Brandy Strazzate. This cookie is normally made with Strega, a herbal liqueur from the Basilicata Region of Italy, which supposedly goes really well with chocolate. That liqueur is difficult to find where I live, so I used brandy, which I always have on hand this time of year., and which also works well with the mocha, almond flavours in this cookie. This is a super delicious cookie, made without eggs or butter.
I woke up the other morning to this snowy site and decided it was the perfect day to begin my Christmas Baking.
It’s never too early to start baking Christmas cookies or playing around with Christmas lights: two of my favourite winter activities.
These Mocha Almond Brandy Strazzate cookies come together very quickly. And the taste is divine. A cookie dough made with cocoa powder and chocolate chips so you get chocolate goodness in every bite. The dough also contains ground almonds + chopped almonds – double goodness again! And the espresso coffee blends with the chocolate to create than umami mocha flavour that is so powerful.
Like I mentioned above, this cookie is traditionally made in the Basilicata Region of Italy where Strega is made. I think any liqueur/liquor that goes with mocha and almonds would work. If you don’t drink alcohol, try a strong spiced herbal tea or chai. Those would work too.
You can eat them plain, or sprinkled with some icing sugar. So tasty. Make a splash with your Christmas Baking this year. Try something new.
The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler. Sweaters are coming out of their storage bins, light ones first. The heavy wool ones will come later. The rain jackets hang in the front closet. Rain boots are placed in the hallway near the door. Autumn is coming.
Cooler weather also means new menus. So, I’m filling my pantry and freezer with new ingredients for these approaching autumn days: pasta for comforting macaroni and cheese and hearty lasagna, beans for chili and soups, and dried fruit, nuts and a multitude of flours for baking – cookies, squares and pies. And I’m filling my downstairs freezer with big containers of soup stock.
This Armenian Red Lentil and Apricot Soup is a perfect seguay into our autumn menus. The earthy onions, carrots and lentils remind us of the approaching coolness, while the flavour of the sweet apricots tug at the memory of the summer weather that hasn’t completely ended.
Apricots have always been very special in Armenia, as their scientific name, Prunus Armeniaca, or Armenian prunes, shows. They have grown in Armenia for many centuries. A recent dig at an ancient village found apricot cores that were over 3,000 years old!
So, it goes without saying, that Armenians use apricots in many of their dishes.. During apricot season, women make jams, marmalades, even homemade apricot vodka. After the season has ended, apricots are places on balconies and rooftops to dry in the sun to be used whole or made into apricot leather. Armenians want their precious apricots to last until the next season.
This soup is very tasty and also very nutritious. This soup provides an excellent source of iron, protein, folate, B vitamins, Vitamins A and C as well as potassium. Not bad for one bowl of soup.
You can use store bought of homemade vegetable stock. If you want to make your own vegetable stock, you can find my recipe here.
If anyone had any doubts about vegan food – whether it’s tasty, nutritious or filling – one bowl of this soup would settle that argument. I hope you enjoy my Armenian Red Lentil and Apricot Soup.
Wow! I’m not sure what the weather is like where you’re living, but the forecast for tomorrow in Ottawa is 40 degrees C. That’s hot, hot, hot! And the best way for me to stay cool in hot, humid weather is by eating fruity frozen desserts.
This Strawberry Lime Elderflower Granita is so perfect for cooling down in the heat. Granita is a frozen mixture of fruit, sugar, water. It is the simplest frozen dessert you can make. And it’s a great dessert to make with your kids.
Granita is similar to sorbet but is made without an ice cream machine. The ice crystals that form are large and coarse and will be crunchy when you take a bite, but seconds later the granita will just melt away in your mouth. Divine.
To make granita, simply puree some fruit, water, sugar and any extra flavouring you may want to use, in a blender. Pour it into a shallow tray and place in the freezer. Check on it after an hour, and if it has begun to freeze, start breaking up the crystals with a fork. Place it back in the freezer for another 30-45 minutes. Repeat this process until it is all frozen and flaky.
There are many ways to enjoy granita. Of course, you can eat it plain in a bowl. You could also have it layered with whipped cream in a parfait glass. Some people also enjoy it spooned overtop of yogurt.
Strawberries have always been very symbolic of summer and a perfect fruit to use in granitas. But now with day-neutral strawberries, we can buy local strawberries until the frost hits! Yay!
Strawberries and limes go amazingly well together.
And when you add a few drops of Elderflower Liqueur…the flavour is heavenly.
There are so many fruits you could use in granita: blueberry, melon, watermelon, raspberry, blackberry, mango, or espresso coffee…. or mix them up and come up with your own flavour. The possibilities are endless.
Mix strawberries and icing sugar. Let sit one hour.
Place strawberry sugar mixture into a blender. Add lime juice, lime zest, water and elderflower liqueur (if using). Blitz on high until a smooth puree is formed.
Strain mixture through one layer of cheesecloth to remove seeds.
Pour mixture into a rectangular shallow container and cover with lid. Place in freezer.
After one hour, check mixture. If ice crystals have started to form, rake a fork through the crystals to break them up somewhat. You don't want the tray to freeze into a giant ice cube. Keep checking every 30 to 45 minutes and continue to break up the frozen parts with a fork.
When it's ready, the tray will be filled with fluffy ice crystals.
Enjoy on it's own, or layered with whipped cream, or overtop of yogurt.
We love to barbecue on the weekends, but sometimes I get tired of eating so much meat, so my husband suggested we try marinating and grilling tofu on the barbecue. I came up with this Orange Soy Honey Tofu Marinade last weekend and everyone really enjoyed it. It’s so good: it has sweetness from the orange juice and honey, saltiness from the soy and lots of extra flavour from the ginger and garlic. Yum!
Tofu is made from coagulated soy milk. It has been made for thousands of years beginning in China. The story goes that a cook once accidentally curdled some soy milk and … tofu was born.
Tofu on its own can be quite bland. But luckily it is fantastic for soaking up the flavours of sauces and marinades. Which is why this marinade works so well with tofu. All the flavours of orange, soy, honey, ginger, and sesame oil soak right into the porous soy cubes. This marinade also works in stir-fries as a sauce with chicken or tofu if you do not barbecue, or it is raining or wintertime. Just use with your favourite stir-fry combination.
Tofu is a super healthy meat alternative. In a 100 gram serving (about 1/2 a cup) there are 70 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 8.2 grams of protein and about 350 mg of calcium, which is about 20% of our daily needs. When compared with chicken or steak, it is much lower in calories and much higher in calcium. Tofu is lower in protein than chicken or steak, but one serving is still enough for your daily needs.
When you grill the tofu on a barbeque, you will need a basket with holes in it (pictured above) otherwise the tofu cubes will fall through the grate. You could also use an iron frying pan. On the barbeque, the tofu caramelizes to a lovely golden brown. It’s very difficult to get this result on your stove top, as the barbeque is so much hotter. It would work, but it’s really nice on the barbeque.
Before you begin making this dish, you should press the tofu to remove any extra liquid. When pressed, the tofu is less apt to fall apart on the barbeque. To press it, first cube the tofu. Then place the tofu in a shallow plate and cover the tofu completely with another plate. Place a weight on top of the plate. For a weight, you could use a can of tomatoes, a small bag of sugar, or anything that weighs about 1 kg. Leave the tofu like that for about 60 minutes. Drain away the liquid, then place the pressed tofu in a container with the Orange Soy Honey Tofu Marinade to soak up all those yummy flavours. Seal the container. Place it in the fridge for as long as 24 hours, and drain the marinade before cooking.
Barbecue on a medium heat until golden brown all over, turning often. Brush on additional marinade as it cooks.
marinate the tofu between 1 hour to 24 hours before cooking
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup honey
1 450 g container of tofu
Press tofu to remove extra liquid. Place tofu on a shallow plate or in a shallow bowl. Place a small plate on top of the tofu. On top of the plate, place an object that weighs about 1 kg (large can of tomatoes, small bag of sugar etc.). Leave for about 60 minutes. Drain away extra liquid.
Chop the garlic and ginger finely.
Add all other ingredients into microwavable bowl.
Place in microwave for about 30 seconds, until the honey and orange juice concentrate are melted.
Stir all ingredients together.
Pour over tofu.
Place in refrigerator for about 2-3 hours.
Grill on medium heat on barbeque. Baste with extra marinade.
Turn tofu a few times until each cube is a nice golden brown.
With all this hot weather we’ve been having, all I want to eat is ice cream. I just want to sit in a floaty chair in the pool and eat a big frosty bowl of ice cream – summer at it’s finest.
Ice cream was the first thing I wanted to make when I bought my annual 20 pound bucket of sour cherries. This combination of Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream with Cherry-Galliano Swirl is so perfect on a hot summer day!
When we were little, my sister and I always chose the wildest flavours of ice cream we could find. We had a favourite ice cream parlour, Donna’s Lunch in Burford, Ontario, which was on the way to our grandmother’s house. We loved going there and were always excited to see what new flavours she would have.
Everyone else in our family ordered the traditional vanilla, strawberry or chocolate flavours. But Ruth and I loved the craziest, at the time, of flavours: bubble gum, cotton candy, blueberry swirl and our favourite to this day, tiger tail.
The Galliano in this recipe is optional, but really boosts the flavour. Galliano is a vanilla flavour liqueur. It was originally produced in 1896 in Tuscany, Italy by a local distiller named Arturo Vaccari. He named this liqueur after Giuseppe Galliano, an Italian hero of the First Italo-Ethiopian War.
If you don’t have Galliano you could substitute it with brandy or another vanilla liqueur, or just leave it out. It will still taste amazing.
What’s your favourite flavour?
Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream with Cherry-Galliano Swirl
Heat 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of milk together with the honey until warm and honey is melted. You can do this on the stove top or in the microwave. Don't get the milk too hot to avoid forming a skin on top of the liquid.
Place the mixture in a container in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight, until it is very cold.
After it is cold, add the remaining 1 cup of cream.
Place in your ice cream maker and follow instructions.
For the swirl, heat the cherries and sugar until the sugar is dissolved thoroughly. This can also be done in the microwave or on top of the stove.
Place this mixture in a container in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight until cold.
When the cherry/sugar mixture is cold, blitz in your food processor or blender until the cherries are very finely chopped. Add the Galliano.
Pour churned ice cream into a rectangular or square container that can go in the freezer.
Pour the cold Cherry-Galliano mixture in two lines on top of the soft ice cream. Draw figure eights through the cherry and ice cream to create a swirly pattern. Do this until the cherries are swirled throughout the ice cream. If you do it too much, you will have less of a swirl, but the ice cream will still taste amazing.
Place in freezer for several hours or preferably overnight. Serve in a bowl, cone or waffle bowls.
I love oats. They are probably my favourite grain. I love them in bread, muffins, cookies as well as cooked for breakfast. If you browse through my blog, you’re going to find a lot of recipes using oats.
I especially love oats for breakfast. I think they make the most healthiest and filling breakfasts whether they are in granola or this recipe for porridge. When I make porridge, I don’t add any sweeteners. Instead I love to pile in loads of fruit. I use fresh fruit and berries in the summer, but in the winter when it’s hard to find fresh fruit or they are super expensive, I use frozen fruit.
My usual mix of fruit is mango, blueberry and sweet cherries, but one day I only had mango. So, I just used what I had and couldn’t believe how perfectly mango goes with oats. Who would have guessed? Traditional porridge is usually cooked with raisins and brown sugar and served with an extra splash of maple syrup. But the smooth sweet flavour of tropical mango balances so well with nutty tasting oats, it’s like they were meant to go together. And forget the added sweetener: mangoes are so naturally sweet, you won’t need any.
Different Types of Oats
Steel-Cut: These are also known as Irish or Scottish Oats and are the closest to their original grain form. The oat kernel is cut one or two times to help it cook. Cooking steel-cut oats can take between 15-60 minutes. They are nutty, chewy and very nutritious.
Rolled Oats: Whole Oats are toasted, hulled, steamed and then flattened with giant rollers. Rolled oats take about 15-20 minutes to cook.
Quick Cooking Oats: These are similar to rolled oats, but have been cut before being steamed and flattened so they cook quicker. Try sprinkling some in muffins or pancake batter to add an extra texture.
Instant: These oats cook very quick. They are cut, pre-cooked, dried, steamed and flattened. They cook super fast, but because they’re been processed so much a lot of their nutrition has been lost.
Oat Flour: You can make oat flour by putting rolled oats in a blender or food processor. They add a nutty flavour to baked goods, as well as making them more moist and crumbly. You can substitute up to 30% of flour in a recipe with oat flour. Try it the next time you bake some muffins and see how you like it.
Oat Bran: This comes from the outer layer of the oat kernel. Whole Oats always contain oat bran, quick cooking or instant oats do not contain oat bran as it has been removed. Oat bran is high in fibre and is often eaten as a hot cereal, sprinkled on cold cereal or added to bread, cookies and muffins for extra fibre.
Not only are oats delicious they are also super healthy. If you are also an oat lover, here are some cool nutrition facts about oats:
oats are low in calories and they slow digestion which helps you feel full longer.
1/2 cup of oats has 150 calories, 5 g of protein, 27 g of carbs, 2 grams of fat and 4 grams of fibre.
oats help prevent constipation as they contain both soluble and insoluble fibre.
dietary fibres in oats decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) without affecting good cholesterol (HDL)
oats contain enterolactone and other plant lignans which protect against heart disease.
according to the American Cancer Society, lignan in oats also helps reduce the chances of hormone related cancers such as breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.
Enjoy cooking and baking with oats!
If you enjoy oats as much as I do, here is some additional reading:
Irish Oat Soda bread is an amazing bread to make. You can make it so fast. It’s great for beginners or even experienced bakers who want some fresh baked bread on the table in under an hour. The first time I made soda bread I couldn’t believe how quick it was ready.
Irish Oat Soda bread can be made quickly because it is leavened with baking soda, not with yeast like most breads. When mixed with an acidic ingredient, in this case the buttermilk, the combination of the baking soda and acid produces carbon dioxide after it is exposed to heat.
When baking with baking soda, it is important to measure accurately. Too much baking soda and your batter will rise too much and then collapse. Also, using too much baking soda, or baking without an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk, yogurt, brown sugar, molasses, chocolate and cocoa will make your baked goods taste soapy. This happens because the baking soda doesn’t have anything to react with and will break down to produce sodium carbonate which is very alkaline and makes your baking taste soapy. Too little baking soda will produce a flat and dense product. So, measure accurately and always double check that there is an acidic ingredient in the recipe to react with the baking soda.
Cutting an X or cross across the top of the bread allows the center of the loaf to cook properly as it’s such a thick loaf and rises and bakes ratherly quickly.
I love the dense earthy aroma of the wheat and oats and the smooth and tangy flavour of the buttermilk. Since soda bread is made from very basic ingredients: flour, baking soda, soured milk (or buttermilk) it’s easy to whip up on the spur of the moment. In this recipe I’ve added butter, but some recipes leave that out. You can also add raisins or caraway seed, but traditionally, it is just those three basic ingredients.
Originally, soda bread was made regularly in Irish farming households. Unlike families in England, who would buy their bread from local bakeries, many Irish families lived in isolated farmhouses, far from any shops, so everyone had to do their own baking. The introduction of baking soda around 1840 provided poor Irish families with a means to make delicious bread as often as they wanted and for a very low cost. Homes in Ireland did not have ovens, only open hearths. So the bread was cooked on griddles over aromatic turf fires. The bread would be tender and dense with a nice thick crust and was eaten every night for dinner.
Soda bread is made all over Ireland but each region makes it differently. In the north, it is flattened into a disk, cut into 4 equal sized wedges and then cooked on a griddle. These are also called Soda Farls. The word, farl, comes from the scottish word, fardell, meaning a fourth. In the south, it is shaped into a thick round disk and the top is scored deeply with a large X or a cross.
Greek food is one of my favourite cuisines. I was lucky enough to visit Greece many years ago. Of course, it’s the food that I remember particularly well: sitting in outdoor cafes sipping espresso coffee in the tiniest cups, nibbling on appetizers of anise scented greek bread, dipped in the best olive oil I had ever tasted alongside small bowls of the blackest olives and the most creamy tangy feta cheese with a big glass of red wine. Pure heaven.
When I’m feeling nostalgic for the time we spent in Greece, I like to prepare a Greek dish at home, like a simple greek salad or this Alevropita feta tart.
To make this dish really shine, try to buy the best feta that you can. I don’t know about you, but in my grocery store there is a wide variety of different feta cheeses to choose from. And I’m never sure which one to buy. As I was writing this post, I thought I would do a bit of feta cheese research and let everyone know a bit about this amazing cheese..
There are many different types of feta available in grocery and specialty cheese shops. I’ll start with Greek feta, as that’s where it all began.
Greek feta was actually granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the EU in 2005. So, the only place in the world to buy true genuine Greek feta cheese is Greece.
In 2005, the EU’s highest court set very strict specifications for making and selling feta cheese. Genuine Greek feta cheese can only be made in the regions of Macedonia, Thrace, Epirus, Thessalia, Mainland Greece, the Peloponnese peninsula and the Island of Lesvos. Feta cheese is made with sheep and goat’s milk and where the animals graze affects the taste of their milk. This in turn affects the flavour profile of the cheese. If feta is made from sheep and goats that graze in a different geographical region, the flavour of the milk would be different and so would the cheese.
True feta can be made with either 100% sheep’s milk or as much as 30% goat’s milk, but not higher. Also, the average composition must be 52.9% moisture, 26.2% fat, 16.7 % proteins, 2.9% salt and 4.4% pH.
You can still buy feta cheese in the EU, outside of Greece, but any other country in the EU must label it feta-style chesese, or some such label. Outside of Greece there are no specifications for this cheese which can be produced using whatever percentage of sheep, goat or even cow’s milk that they prefer.
Greek feta is salty and tangy with a bit of a lemony flavour. It can be dry and crumbly or rich and creamy depending on how much goat’s milk is in it. The more goat’s milk, the more crumbly it is. It is made using the slower traditional method, not the ultrafiltration method which is used in Denmark. Not very much Greek Feta is exported, there just isn’t enough of it to go around.
Even though the origins of feta cheese began in Greece, you can still buy some wonderful tasting feta cheeses that are made around the globe. Here are a few.
Bulgarian Feta: This is made with sheep’s milk and a yogurt culture. It has a very tangy flavour.
Israeli Feta: This is a full-flavoured, creamy and not overly salty feta. It is usually made from sheep’s milk.
French Feta: This is often made with sheep’s milk. It is mild and creamy. Some feta in France is made with goat’s milk and is usually drier and more tangy.
Danish Feta: This is made from cow’s milk. It has a milder flavour and a creamier texture compared to other feta cheeses. It is made using the ultrafiltration method. This method is used to speed up cheese making. It produces a cheese that is smooth, creamy and closed (no openings between the curds).
Australian Feta: This is usually made from cow’s milk. The texture and flavour can vary. It usually tastes in between salty greek feta and a creamy feta.
American Feta: This is made from sheep, goat or even cow’s milk. It is usually tangy and crumbly.
If you can’t find greek feta cheese in your shop, but want to get one that is as close to genuine feta as possible, the following are some tips for finding a good feta.
Tips on Choosing Feta Cheese
Ingredients: Feta should be made with only sheep’s milk or with some goat’s milk, rennet and salt. Never cow’s milk.
Tasting: If you buy your feta from a cheese shop ask the sales clerk if you can taste some feta. Feta should taste tangy and salty and have a lovely rich aroma. It should not taste sour, bitter or have no taste at all. These are signs that it is old. Feta comes in 3 different textures; hard, medium-hard and soft. Choose the one you like best.
Colour: Feta should be white. If it is a bit yellowish, then it’s been out of the brine for too long and has dried out a bit and become sour.
Holes: Feta cheese should have a few small holes on the surface. This shows that the feta was made in the traditional way with slow even turning and draining.
If feta is too salty for you, rinse it with plain water and then soak a piece of feta in some milk for 1-3 hours, or overnight. Then drain and store in plain water.
Nutritionally, feta cheese is lower in fat and calories than cheddar or parmesan. However it is high in sodium. If you are on a sodium restricted diet, feta cheese probably isn’t a good choice for you. Feta has twice the amount of sodium than cheddar cheese. An ounce of feta has 300 mg of sodium vs 170 mg in cheddar. It also has 75 calories, 1 gram carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 6 grams of fat (4.2 grams of saturated fat).
Ok, now that you know a few things about feta cheese, you’ll be ready to make this delicious feta tart. Make sure you use really good tasting feta, as that’s the primary flavour in this tart. The other strong feature of this tart is the crispy crust. Make sure that you preheat your oven with the baking pan inside, so that the pan gets really hot. This is what makes the tart crisp.
Make sure you have your oven mitts nearby for taking the empty pan out of the oven and be very careful not to touch the pan with your bare hands. It’s hot!!!
This recipe for Alevropita Feta Tart is very quick to make as the base is made from a batter so there is no rising involved. Yay! The feta cheese will not melt and spread, but will brown nicely in the oven. The salty tangy feta cheese paired with the eggy crispy crust is such a delicious combination. This tart will soon become a family favourite.
And the crust gets nicely browned and crispy.
It is delicious with soup, or greek salad, or even with a pasta dish.
Here are some fun links for additional information about feta cheese and greek culture: