Life without feta
Back in the good old days when my husband was a normal American male, feta cheese was pretty much something we’d find sprinkled on salads in trendy restaurants along with a few black olive slices. It was a nice enough experience, but we really didn't give it much thought.
Now, Eric has what I’d call a severe feta fetish and eats it with everything from gumbo to sauerkraut. He once tried crumbling it on top of tapioca pudding, until, of course, I threatened to leave him. He’s hopelessly addicted and I am currently lobbying to have all feta farmers post a warning on their product: “Life without feta may cause severe irritability, feelings of inadequacy and even death by withdrawal.”
It all started a few years back when Eric met Gus, the Greek guy who owns Mediterranean Foods at the West Side Market on West 25th Street.
“Have a sample of my delicious French feta,” he offered, smiling warmly. (Oh sure, he looks innocent, you might say, but I swear I saw a sinister gold tooth flashing that day.)
Next thing you know, we’re sitting in Gus’ kitchen eating brick-sized chunks of the stuff and making plans to attend all Greek festivals within a two-hundred mile radius. Worst of all, Eric now owns one of those Greek fisherman hats. A gift from Gus, of course. Gus the Cheese Pusher, selling his “fixes” of feta.
Eric has been brainwashed into thinking feta is essential with everything but chocolate pudding. He has it on eggs for breakfast, on sandwiches for lunch, on pizzas for dinner and all by itself every time he walks past the refrigerator. It has become a staple in our kitchen like bread, milk and coffee. Gus even has him believing it is punishable by law to serve tomatoes without it.
One time, God forgive me, we ran out of the stuff and Eric actually had to be sedated with a stun gun after he ripped the refrigerator door off its hinges and threw it through the picture window. No, life without feta was not fun, but I’m doing what I can to help the poor man. He’s on the waiting list at the Fairview Feta Rehab Clinic and he’s currently reading the book, “Fetaphobia: How I Survived,” by George Papanstopolopagus. In the meantime, I’ll just have to try to wean him off of it with the following recipes and issue a warning to you: Stay away from Gus at all costs.
FETA-STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS
with sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup finely diced sun-dried tomatoes (see note)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 6 split chicken breasts
- 6 chunks feta, about 1/4” thick, cut into 1”x2” chunks
Preheat oven to 400. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, oregano and pepper. Set aside.
Place chicken breasts in a roasting pan. Slip your fingers under the chicken skin and loosen to form a pocket. Stuff the feta chunks under the skin. Spoon the olive oil mixture evenly on the tops of the chicken breasts and cover pan with heavy foil.
Bake 50 minutes, then turn oven to broil and remove foil. Broil a few minutes until lightly browned. Goes great with a side of feta.
Note: If needed, soften sun-dried tomatoes by plunging into boiling water for two minutes.
- 2 tablespoons each olive oil and butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 pound lean, ground sirloin or turkey
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 large can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes in juice
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon each sugar, salt and pepper
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- 1 pound thin spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
In a large skillet, heat oil and butter. Add onion and cook until softened. Crumble ground meat into pan and cook until pink is gone. Add garlic, wine, tomatoes, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes. Sprinkle in feta and stir until it melts. Serve over warm noodles. Goes great with a side of feta.
VEGETABLE MASHED POTATOES WITH FETA
Serves 4 - 6
- 6 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and chunked
- 2 medium onions, peeled and chunked
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium carrots, scraped and chunked
- 2 ribs celery, chunked
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1 cup crumbled feta
Place potatoes in large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer 15-20 minutes or until fork tender.
Meanwhile, in a food processor with a steel blade, finely chop onions. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and saute onion 3 minutes. Finely chop carrots and celery and add to the onions. Pour chicken stock over and let simmer 15-20 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked off.
Drain the potatoes and return to pot. While hot, add butter, salt and pepper and mash with electric mixer until smooth. Fold in cooked vegetables and feta and warm through over very low heat, stirring often. Goes great with a side of feta.
Robin Benzle lives in Bay Village. For more recipes, visit www.robinbenzle.com.