I have been itching to post about this brilliant dish that I was introduced to by our friends Rich and Gretchen a while back. They made this lovely whipped feta topped with honey for a gathering- served with grilled sausage from a local butcher, and warm naan bread. Oh my. It is salty, tangy, sweet and creamy. (It was their re-creation of a dish they had at Butcher & Bee.)
I think about that meal and this dip- daydreaming about menus centered around whipped feta.
Fast forward a year. We had dinner at a family’s home this summer and as we were planning our menu, Sarah, the host, suggested a toothpick dinner– which she defined as “small items, finger foods, etc.” This sounded super fun and simple. She said I could just let her know what we would bring (family favorites, she said) and she would fill in. I decided that I would bring a version of the memorable sausage, naan, whipped feta tray as our main contribution (and a few of other things- including a jar of bought pickled okra- a recent crave of mine, dried figs sliced from Costco that are like candy , an almond shortcake for dessert and some beverages). We packed it up to travel down the street to their home.
They had olives and fresh veggies, a green tossed salad, warm cheese quesadillas, fresh apricots, and more. It was delicious, beautiful and easy. And the company was delightful.
This weekend we had a bittersweet gathering to send off our friends who are moving away to graduate school and Gretchen served the feta dip. People raved- they came back to the serving table for more. I heard people mention wanting the recipe. I overheard someone exclaiming that he had been eating cheese and crackers all wrong for his entire life in light of this new experience.
When our dinner plans fell through at the last minute, last night, I thought “tonight might be a toothpick dinner” night. I wanted to post the recipe and needed some more photos. I whipped up some feta dip. I decided to pile it all onto my big bread board and plop it in the center of the table and invite the family to enjoy the communal platter.
This time I had some juicy peaches that I sliced for the meal and Asher had the idea of putting a slice on top of a naan piece with the feta spread (kind of like the Tartine about which I recently wrote). Juicy, lovely, creamy and sweet.
Although there are several recipes online on various blogs and sites, they are really diverse. I made one version that called for lemon zest and it wasn’t what I was hoping for. Though I continued to add more cheese, oil, etc. nothing would un-lemon the dip. I had to start over. It is a flexible recipe (as you will see on the ingredient list) but beware of using lemon, due to its powerful impact on the flavor. The beauty of this dish is that it is quick and easy while being versatile and feeling super special.
Whipped Feta Dip
1 cup (8 oz.) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup (4 oz.) softened cream cheese, or ricotta cheese or cottage cheese- you pick!
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Fresh Ground Pepper
optional: chopped green onion, or chopped nuts or chopped dried fruit
Place cheeses and oil in a food processor and blend until smooth. Using a spatula, scrape the dip out onto a deep plate or shallow bowl. Make a well in the middle with the back of a spoon or small spatula, and drizzle with honey. Across the top, sprinkle coarse pepper and any other garnishes you choose.
Serve with crackers or warmed naan, pita or slices of crusty bread.
By adding one special element to things you pull out of your pantry and refrigerator, and finding ways to make your presentation beautiful, you can make a lovely meal out of an unplanned hodge-podge menu. And naming the meal something clever, like a toothpick or a bread board dinner adds some transformative power.