Fabulous feta

Another baked feta dish to try.

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Remember when TikTok brought us that tomato and feta recipe? The one where the feta melts into creamy oblivion when you mix it with the tomatoes after baking? It’s so easy, and something fabulous happens to feta when it is warmed up — all the strong saltiness morphs somehow into a softer, milder cheese. (And here is where I make a confession: I made that dish last weekend, fully intending to use it as a Dine story, until I remembered that someone else wrote that story maybe a year or so ago. Such is the brain of a 60-year-old, I guess.) 

Anyway, when this other recipe popped up as I searched “healthy and easy recipes” on the internet, I was thrilled it contained feta. The recipe is simple, and requires ingredients that I usually have on hand — marinara sauce, feta, chickpeas, kale, and a few other things. I couldn’t find cumin seeds at the store, so I went with a teaspoon of cumin. The feta doesn’t bake for long, just 15 minutes, so when it comes from the oven, you just cut off a chunk, place it into a serving bowl, and smoother it with heaping spoons of the rest of the dish. We had a delicious loaf of bread just waiting to be used for dipping, and that added an extra layer of goodness.

First you cook most of the ingredients on top of the stove, then you place three chunks of the feta into the tomato, kale, and chickpea mixture, and finish it in the oven. This means that the pan I was using had to be ovenproof, which it was. I’m not someone who routinely puts a saucepan or frying pan into the oven, so this recipe was even more unusual for us. So much so that I stupidly grabbed hold of the handle a couple of minutes after I had removed it from the oven. Yes, it hurt. I could see blisters forming in the palm of my hand, and wasn’t sure what to do. I texted my daughter, who has worked at restaurants many times over the years. She said to soak a compress in a mixture of half vinegar and half cold water, placing it on the burn(s). Then she said to put something gooey on it, such as Vaseline, and wrap a little light gauze over the whole thing. I could hardly believe how well this worked. I woke up this morning, and not only does it not hurt, but you can barely see where any blister might be. 

So my weekend lesson included not only a truly delicious new dish, but also an unforgettable way to treat a kitchen burn. 

Baked Feta

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
1 tsp. cumin seeds (I used regular cumin)
1 bunch ‘Lacinato’ kale, stems removed, and torn into bite-size pieces
2 cups tomato or marinara sauce
1½ cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used two cans)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving
1 12-oz. block of feta, cut into three equal planks (mine was actually 16 oz.)
½ cup water
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
warm pita or baguette for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat a 10- or 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium heat, and add the oil. Add the cumin seeds, and let them sizzle gently for a minute or two. Add the kale in batches, letting each handful shrink and wilt before adding the next. (I went straight to the kale directions, adding the cumin later.)

When the last of the kale has wilted, add the tomato sauce, chickpeas, lemon juice, ½ cup of water (I added the cumin here). Stir and let it come to a simmer for about 15 minutes.

Nestle the feta slices into the sauce, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Slide the skillet into the oven and bake until the feta has softened, 15 or 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes, and serve with warm pita or bread and lemon wedges.