Baked Feta Cheese with Olives and Lemon ~ an easy baked cheese appetizer that shows off the spectacular sun drenched flavors of the Mediterranean. Serve it with some toasted bread and watch it disappear!
I have a feeling once you try this unusual baked cheese appetizer you’ll return to it again and again. You’ll get lots of appreciation from your friends, that’s for sure, and nobody will be expecting it. When it’s baked, the feta takes on an entirely different personality ~ the cheese not only gets warm, it softens and becomes less crumbly, more spreadable. And if you haven’t tried imported sheep’s milk feta, you’re in for a treat, the flavor is so much better.
This baked feta isn’t un-caloric, but it tastes heavenly, and those are relatively healthy calories from lower fat sheep’s milk cheese and extra virgin olive oil.
The olives undergo a similar transformation to the cheese, and they become soft and juicy. They’re so good you can serve them all by themselves as an super easy appetizer, see my ROASTED OLIVES recipe for details.
What is Feta cheese?
- Feta is a Greek cheese made with sheep’s milk, or sheep’s milk and goat’s milk.
- Feta is made in blocks, and stored in brine. Its texture is crumbly and its flavor is sharp and salty.
- Legally, feta cheese is only made in certain areas of Greece, but other feta-type cheeses are made in other parts of Europe, and in the US. Here in the US it’s made with cow’s milk.
Is Feta Cheese Healthy?
- Feta cheese is lower in fat and calories than most other cheeses, and is healthy if you don’t gorge on it!
- The flavor is sharp and a little goes a long way…it makes a big impact in recipes and salads, etc., without adding a lot of fat.
- Feta is somewhat salty, so stick to about an ounce serving size if you’re watching your sodium.
How to use Feta Cheese?
- Feta is perfect for crumbling on salads, like I do on my WHEAT BERRY SALAD or my CHOPPED ASPARAGUS SALAD.
- Feta cheese absorbs flavors well, and can be marinated. I make a GRAPEFRUIT AND ROSEMARY MARINATED FETA.
The Mediterranean flavors really shine in this simple dish ~ use the best extra virgin olive oil you can find, along with fresh lemon, and juicy olives. I like to use the kind with the pits in, because they have better flavor (if you’ve got a local market with an olive bar, that’s ideal.) For spice, some rosemary, hot pepper flakes, and freshly cracked black pepper is all you need. Don’t add salt, the feta is plenty salty.
- one block of sheep's milk feta (sold in the brine) about 10-14 ounces, give or take
- 1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 1/2 large lemon
- 1 - 2 cups mixed olives
- 3 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- a few coarse grindings of black pepper
- Set oven to 350F
- Put the feta in a gratin dish or other small ovenproof dish that you will also serve out of.
- Pour the olive oil into the dish, followed by the lemon juice. Arrange the olives around the cheese, with the rosemary. I quarter the squeezed lemon half and throw that in as well. Sprinkle the red and black pepper over all.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. I loosely laid a sheet of foil over mine. You can finish under the broiler if you like for a little charring effect.
- Serve hot with toasted bread.
Make it your own ~
- Try fresh thyme instead of rosemary.
- You might try cutting the feta in large cubes instead of baking it brick style.
- I’m dying to try this baked feta with my ROMESCO SAUCE.
- As with just about any cheese, you can actually make your own feta at home, here’s a recipe.