It’s no secret that I love Greece and everything about it; especially the food. I was fortunate that I had the opportunity to live in Athens, Greece, for 3 years during my Army career. It was a life-changing experience that still affects me every day. I met my best friend there, who continues to be like a sister to me. I also fell in love with Mediterranean food, especially Greek food. It’s what I cook most often when I entertain. But, more important, of all the many diets and nutrition plans out there, it’s Mediterranean food (I refuse to say “diet”) that I turn to when I want to drop a few pounds or just feel my healthiest. Here’s looking at you, 2 January, after every holiday season.
Meals in Greece usually start with a series of appetizers, or meze. Sometimes the meze are the entire meal. Other times, they’re just a precursor to a huge festive feast, such as Greek Easter. Meze can consist of just a few dishes or as many as 25. They can be as simple as a chunk of feta drizzled with some olive oil and oregano, or more elaborate dishes such as grape leaves stuffed with lamb and bulgur wheat.
Tyrokafteri is a spicy spread made with feta cheese and peppers that is typically spread on bread. It is one of my absolute favorites of the Greek meze. I actually discovered it long after I lived in Greece, when I returned on my honeymoon many years later, but I’ve certainly made up for lost time since then.
Tyrokafteri (Spicy Feta Spread)
This dip is very quick, and it makes a lot. I used two whole cayenne chiles to make this spread. They are skinny red chiles about 3 inches long. You can also use one habanero chile, but make sure you remove the seeds and the membranes (where the heat is) or you’ll end up with more zip in your dip than you would like. Whichever chiles you choose, just make sure they are red or orange so you don’t change the color to an unappetizing gray.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper
1-2 red or orange chiles
1 pound feta cheese, crumbled
5 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Bread for serving
Clean the red pepper and the chiles by removing the membranes and seeds and cutting them into strips. You can just slice the chiles without cleaning them if you like a little more heat.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet and sauté the pepper and the chiles until soft, about 15 minutes.
Place the contents of the skillet in a food processor with the feta and the yogurt and blend until smooth. Refrigerate the spread until serving.
Adapted from Modern Greek by Andy Harris