For a new twist on the traditional cheese and crackers, try this beautiful Mediterranean-inspired spread for appetizers. The star, a tangy baked goat feta cheese drizzled with olive oil, fresh herbs and red pepper. It takes just 15 minutes in the oven. The rest of the tray is easily assembled from purchased ingredients. There’s something for everyone to nibble on while you finish dinner.
The Importance of Nibbles
I learned long ago (and regret when I forget to follow my own advice) when guests come for dinner, you must have something for them to nibble on upon arrival. When the front door opens, wonderful aromas of the dinner cooking rush to welcome friends and family for an evening of good food and being together. Everyone heads for the kitchen, wine starts to pour, and it’s then everyone needs a nibble.
Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery
One thing I love to do is share “food finds” with you. Recently, I met the Owner and President of Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery, Jennifer Lynn Bice. Located in the beautiful Sonoma wine country of California, Redwood Hill Farm has been producing award-winning dairy products since 1968.
The event was a cheese tasting and making class, arranged by fellow food bloggers Andrew Wilder and Erika Kerekes. In spite of 4 hours of LA traffic, this was an invitation I looked forward to.
One appetizer everyone enjoyed was a baked goat feta cheese drizzled with olive oil and herbs. What could be easier? Being a goat cheese lover, I discovered goat milk feta cheese a few years ago. It has a wonderful tang. Goat milk is easier for many people to digest because the fat particles are smaller. Redwood Hill Farm goat feta is a also a raw cheese.
Because they want their products to be as unprocessed as possible, Redwood Hill Farm does not homogenize their milk. Their products are free of sugar, coloring, preservatives, or powdered milk. That must be why the quality is so high and the taste, fantastic. Since then, I have found their raw goat milk feta at Whole Foods.
One more tip on a fabulous new food find I’ve been enjoying – American, artisan-produced Speck (smoked Prosciutto) from La Quercia. It’s what I used for this tempting tray. You can read more about the company and their terrific products on their website. La Quercia describes their Speck as an earthy, rich, deep, sweet meat, with a light applewood smoke flavor. It’s really a treat. Great under poached eggs on the weekend too.
I realize that these products may not be available everywhere, but don’t let that stop you from putting this tray together. Use the best quality products that you can find. Try some new ones, and seek out products from local artisan producers. You may be pleasantly surprised what you find. Make this your own.
Baked Goat Feta Cheese|Mediterranean Appetizer Tray
- 6-8 ounces of raw goat milk feta I use Redwood Hill Farm, or the best feta you can find
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoons of fresh herbs such as parsley, oregano, thyme, or mint
- A sprinkle of red pepper flakes optional
- A selection of rice crackers wheat crackers or thinly sliced baguette
- 6 ounces of thinly sliced Prosciutto or Speck smoked Prosciutto
- 1 jar of good marinated Mediterranean olives
- a small bowl of raw almonds
- 1 large bunch of grapes washed and clipped into small clusters
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place feta in a baking dish just big enough to hold the cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, herbs, and red pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese it hot. It won’t really melt, but will get soft.
- While the cheese is baking, arrange all of your other ingredients on a platter or tray. When the cheese is done, place in a small dish, pour the olive oil from the dish (or a little extra) and herbs over the top and serve.