Baked feta is all over the internet. And with good reason, heat turns one simple piece of salty cheese into a deliciously creamy element in a host of applications. That baked feta pasta is about the only viral food trend that has appealed to me, and it is a good one. But as with many of these “new” internet hacks, or discoveries, or inventions, those of us of a certain age sometimes get a little frustrated when we’ve known about these things all along. Baked feta is hardly new and the more I’ve seen pictures on social media, I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. I’ve baked feta with tomatoes, with olives, with peppers, but for a colorful and incredibly flavorful dish, I’ve jazzed it up here with mixed stone fruits for a fabulously sweet and savory combination.
Salty savory feta baked with sweet stone fruits, so abundant at this time of year, a scattering of figs and some pungent red onion makes for a beautifully colorful display. Tarragon adds a great herbal note with a woodsy crunch from hazelnuts. You could easily use oregano or thyme and slivered almonds. I like a mix of fruits, but any combination will work. Buy the blocks of feta in brine sold at cheese counters in a little tub. This traditional feta will become creamy and soft in the oven. This can be served with a spreading knife or a spoon, and a fork to spear pieces of fruit. I like to serve it with larger pieces of crusty bread, like an artisan boule, so the cheese can be spread and the fruit speared to place on top. Some microgreens to top the whole is a nice touch. You can also serve this to scoop on top of soft salad leaves like arugula, mache or spinach. Serve it warm so the cheese is soft and spreadable.
Baked Feta with Stone Fruits
1 ounce hazelnuts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 (8 ounce) block of traditional feta cheese in brine
2 plums (I like one red and one black)
1 small red onion
6 fresh figs
2 sprigs of tarragon
Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees.
- Put the hazelnuts in a dry skillet and toast for a few minutes over medium heat just to warm them through. Transfer to a tea towel, then fold over the towel and rub the hazelnuts around to loosen the skins. Don’t worry about getting every piece of skin, just the majority of it. Put the hazelnuts in a small ziptop bag and bash to break into pieces.
- Drizzle a little of the olive oil in the bottom of a small baking dish, just large enough to hold the feta and the fruit. Pat the feta dry with paper towels, then place it in the center of the dish. Cut the plums in half, remove the stone, then cut into thick slices. Place around the feta. Cut and stone the nectarine and the peach and slice thickly. Distribute around the feta. Cut the red onion into wedges about 1-inch thick and arrange. Cut the figs in half and tuck them into the fruit. Finely chop the tarragon and sprinkle over the feta and fruit, then sprinkle the nuts over evenly. Season with a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Drizzle the remaining olive oil and the balsamic vinegar over everything. Bake for 20 minutes, until the feta is lightly browned and soft, but holds its shape, and the fruit is tender.