Summer is all about casual entertaining for me. It’s too hot and too busy to be hosting elaborate dinner parties. I love drop-in, come as you are drinks or cook-outs, or the cold supper. I got pretty good at these during the pandemic for patio “parties”. I tried to bring back the English phrase “cold collation” but alas. It’s a breezy way to entertain – a spread of cold platters that everyone can tuck into as and when they are ready. I made this dish recently for a family gathering and it was quite a hit (watch this space for more cold supper ideas). Yes, you do need to turn on the oven, but everything else is easy to throw together for a stunning and delicious result. The tomatoes caramelize to bursting juiciness and the onions take on a jammy richness that is a perfect sweet and savory foil for the creamy, salty feta.
Buy a block of feta, not pre-crumbled which can be coated in corn starch and tend to be made with a less flavorful cheese. Za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend generally made from thyme, oregano, sumac and sesame seeds, and sometimes other herbs and spices. It is now pretty readily available – I like jars from Penzey’s or New York Shuk. It’s an amazing tool to have in your pantry because it’s delicious on vegetables, chicken, on top of hummus or a cucumber and onion salad. Don’t hesitate to buy it, it’s so useful, plus you may want to make this dish all summer long! I like perfectly round cherry tomatoes from the farmers’ market, but any small tomatoes will do – mixed colors look lovely!
You can make the feta ahead up to a day then bring it to room temperature before serving so it is easily spreadable, or you can whip it up while the tomatoes are cooking and serve when the tomatoes have just cooled to room temperature.
Whipped Feta with Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes
6 – 8servings
- For the Feta
1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
- For the Tomatoes
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon za’atar seasoning
2 teaspoons sea salt
- For the Feta
- Break the feta into small pieces and put it in the bowl of a food processor with the cream cheese, olive oil and honey. Process until smooth and fluffy, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Use right away, or you can make the feta ahead and scoop int into a bowl and keep covered in the fridge until ready to use.
- For the Tomatoes
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the red onion into quarters, then slice each quarter into ribbons about 1/8 inch thick, like two nickels stacked together – too thin and they will burn, to thick and they won’t soften. Put the separate the slices and place them in a bowl or a ziptop bag. Add the cherry tomatoes and the olive oil. Sprinkle over the za’atar, then toss everything together to coat with the olive oil and spices. Lift the tomatoes and onions out and spread on a rimmed baking sheet (I like to line it with non-stick foil for easy clean up). Really do transfer to the pan with your hands – you don’t want oil pooling in the pan or the vegetables will steam rather than roast. Sprinkle with salt, and add a little more za’atar if some of the tomatoes don’t have any clinging to them. Roast for 30 – 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are slightly charred and just beginning to burst and the onions are soft and lightly browned. Cool to room temperature on the pan.
- When ready to serve, bring the feta to room temperature if its’ been in the fridge. Scoop it onto plate and spread out into an even layer, making a little indentation in the center. Spoon the tomatoes and onions on top, and drizzle over any juices left in the pan. Serve with crostini or pita bread.