Feta cheese (Recipe: pasta salad with feta, basil, olives, fresh and slow-roasted tomatoes)
Something you might not know about Rhode Island:
We make great cheese.
Not good cheese. Great cheese. And not just the provolone and mozzarella and ricotta you'd expect to find in this oh-so-Italian part of the country, although we make those cheeses very well.
We make Mexican queso blanco and queso fresco, and goat cheese, too. And we make the most delicious feta cheese.
It's not Italian, and it's not authentic feta (which can only be made in Greece). So technically our local feta, made by artisan cheese maker Narragansett Creamery and gently brined in sea salt, should be called feta-like. Or, maybe, faux feta.
Whatever you call it, feta, whether it's the real PDO (protected designation of origin) product from Greece or our fabulous local cheese, earns a place in my pantry because of its tangy, tart flavor and crumbly texture.
What is feta cheese?
A firm cheese made from sheep's milk or a blend of up to 70 percent sheep's milk and 30 percent goat's milk. Feta made outside the European Union, or for export, or in Rhode Island, is allowed to contain cow's milk, too
How/where to store:
In the refrigerator, in a ziploc bag, or in a container with an airtight lid. Feta is a fairly dry cheese, so wrap it to retain its natural moisture.
More facts about feta cheese, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Feta cheese (Recipe: baked shrimp with tomatoes and feta)
Pasta salad with feta, basil, olives, fresh and slow-roasted tomatoes
This is a salad you can only make at the height of tomato season, which has finally arrived here in New England. Garden-fresh basil and tomatoes go hand in hand. If you don't have slow-roasted tomatoes (You must. You absolutely must. Here's how to make them.), you can substitute oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, plus a couple of cloves of roasted garlic and fresh thyme. A bit of pasta with a no-cook sauce -- what could be easier? Infinitely expandable, this recipe serves 6 as a main course.
1 lb twisty pasta (cellentani and rotini are my favorite shapes)
1 cup slow-roasted tomatoes, roughly chopped (or oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes plus 1 large clove of roasted garlic, mashed)
2 large fresh tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup black olives (from a can), roughly chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves, roughly torn or chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 pinch of mild red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh ground pepper, to taste (I use 1 tsp)
A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Bring 6 quarts of water to boil in a large pot, and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cool water. Drain again.
While the pasta is cooking, combine remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the cooked pasta, toss, and if necessary add a bit more olive oil to bring everything together. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to two days.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Shrimp, lemon, herb and feta macaroni and cheese
Quinoa salad with tomato, feta and parsley
Tangerine and feta salad
Lentil, herb and feta salad
Greek hummus with white beans and feta
Warm salad of kamut, cranberries and feta
Other recipes that use feta cheese:
Zucchini bake with feta and thyme, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Grilled beets with feta, from Sarah's Cucina Bella
Omelet with feta, scallions and mushrooms, from Kalofagas
Chickpea stew with mint and feta, from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska
Lamb burger with garlic, shallots and feta, from Farmgirl Fare