That’s me hold Warm Feta Artichoke Dip breaking the number one rule of food photography–Do not include your feet.
I like to think of recipe swapping as social research. What kinds of recipes do home cooks like to share? What makes a person say “hey, can I have the recipe?” Or even better, “have I told you about my favorite recipe, you’ve got to try this, it’s so easy.” For example, think of the rampant national recipe swap that occurred to shoot artichoke dip to the top of the appetizer chart. You know the one–a hot bubbly blend of artichoke hearts, mayo and lots of green canister Parmesan cheese. No party was complete without it back in the 80s.
So what’s the new artichoke dip? I think I know. My friend Elizabeth Betts Hickman and I met for coffee the other morning and she said “have I told you about my favorite appetizer recipe, you’ve got to try this, it’s so easy.” Elizabeth may well be pushing warm feta with olive oil to its tipping point. I think Malcolm Gladwell would classify Elizabeth as a connector. Elizabeth first had warm feta with olive oil at Nabeel’s Cafe and Market, her favorite Greek restaurant in Birmingham, Ala. They call it “Feta Theologos, A recipe from the Monastery of St. John in central Greece. Greek feta wrapped in foil and baked with extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic & oregano. Served with a whole panini bread.” What a great easy idea for home. And, yes, for years now it’s been Elizabeth’s go-to hot appetizer for cocktail parties or nourishment with a glass of wine and a pal. She serves it in a foil pouch in a cast iron casserole dish. She loves it with any kind of fresh herbs. Yes, it looks super cool when you unwrap it. Warm, garlicy, oozing cheese. Eat immediately!
Elizabeth the connector, of course, enthusiastically shared the recipe with her best friend Megan Johnson (and knowing Elizabeth there are plenty more all over Tennessee who are making it.) Now Megan is well-known in the Nashville songwriter community and all over Franklin for her giant casserole-size version of the spread. She’s made it her own, doesn’t bother with the foil, just a big block of feta swimming in olive oil in a big glass baking dish. Songwriters are a hungry bunch.
And now it’s my turn. As an old recipe developer always on the look out for the “next artichoke dip,” I think I’ve literally found it–Nabeel’s/Elizabeth’s/Megan’s warm feta and olive oil with garlic, chopped fresh herbs and now chopped artichoke hearts. Have I told you about my favorite appetizer recipe, Feta Artichoke Dip, you’ve got to try this, it’s so easy… Pass it on. I sense more variations on the horizon. We serve it with crusty grilled bread. I just pile the ingredients in a small Le Creuset, cover and bake. The foil pack is very cool, too.
Other great little apps to impress your friends include Green Chile Gougeres, Tennessee tomato tart, Benedictine dip, Greek yogurt blue cheese dip, Greek yogurt goat cheese spread, cornbread barrel bungs, and of course, pickled bologna.
Warm Feta Artichoke Dip
Block of feta cheese (Elizabeth says get the cheap stuff, of course that’s up to you)
Good fruity olive oil
Minced fresh garlic (optional)
Fresh herbs like oregano, marjoram, basil, thyme, chives (optional)
Canned artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped (optional)
Black pepper (optional)
Heat the oven to 350 F. Place the block of feta in a casserole with a lid. Generously drizzle with olive oil. Add garlic, herbs, artichoke hearts, and black pepper, as you like. Cover and bake until the cheese is soft, about 15 or 20 minutes. Uncover and serve immediately with grilled bread, crackers, or French bread slices. Make as little or as much as you like. Add the optional ingredients as you like.