Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spiced Feta in Olive Oil and Persian Marinated Olives: Easy and Exotic Mezze Plate Components

For a simple, light and low-effort dinner, nothing beats a mezze plate--tasty little dishes with different Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. They are also great for holiday entertaining because with just one trip to a good grocery store, you can pick up most of the components and can just plop them into bowls and onto plates. And if you have a little extra time, you can prepare a couple of simple but exotic recipes like Diana Henry's Spiced Feta in Olive Oil and Persian Marinated Olives. Perfect to have on hand to jazz up a holiday mezze spread or just enjoy yourself as part of a mezze dinner. 

I had a large chunk of good, firm sheep's milk feta leftover from a Costco run, and Henry's spiced feta recipe sounded like a winner. There is something magical about feta when it is softened slightly by olive oil and flavored up a bit before being spread on a baguette. I also fell in love with the description of the Persian olives and their mix of lemon, chile and herbs. 

Also on the mezze plate, homemade hummus (slightly darker/different in color due to it being a mix of canned chickpeas and fava beans + a liberal use of sumac, cumin and smoked paprika) and store-bought dolmas and gigantes bean salad. With mini carrots and bread for dipping/spreading, it was like a little celebration for the taste buds.  

Henry says, "It's great to have a jar of this, because you can easily mix it with dips (hummus, taramasalata, spiced carrot puree, baba ghanoush) and bread to make dinner for one, or serve it as part of a spread of mezze."   

Spiced Feta in Olive Oil
Recipe from Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry
(Fills 1 (pint) jar)

3/4 cup olive oil
juice of two lemons
leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
1/2 tsp dried red chili flakes
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
9 oz feta cheese, broken into chunks

Mix olive oil with the lemon juice, thyme and chili flakes. Put the fennel seeds and both types of peppercorns in a mortar and crush them lightly so that the spices are bruised and partly broken. Add to the oil mixture. 

Put the feta into a sterilized jar (make sure the jar is not piping hot--let it cool to warm or the feta will start to melt), and pour the oil mixture over it. Seal and keep in the refrigerator. Make sure the feta is always covered with a layer of oil and eat within two weeks. 

Recipe Note: Henry says, "The olive oil "sets" around the feta because it's being stored in the refrigerator, so let it come to room temperature before serving."

Henry says, "Fresh and green tasting, these are unlike most marinated olives, and they make a good contrast to a bowlful of inky black olives. They are especially nice as part of a mezze spread..."

Persian Marinated Olives
Recipe from Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry
(Fills 1 (pint) jar)

5 cups unpitted green olives in brine (I used a variety of green olives from the olive bar)
1 small unwaxed lemon
4 garlic cloves, sliced
about 6 sprigs of dill, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 green chiles, halved, seeded, and finely sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to seal

Make a little slit or cross in each olive (laborious, but it's the only way you can get the flavorings through the flesh). Cut the lemon into thin slices, then cut each slice into four.

Mix all  the ingredients together, then put into a sterilized jar, or if you will be eating them soon, just put them into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to marinate. Keep refrigerated and eat within one month (but cover with more oil to keep them this long).    

Notes/Results: Fabulous feta--the thyme, fennel and pepper give the cheese plenty of flavor without overpowering it. It has a nice level of peppery spice and spreads nicely onto the bread. I think this feta would be fab tossed into a green salad with the marinating liquid drizzled on as dressing. The olives are truly munchable--bright and sunny with the lemon's acidity and a kick from the chiles (I used serranos) at the finish. I love the mix of herbs in the olives--the dill plays the key role but you get the flavors of the cilantro and parsley as well. Perfect for munching on their own but, even better with the creamy feta. With both of these recipes, you will want to use a good quality olive oil as its flavor comes through. I will happily make both of these recipes again.

This post is linking up to "Stocking Your Exotic Pantry"--this week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can see the exotic pantry items everyone made by checking out the picture links on the post.



  1. The herbs and spices in both these recipes are much different than my marinated cheese and olive recipes. These sound delicious and perfect to have ready for a holiday appetizer party. Thanks, Deb.

  2. Yes, it's a sign of quality, if the olive oil sets in the fridge ;-) A lot of work for this delicious dish

  3. I don't even need dinner, just give me a bowl of these mezze and some crusty bread and I'll be happy.

  4. Everything looks so exotic and great! Wonderful!

  5. What a fabulous spread! Both the feta and the olives sound delicious but I particularly like the idea of lemon and dill with olives.

  6. You know how much I love nibbling - I would not be able to hold back on this!

  7. Hi Deb,
    Lovely mezze! Looks like the kinda of mezze that I would find in an expensive dinner in restaurants! Looks delicious and the olives sounds really good!

  8. Couscous & ConsciousnessNovember 14, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    What a sensational feast, Deb - this is my idea of the perfect meal. I've got both of these recipes bookmarked, and it's great to know that they are every bit as good as I imagined they would be. I can see a few batches of these being made in my house in the build up to Christmas.


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