When I was 15, my family took a trip to Greece. It is, to this day, my favorite country I’ve visited in Europe. Everything about it- the food, the countryside, the places we stayed- was amazing. I can’t believe that trip was eleven years ago and I’m still reveling in it!
Greek food has always been one of my favorite cuisines, but it really made the top of my list after that trip. Most of the restaurants we visited were complete hole in the walls. We’d arrive at a restaurant and the owners would lead us to the kitchen to show us the dishes on the stove and in the oven. Meaning, what was on the menu that day! We’d point and say which ones we wanted, and then they’d bring out a feast.
Since that trip I’m always thrilled to find small, family run Greek operations in the States. Nothing fancy, no frills, just really solid and traditional Greek food. At my old job, I was lucky enough to have one of these spots right down the street. It was called Vaso’s and I can’t tell you how many times I stuffed myself over lunch at this spot. I could not get enough of their Greek salads, dips, stuffed pita sandwiches, and fried haloumi cheese. One of the dips I enjoyed most with this spicy feta dip that was light red in color. Paired with hot pita bread, I could have eaten mountains of this stuff.
Since our move I’ve yet to discover a Greek restaurant in New York that makes this dip. I’m sure it’s out there, but in the mean time I set out to create my own version at home. After much research, I finally found a recipe that sounded quite similar to what they served at Vaso’s. I also decided to make homemade pita bread to go with, since I’d read how simple it was to make. Store bought pita would be just as good with this recipe, just make sure to warm up the pitas in the oven a bit before serving. The dip itself takes zero time to put together, making it perfect for a dinner party appetizer, or in our case- a snack to last us through the week!
Spicy Feta and Red Pepper Dip adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes about 2 cups
- 8 oz feta cheese
- 1 6 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until mostly smooth. Pour dip into a dish and refrigerate for an hour before serving. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of cayenne pepper and parsley (if desired) before serving.
Homemade Whole Wheat Pita Bread
For the pita bread, I followed Gourmet’s recipe exactly. It’s not a difficult bread recipe, but after making it myself I have a few tips that will hopefully provide a smoother experience for you!
- Be sure to use fresh bread flour. This makes a difference in the lightness of the dough and bread.
- This dough requires a lot of “warm spots” to rise. It used my oven a lot for this since it’s the dead of winter and there aren’t many warm spots in my apartment, even with the heat on! I would turn my own to around 100 degrees, let it warm up a bit, put the bowl inside, and then turn the oven off. Just make sure the oven only feels slightly warm, not hot enough to cook anything.
- The cooking time for the pitas is very short. In order to ensure your dough cooks properly during this period, it needs to be very thin. Be sure it’s rolled out well before you put it in the oven.