Baked feta and walnut salad

Baked feta and walnut salad

We live in a rural area of New Zealand where the climate is very similar to the Mediterranean region — with lots of long, dry sunny days. Not surprisingly, some of the most important crops grown in this region are the same sorts of crops grown throughout the Mediterranean, such as grapes (used primarily to make wine), garlic, lemons and olives. In fact, we have a winery at the end of our road, and the olive branch on the cover of our cookbook was picked by me from a local olive grove.

To add to the Mediterranean feel of the area, we also live very close to a sheep’s milk dairy farm. You’ve probably eaten feta cheese made from cow’s milk, but did you know that feta is traditionally made from sheep’s milk? But don’t be concerned if you can’t track down sheep’s milk feta, because I’m glad to report that cow’s and sheep’s milk feta taste very similar.

We use feta all the time in our cooking, because it adds a robust flavor and a delightful creamy texture to a wide range of Greek dishes. When feta is baked it tastes especially good because it forms a golden crust on the outside while staying soft and delicate on the inside. A great way to enjoy baked feta is scattered in salads, and this recipe combines baked feta with crunchy walnuts, crispy salad vegetables and a tangy lemon garlic dressing.

In smaller amounts this salad can be served as an appetizer or a side dish. But in larger amounts — and with the addition of a little crusty bread and a glass of good quality wine — it makes a deliciously simple and healthy meal in its own right.

Baked Feta and Walnut Salad
Serves 4
A rustic Greek-style salad with baked feta cheese, walnuts, mixed salad leaves, thinly sliced fresh radish and zucchini, tossed with a tangy lemon garlic dressing.
2 teaspoons plus 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 oz (170g) feta cheese — cut into small cubes
⅔ cup raw walnuts
1 clove garlic — crushed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
6 cups mixed salad leaves of your choice — washed and shaken dry
2 radishes — very thinly sliced
1 zucchini — very thinly sliced
PREHEAT the oven to 350°F/180°C. MIX 2 teaspoons of olive oil with the dried oregano and black pepper in a bowl and toss through the cubed feta cheese to coat well. ARRANGE the feta cubes on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. BAKE in the oven for 10 minutes. PLACE the walnuts on a separate baking tray and bake for the final 3 minutes of cooking, then roughly chop. PLACE the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt in a jar with a lid and shake to combine. PLACE the salad leaves, radish slices and zucchini slices in a salad bowl and toss with half the dressing to coat. SCATTER over the baked feta and walnuts and drizzle with the remaining dressing to serve.