I have friends who are appetizer rock stars, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m challenged in this area. By the time I’ve planned a first course, the main event, and dessert, the appetizer becomes an afterthought. At the last minute, I’m invariably raiding the refrigerator for some forgotten olives that might be stashed away, and testing boxes of crackers to see if they’ve gone stale. Each time swearing I won’t let this happen again.
It’s not that I find appetizers daunting. This is a bandwidth issue. I need something easy that won’t steal time from preparations for the rest of the meal. After years, ok maybe even decades, of trying to present multiple impressively complicated dishes to wow friends and family, I’m trying hard to simplify my menus so I can actually spend time with my guests, and still create a memorable meal.
This little appetizer was inspired by one I saw in Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Time Cookbook a couple of years ago, and is still one of my favorites. Assuming I remember to pick up a block of feta cheese and some Point Reyes Blue, the other ingredients are standard pantry items in my kitchen. It only takes a few minutes to pull together, and hits the notes of rustic elegance I like. I serve it with a variety of crackers and some of those olives I always have hanging around the refrigerator. If you’re looking for a last minute appetizer for tonight, or any night, this might fit the bill.
Honeyed Warm Feta with Dates
Serves 4 – 5 people
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 7 – 10 minutes
- 1 block feta cheese
- Coarsely ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons blue cheese (I use Pt. Reyes Blue)
- 2 tablespoons honey, divided (preferably Orange Blossom)
- 5 – 6 dates
- Fresh thyme
- Your favorite crackers
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. A toaster oven works great for this. Line a baking sheet with foil, and place the block of feta on it. Grind a few twists of pepper over the top. Bake for five to seven minutes, or until softened.
Remove and crumble the blue cheese over the top, and drizzle with one tablespoon of honey. Slide back into the oven for another couple of minutes to melt the blue cheese.
Remove, sprinkle the dates on top, drizzle with the remaining honey, and sprinkle on the thyme as a finishing touch.
Serve with your favorite crackers.