I know I gravitate towards all things pork, and often I hear readers wanting something vegetarian. I'm trying! It's just that the scent of bacon is like a siren song, beckoning.
In any case, this is a completely meat-free sandwich that is absolutely stupendous. I had some sesame-crusted, fried feta pieces in Greektown in Chicago years ago as a Northwestern student. The cheese had a pebbly, delicately crunchy exterior that gave way to a warm, creamy, velvety interior. This week, I was toying with a chilled feta and watermelon salad, but all of a sudden, recalled the Greektown special.
In this recipe, feta slices are set in the freezer for 15 minutes, which allows them to hold up during coating and frying. Not to worry, the cheese will warm and slightly melt whilst it cooks. The frozen cheese is dipped in beaten eggs, then dredged in a combination of sesame seeds, bright and hot Aleppo pepper flakes, and lemony ground coriander.
There's more. Plump, sultry figs are for the getting in the produce aisle and what more natural pairing than ripe fruit and briny cheese? I quickly cook the figs in butter, fresh oregano leaves, and honey to make a quick jam-like mixture that melts and oozes with the crisp cheese. For a final punch of flavor, that ties everything together with a figurative birthday present bow: small, salty, tart olives are tucked into pita pockets along with the other ingredients.
- 12 ounces feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 fresh figs (about 8 ounces), trimmed and quartered lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 small pitas
- 1/3 cup small pitted black olives
Slice feta cheese into 8 (approximately 1/2-inch thick) slices. Arrange slices in single layer on large plate and place in freezer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat and cook until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add figs and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Cook until figs soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in honey and remove from heat.
Beat eggs in medium bowl. Combine sesame seeds, Aleppo, and coriander in large plate. Once feta has chilled, dip in eggs and coat evenly on all sides with sesame seeds. Transfer to plate.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Fry feta until golden on both sides, turning carefully with tongs, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate.
Trim off top 1/3 of each pita and carefully open pocket. Fill each pocket with 2 sticks fried feta, 1/4 of figs, and 1/4 of olives. Serve warm.
large skillet, small saucepan, tongs