The last time I made Baked Feta, my friend Larissa left a suggestion in my comments box: turn the entire ramekin of cheesy, tomato-y goodness out onto a bed of leaves. Not only did this idea sound like a fabulous way to spice up a salad, but it came from The Sainted Larissa, so I knew it had to be good.
You could probably use some background here, huh? In highschool, Larissa used to host elaborate dinner parties for all of our friends; addictive appetizers, salads, mains and a dessert spread to rival Martha Stewart were usually on the menu. (Our friend Margaux can vouch for this too.) Lest you think I’m exaggerating this girl’s talent, don’t: she was teaching cooking classes by the age of 16, I kid you not.
The Sainted Larissa wasn’t a name she used for herself, of course. As well as being culinarily gifted, Larissa is also unfailingly modest. No, this was my sister‘s title for my friend. A keen chef herself, Hilary was slightly jealous of Larissa, and would corner me the morning after one of these parties, demanding a run-down on the evening’s spoils. I usually brought her a goodie bag of dessert samples, which I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she examined and deconstructed in an elaborate attempt to decipher Larissa’s secrets. (Not that I have proof of that, of course.) So, “The Sainted” became Larissa’s title in my sister’s books, born out of one-sided competition and a touch of bitterness.
I was planning to make this for lunch yesterday for another old friend. Fiona was staying with us for one night, on her way back to Canada from a ten day pilgrimage in Israel. She filled me in on all the delicious food she’d eaten while away, but confessed to be craving carbs. Uh oh- suddenly my Larissa-approved gourmet lunch didn’t look so promising.
After mulling it over for a while, I decided to add some cooked farro (you’ll recall that I love farro), to the salad part of the dish. As well as the longed-for carbs, I changed up the recipe in a few other ways, too. I left out (um, forgot) the onion and oregano, though it didn’t matter too much. As per Larissa’s suggestion, I added some olives to the mix, along with a bit of leftover goat’s cheese that I had in the fridge, both of which upped the flavour here.
When I served this, a strange phenomenon occurred: Fiona and I sat in silence as we worked our way through our bowls. For two friends who live in separate countries, one of whom has just been on the adventure of a lifetime, you’ll agree that this is a little unusual. While I can’t be sure what Fiona was thinking, I, like my sister with her bag of desserts all those years ago, was quietly appreciating Larissa’s genius. Without the competitive undertone, of course- I really have no hope there.
- Baked Feta over Spinach and Farro Salad
- serves 2
- Baked Feta
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup crumbled soft goat’s cheese
1 medium tomato, de-seeded and chopped roughly
2 Tbs. chopped sundried or sunblush tomatoes
2 Tbs. chopped black or green olives (pitted)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
pinch of chili flakes
pinch of sea salt
Spinach and Farro Salad
1/2 cup uncooked farro, rinsed
3 cups fresh spinach, washed
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. lemon juice
sea salt and black pepper
- 1. Start by putting a pot of water on to boil, and preheating your oven to 200°C/385°F. When the water boils, salt it lightly and add the farro. Boil for 25 minutes, until tender but still slightly chewy.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the Baked Feta. Gently mix together all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Lightly coat the insides of two ramekins with olive oil, and divide the mixture between them. Cover with tin foil and bake for 15-20 minutes, until bubbling. Let cool for 3 minutes.
3. When the farro is done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water. Add to a bowl with the spinach, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss everything to coat and season to taste.
4. Distribute the salad mixture between two bowls or plates, and carefully invert the (now slightly cooled, though you will still need an oven mitt) over the top. Serve immediately.