Cheese and crackers

The last weekend of August is about to kick off, and I still haven’t accepted that September is only a few days away. Although rain and cool weather are forecast for most of the weekend, that won’t stop me from getting as much outdoors-y time as I can, maybe even at the beach, and trying to get in as many last-minute summer dishes as I have time to make and space in my stomach for before I give in to fall, apples, sweaters, squash, spices, tea.IMG_0032 (1)

With that said, sometimes my food plans just come down to getting lucky with finding a recipe to fit the random ingredients I have on hand. I had one lone chunk of brined feta languishing in my fridge, a ton of tiny tomatoes begging to be eaten, a bunch of oregano that was going wilty, and half a jar of salty olives leftover from salad last week when I saw the recipe for mediterranean baked feta with tomatoes from one of my favorite food blogs. Perfect. The original is baked in the oven, but as I said, I will take as many opportunities to fire up the grill as I can possibly wrangle before the sunlight and temperature abandon me.IMG_0007 (1)

And since I didn’t actually have any crackers or bread in the apartment to go with this (blasphemy for me), I figured, what the heck, and made some crackers too. That may sound like a ridiculous over-achiever statement, but they’re actually incredibly fast, and nearly impossible to screw up, which is why I like them. You can adapt the flavors however you like, top with sesame or other seeds, fresh or dried herbs, whatever fits your fancy.IMG_0016

With that, I won’t say goodbye to summer quite yet as I’m sure there are still a few warm days ahead for which I will be grateful, but I also will stop fighting the coming of fall and the intangible change in the clear blue sky, the edging of red I’m starting to spy on some leaves.

Bring it on, fall, bring it on.


Roasted Garlic Crackers
As long as you keep the proportion of fat, water, and flour the same, the flavor variations are infinite: dried (1-2 teaspoons) or fresh (1-2 tablespoons) herbs mixed into the dough or sprinkled over the top, spice blends,or hard cheese like parmesan would all be fantastic.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
5 cloves roasted garlic, mashed into a paste
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil, plus a tablespoon or two for brushing (If you have leftover oil from roasting the garlic, use it as part of the 1/3 cup of oil)
Flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a baking sheet or pizza stone on the center rack of the oven.

In a bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, and salt. Add the garlic, water, and oil and gently stir together until the dough forms a rough ball; knead a few times, divide in half, and wrap each half with plastic wrap and let rest for about 5  minutes.

On a sheet of parchment paper, roll out one piece of dough as thin as you can make it–no need to worry about the shape. Brush with a little bit of oil and lightly sprinkle with the sea salt. If you’d like cracker-shaped crackers, lightly score the dough with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Slide the parchment onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, checking after 8 to avoid burning. Remove crackers to a cooling rack, replace pan in the oven, and repeat the process with the second half of the dough.

Grilled Feta and Tomato Salad
Modified from Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Olives from Smitten Kitchen. This is somewhere between a salad, a dip, and a cheese spread, and is basically just delicious.

1 1/3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (reserve a few leaves for serving)
2 teaspoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
4- to 5-ounce block of feta, in brine if available
1/4-1/3 cup whole walnuts (not pictured, but I added them to the leftovers that I reheated in the oven; they got nice and toasty and the crunch was great)

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Double up a piece of foil and place feta (drained and patted dry, if it’s brined) in the center of the foil, turning up the edges to create a little boat. In a bowl, stir together the tomatoes, olives, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the cheese, top with walnuts, and grill for about 15 minutes until the cheese and tomatoes are slightly softened and the juices are bubbly. Top with the reserved oregano and serve with warm pitas, crackers, or just eat it with a spoon (I admit nothing). You can add more tomatoes to any leftovers and rewarm in the oven.

(If you don’t have a grill, or it’s the time of year when grilling isn’t convenient, bake everything in an ovenproof dish at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.)

2 thoughts on “Cheese and crackers

  1. Are you sure you shouldn’t be going to culinary school? I read these blogs and think this is like an episode of top chef or chopped. The wonderful things you create with ingredients you have on hand is quite impressive. Oh what cooking school could do for you.


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