Inviting some pals over to hang out can quickly turn stressful when you realize they’re going to expect some food. Before you reach for your phone to order delivery, take a few deep breaths. Homemade eats don’t have to be difficult. With original recipes from our Everyday Appetizers series, you can pull off showstopping starters without losing your cool.
Everyone occasionally has a lapse in judgement that spurs them to invite a swarm of guests to their house when they initially intended to keep it to a handful of people. Making a party appetizer for 15 is definitely more complicated than doing the same for four, and you can’t exactly un-invite people. In these instances, cold dips are your best bet. This one is super speedy and tastes special enough for even the most discerning palate.
About this recipe
Great appetizers rarely rely on fussy techniques or coming up with something no one has ever seen before. In most cases, simply tweaking something familiar will do the trick. For this dip, we took inspiration from two classic recipes. One is called tyrosalata, which is essentially a Greek feta spread with a bit of spicy pepper added to it. The second is a Middle Eastern appetizer called muhammara, made mostly from peppers and walnuts. By combining elements of both, you’ll wind up with something just different enough to seriously impress your friends.
Ingredients are at a minimum here, so go for the best feta and harissa you can find. Though any type of feta will work, creamier varieties will yield the best textures. French and Bulgarian varieties are particularly nice for this. Look for cheese stored as a block in brine. The pre-crumbled stuff is too dry and doesn’t have the same fresh flavor. Though some well-stocked supermarkets now carry harissa, you often have to seek it out at a store that specifically carries ingredients from the Middle East and North Africa. In some cases, the best one might not be labeled in English, so it’s helpful to ask people who work there which one they prefer.
If you’ve searched the ends of the earth for harissa with no luck, you can use some of your pantry staples to create something similar. Try mixing some paprika, cayenne, cumin, and a splash of vinegar. If you really want to go authentic, you can also make your own with this recipe from Saveur. It’ll keep for weeks in your fridge, longer if you freeze it.
Once you have your starring ingredients, the rest is easy. You’ll likely have almost everything else on hand. One note about the almonds: Make sure you’re using unsalted nuts. In most cases, it doesn’t make much of a difference, but using ones that are already seasoned for this particular dip will give you a product that’s too salty. If you can’t find roasted, unsalted nuts at your store, go for raw ones. To toast them, you can either toss them around in a hot skillet until golden and fragrant or roast them in an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
From here, the food processor takes care of things. Just be sure to chop the nuts and garlic pretty finely before adding the remaining ingredients. Once everything is puréed, choose your dippers. We like toasted pita and raw veggies for this, but you can use whatever you like. Crackers, baguette, and multi-grain bread are also great. To really stretch the spread, add some nuts and dried fruit to your serving platter as well. And don’t forget to open up a few bottles of crisp white wine. You deserve a drink.
Spicy Feta Dip
This recipe is designed to serve 6, but you can easily scale it up to feed a lot more mouths. And feel free to use other nuts as well. Walnuts, pine nuts, and hazelnuts would all work.
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- ¼ cup toasted almonds
- 8 ounces feta cheese, drained and patted dry
- 1 tablespoon harissa
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil
- Toasted pita or raw vegetables
Directions: Add garlic and almonds to a food processor. Pulse until very finely chopped, but not yet a paste. Crumble in feta, then add harissa, oregano, and lemon zest. Process until well combined. Add olive oil and process until completely smooth. Serve dip with pita or vegetables.
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