How to make Greek Whipped Feta (Tyrosalata)
It’s been a while since our last post, isn’t it? We’re getting close to Valentine’s and besides posting this wonderful roundup for 10 hearty soups and stews that was really popular, we haven’t had the time to properly sit down and write another recipe post.
This has been a very busy period. Moreover, during the Holidays we were both under the weather and took us quite some time to recover. We spent most of the last 1,5 months staying inside, cooking lots of soups and making various comfort foods to brighten our mood:)
Of course, during the Christmas period, we made the classic Greek chicken avgolemono soup and some other traditional dishes to enjoy them at home. Since however, we were sick, we enjoyed them just ourselves, without any friends or family this year. After all, it’s hard to have people over with a runny nose and sneezing at regular intervals. :)
So, we spent the New Year’s Eve watching live feeds on the internet, with 2018 arriving at different places around the world and the fireworks/celebrations which in some cases were spectacular! We especially enjoyed Sydney, Pyongyang, Hong Kong and Dubai. It was too late for us to stay up for NYC celebrations, unfortunately, due to the time difference. We also cut the traditional vasilopita New Year’s pie but didn’t do the whole pomegranate smashing and the rest of the traditional things that go with it.
On the positive side, we had the excuse to lay down and enjoy lots of movies and series and catch up with our reading (finished Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, both of us big fans). It wasn’t until about a week, after 2018 arrived, that we had a chance to actually get out of the house and do something, go somewhere.
We went –yes you may guess this- to Steni, in Evia which is less than a couple hours from Athens. This short trip was magnificent though. We left very early in the morning and enjoyed the sunrise on the road. The morning mist over the hills and meadows created an astonishing scenery and part of it can be seen in some of the photos of this post. When we arrived at the village, some of the Holiday decorations were still on, like the one in the photo with the elves. :)
Walking in small paths inside the village, so early in the morning, when everything is so peaceful and quiet is truly beautiful. We had a wonderful coffee in a small café where the fireplace was already on, and the sounds of cracking wood and crackling fire were the only ones in the room. We had our coffee watching the mountain above the village’s square with the pine trees and the heavy clouds sitting on its top.
After this small break, we went up the slopes to see some snow. There was some, but we mostly enjoyed walking in the forest for a while. Close to the summit, the forest is so untouched, with beautiful trees that remind one of Middle-Earth. Underneath, deadwood provides a place for moss and lichens to grow, creating a colorful carpet. You can hear small streams of crystal clear water heading down the mountain and a variety of birds singing all around you. It’s nature at its finest.
Clean Monday and Lent
The rest of January flew by us without even realizing it, with tons of work and other activities. So, we got almost to mid-February for posting this. Besides Valentine’s, which is now around the corner – and is relatively a new tradition for Greeks, which started being celebrated around 1990- another important day that’s approaching is Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday). This day marks the beginning of Lent.
Lent and Sarakosti (the 40 days period before Easter) is a big deal for Greeks, with a rich culinary tradition. You can read more about this here, in this article with some old recipes. However, before the Lent begins, there’s Tsiknopempti which has just passed (it was last Thursday).
Tsiknopempti literally means “Smoked Thursday”. On this day, Greeks have a huge meat-eating feast, with grilled meats, mostly cooked outdoors on charcoal grills. The logic behind this is that in 11 days the Lent is going to begin, so it’s an opportunity to enjoy as much meat as you like ahead of the fasting period that follows. In this day, if you step outside, in most neighborhoods you will smell grilled chicken, pork, steaks, sausages, lamb and other similar delicacies:) Most people celebrate this with friends and family, right after getting back from work, so the grills are mostly fired up for dinner, which makes this a truly special weeknight.
Speaking of Tsiknopempti, one of the most favorite Greek appetizers/spreads for accompanying grilled meats is the Tyrosalata whipped feta. Since we often make this at home, especially when we fire up the barbecue, we thought we should share this on the blog.
What is Tyrosalata? Tyrosalata literally means “cheese salad”, and it’s an easy to make spread/dip that is very often served as an appetizer or as is used as a condiment in sandwiches here in Greece. It’s basically whipped feta where with healthy ingredients added! You may also hear variations of this called ktipiti/htipiti (meaning whipped), or tyrokafteri (meaning Spicy Hot Cheese). Tyrokafteri is a version of tyrosalata that includes chili peppers, making it really spicy. If it comes too spicy, some people add yogurt to balance the heat.
But let’s get back to the classic tyrosalata whipped feta, which is not spicy. Tyrosalata is one of these old-school peasant’s foods, that people used to make all the time to serve as a snack or to accompany a drink, like wine or ouzo. It’s one of those dishes you can prepare in a couple of minutes with very few ingredients, making it perfect for any occasion.
Ourselves, we both have memories as kids, mashing some feta with a fork, and adding extra virgin olive oil, garlic and ground pepper, making this way, a quick, yummy snack to serve on crusty bread or rusks.
About the Recipe
The main ingredient for tyrosalata is really good quality feta cheese. When we write about feta in our recipes we always mean the real thing. Feta made from sheep’s (or mixed sheep’s and goat’s) milk. This feta has a stronger flavor and sour undertones and it’s perfect when combined with good olive oil and herbs. Make sure to buy high-quality feta for trying this out.
The recipe in this post makes a classic, simple tyrosalata. You can start from this, and then make countless more complex variations, by adding your favorite herbs or spices. You can also make this chunky or smooth, depending on your preferences. We like the tyrosalata a bit chunky ourselves, this way we find that we can really appreciate the feta. In this post, we used a food processor for making tyrosalata but if you don’t have one, don’t you worry; simply mince the garlic,use a fork and keep stirring, until everything has been mashed together.
This tyrosalata is made with whipped feta, without using cream cheese. Cream cheese is not traditionally used in Greece and versions that include it are not truly authentic. We find that it makes tyrosalata less cheesy and more buttery, and you lose some of the flavors of feta and olive oil. The tyrosalata of this post is a whipped feta with Greek yogurt version. Yogurt acts as a thickener and helps to incorporate the olive oil in the dip, just as it does in tzatziki (where it also absorbs the olive oil).
Like mentioned above, you can make many versions of this. Two of our favorite ones is one where you add just a little chili flakes and another one where you add roasted sweet red peppers. Some people also like to add a few drops of fresh lemon juice, but we don’t find that this adds much flavor.
How to serve Tyrosalata
You can serve tyrosalata as part of an appetizers platter or by itself. Make sure to have some rusks, crostini, bruschetta, crusty bread or breadsticks for one to spread this on. If you have some ouzo somewhere in your place, do try this together; it’s a beautiful combination.
Tyrosalata is also an amazing condiment for snacks, like sandwiches, or wraps (try it with burritos or fajitas)! You can also use it in burgers instead of mayo-based sauces. If you haven’t done this before, you’re in for a treat!
You can also serve tyrosalata atop of grilled chicken breasts, or as a side for pork or chicken skewers. It’s also amazing with steaks! If vegetarian, you can try this with fried veggies, like zucchini fritters. The combination is out of this world!
Finally, this is a perfect dip for crackers, crostini, tortilla chips, pita bread or fresh veggies, like carrot, cucumber or celery sticks. Make sure to make enough, as people will ask for more!
So let’s see how to make this easy and delicious whipped feta treat!
- 200g / 7oz high quality feta cheese
- 110g / 4oz (6 tablespoons) Greek yogurt
- 1/2 - 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
- pinch of chili flakes (optional)
- pinch of fresh thyme (optional, for serving)
Add the feta in a bowl of a food processor, fitted with the blade attachment (pic. 1) and add the Greek yogurt (pic. 2).
Add the olive oil (pic. 3) and the minced garlic (pic. 4).
Add the oregano (pic. 5) and chili flakes (if using) and pulse for a 10-20 seconds at low speed (pic. 6).
Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed (pic. 7) and pulse again for another 20 seconds, until relatively smooth (pic. 8).
Serve on toasted bread, bruschetta or crostini, perhaps topped with halved cherry tomatoes and/or olives. Alternatively, serve as a dip with crackers, tortilla chips, vegetable sticks, or broiled pita bread. You can also use it as a condiment for your sandwiches or burgers!
1. You can make this a day ahead and it will taste even better on the next day! Just keep in the fridge covered with cling film or in a sealed container.
2. As mentioned, you can serve this as an appetizer, a dip, a condiment for sandwiches or burgers, or even on the side of roasted chicken, pork, steaks or fried veggies (like zucchini fritters).
3. You can add roasted red sweet peppers to make an equally delicious version of this.
4. You can add chili flakes or sliced jalapenos to turn this into a spicy dip.
5. You can process the mixture for 1 full minute or more, if you prefer a smooth, non-chunky version of the spread.