With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, now seems a great time to pause and give a nod to some of the heavy lifters of this upcoming season of entertaining and enjoying a nosh here, there, and everywhere. Appetizers and snacks are pretty foundational and we're taking a little time to dig into a few favorites that will be equally at home at a tailgate party, on the Thanksgiving table, or set out for any of the multiple holiday visits - at your home or elsewhere - that the seaon brings with it. We begin with a stunning spread featuring baked feta, tomatoes, garlic, chickpeas, and herbs swimming in a swirl of seasoned olive oil. It's downright decadent without being so fussy you'll find yourself overwhelmed. I love making it multiple times during the last couple months of the year.
I used red grape tomatoes (left whole), yellow heirloom tomatoes (coarsely chopped), and sundried tomatoes in oil (chopped) to give the dish a lot of variety in flavor, color, and texture. If you want, you can swirl everything together after baking, but I prefer to let it cool a bit and then include a butter knife or spreader for the feta along with a spoon for choosing a combination of tomatoes and chickpeas to nestle onto the warm cheese.
I love getting a dense baguette and cutting it relatively thin for serving alongside this spread. Toasted pita or flatbread also work well for this. Pick what will make you and your guests happiest. This spread is gluten free, so if you opt for a gluten free dipper, it can make a rather delightful appetizer for those working around allergies and that can be a gift unto itself during a holiday season that can get challenging when trying to avoid certain allergens. Consider it a gift that can keep on giving through the rest of the year!
- 8 ounce block feta
- ½ cup high quality olive oil
- 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes or chopped tomatoes (or any combination of them)
- 1 cup chopped sundried tomatoes in oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill, basil, or rosemary, or a mix)
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped arugula
- Balsamic glaze, for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Set the feta in the middle of a 9×7-inch or other 2-quart baking dish. Pour the olive oil over it and around the pan. Add the tomatoes to the olive oil. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the garlic, about a half a teaspoon of kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper and toss to coat with the oil.
Roast for 15 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to release some of their juices. Add the chickpeas, chopped herbs, and chopped arugular to the tomatoes around the feta, plus more salt and pepper, stirring to coat them with the oil. Return pan to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes to heat the chickpeas and further roast the chickpeas and tomatoes.
Transfer the dish to the broiler part of your oven. Broil for about 5 to 8 minutes or until the tomatoes and feta brown just a bit. Allow to cool enough to eat without risk of burning skin.
To serve, drizzle liberally with the balsamic glaze and spoon some of the feta with each serving of the chickpeas and tomatoes onto thin slices of bread, flatbread, pita, or hearty crackers.
- Yields: 12 servings
- Preparation Time: 40 minutes