March 1st is hardly the start of spring here on the East Coast. But psychologically for me, IT IS! I’m so glad to be done with winter and looking forward to spring’s wonderful bounty of fruit and veggies. No matter what the season, the one thing that always has me thinking spring, are lemons!
And there is plenty of lemon flavor in this tasty salad topper. Cubes of salty feta cheese marinate in a bath of extra virgin olive oil, tangy lemon juice & zest, spicy green peppercorns and fresh sprigs of thyme. Perfect for your cheese boards, served whole with some crusty bread and a great glass of wine, or cubed and crumbled on top of your favorite salad!
I love lemons so much, I almost don’t want to wash my hands after working with them. They offer such a crisp, clean scent and a bright burst of flavor to any recipe they adorn. Lemon and olive oil together, is a given for me. I often dress my salads with just those two ingredients. But lemon pairs really well with thyme and pepper. And it really keeps the feta tasting fresh and light.
Keep any leftover oil when you are done with the cheese. It’s perfect for cooking any of your favorite recipes that call for olive oil. As a matter of fact, when I use this cheese on my salads, I usually just spoon a little of the oil from the jar onto my greens and then add an extra squeeze of lemon on top of that. It’s such a light and refreshing way to enjoy a salad. Perfect for pasta, too! And it makes a great marinade as well.
This is a pretty versatile recipe. One in which the measurements don’t have to be exact, really. Just be sure, whether you cube it, or marinate it as a block, that you cover the cheese almost completely in oil. But here are some ways you can MAKE IT YOUR OWN:
- Use your favorite cheese. I love crumbled feta and toss it on my salads all the time. Ricotta salata, goat cheese and mozzarella are all good choices, too. A large ball of burrata would be great drizzled with some lemony thyme scented oil.
- Green, pink, white, black or a mix of peppercorns would be great. How about adding some juniper berries?
- Instead of peppercorns, spice it up with some sliced fresh chili peppers or chili pepper flakes.
- Make this even more savory with the addition of sliced shallots or minced garlic. Or how about using sun dried tomatoes and olives?
- Use any other spices you might like such as coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, or cardamom pods.
- Change up your citrus. Oranges would be lovely. Or a how about a mix of lemons, limes and oranges?
- I love thyme a lot and used it here. But dill, bay leaves, cilantro, rosemary . . . any of your favorite herbs would work well.
- If you have the inclination, you can warm your aromatics in the olive oil on gentle heat on your stove. Just be sure to let the infused oil come to room temperature before adding it to your cheese.
- 8 ounce block of good quality feta
- 2-3 teaspoons of fresh thyme (optional sprigs for the jar)
- Approximately 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- the juice and zest of 1 lemon (optional additional thin slices of lemon for the jar)
- 1 teaspoon of green peppercorns
- Cut the feta into small cubes.
- Whisk the olive oil, thyme, peppercorns and lemon juice and zest together.
- Using a mason jar or deep container with a lid, layer cubes of cheese, slices of lemon, and sprigs of thyme alternately in the jar.
- Pour the olive oil mixture over the cheese to cover completely.
- Let the cheese marinate in the refrigerator a few hours or overnight.
- Bring it to room temperature before serving.
- Keeps refrigerated for about 1-2 weeks.
All of my salads and dressings are just a starting place for your imagination. So feel free to add or swap ingredients and do what works for you!