Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tomatoes Roasted with Bulgarian Feta--It Must be Bulgarian

Three weeks ago, when my niece was visiting us, our daily conversations were often going back to the memories of our childhoods. And, when we were talking about those old good days, the food we ate then was inevitably coming up as one of the best childhood memories. There is almost a two-decade age gap between us--she was raised on Nutella, which I did not know as a child--but surprisingly we loved and missed almost the same food. We recalled many dishes that we do not eat that often any more, because they require too much work or some specific ingredients which are hard to obtain outside Europe. We both agreed that Polish green and yellow beans, Polish small and crispy cucumbers, and our red sweet and fleshy tomatoes were probably among the best in the world.

One day, while talking about tomatoes and their variety available at the Polish farmers' markets, a dish, which is Bulgarian in origin, came to our minds. It required the very best tomatoes and the Bulgarian feta cheese. I once made a similar dish long ago. My niece used to have it often when her mother (my cousin) was making frequent business trips to Bulgaria and in a trunk of her car she was bringing canned Bulgarian cheese, which she later used to make this dish. We decided to make it ourselves again.

The next morning we rushed to my local Middle Eastern grocery store. They often sell very good tomatoes and three types of Feta cheese: French, Greek and most importantly Bulgarian, which the recipe is calling for. We bought all the necessary ingredients and in the evening in no time our dinner was ready. We sat on the deck and with a warm baguette and a glass of wine we indulged ourselves with an aromatic dish and talked even more about the old good times

Last week, I prepared the roasted tomatoes with feta again. Unfortunately, I did not have the original Bulgarian feta at home and the one I used, turned into small curds--a very undesirable effect. So if you get encouraged by my post to make this dish, I strongly advice you to get a real Bulgarian feta. And when you serve it together with white bread and red wine I guarantee you will enjoy it very much on a cool autumn evening.

Tomatoes Roasted with Bulgarian Feta
(Serves four as a side dish or two to three as a main dish)

3-4 large beefsteak tomatoes, very ripe but not too soft. Good Roma tomatoes (about 6-8 of them) would do as well,
4-5 long hot peppers,
6-10 garlic cloves (depending on your taste),

1 lb (half a kilogram) of Bulgarian feta cheese,
1 branch of rosemary,
a small bunch of thyme,

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil,
freshly ground pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut tomatoes in quarter and remove stems. Lay out about half of them on the bottom of a medium oven proof dish with a lid.
3. Cut the feta into thick slices and lay them on top of tomatoes. Cover it with the remaining tomatoes and whole hot peppers
4. Add garlic cloves and whole branches of herbs. Season with freshly ground peeper and pour the olive oil on top.

5. Cover the dish with a lid. Bake it covered all the time for about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool down, and remove the lid to let the steam out.

Serve with white baguette and, at the end, dip it in the oil.