Bouyiourdi is a brilliant appetizer my family and I enjoyed while on the mainland of Greece. Making our way north, we were staying in the town of Kalambaka and had spent the afternoon cheering cyclists through the town square who were continuing up the mountain to the race finish line which was at the top of one of the largest monastic complexes in the world, Meteora.
What a great time we had! Our hotel was smack dab right on the race route giving us great seats. The cyclists were so close we could almost touch them as they flew by us. Each rider was closely followed by their coach, father or friend in the tiniest cars you’ve ever seen. We laughed and laughed as the support passenger in each car hung out of the window shouting encouraging words to their cyclist while smoking CIGARETTES. To this day I do not know how those racers were able to draw breath. No small feat between the car exhaust and cigarette smoke. When all the race participants had passed by, we decided a light dinner was in order. Off we went, on foot, to discover another lilliputian jewel of a restaurant. And, believe me, they are everywhere tourists are not. As we walked up the mountain we took in the local Greek architecture and marveled at the flora. You know, when you think of Greece you think of bougainvillea or plumbago, both hot climate flowers, never roses but there they were. Gorgeous, fat roses climbing up sides of buildings and gas lamp poles. Lovely!
After a pleasant stroll through town, there it was, the restaurant of the night. I don’t know the name of the restaurant but I sure do recall having this dish, bouyiourdi. Served with a few other appetizers, it will feed 4-6 people. Scaled down, this could easily be lunch or dinner for one. Bouyiourdi is always served with hot, crunchy bread, pulled apart at the table. It is the perfect dish during Lent or when one is eating lighter with its generous chunks of meaty tomatoes and subtle kick from sliced, hot peppers. All feta cheese in Greece is true feta, meaning that it is made from sheep or goat milk, NEVER cow milk. In this dish the feta is cut into 1/4 inch slices, draped over fat nuggets of tomato and pepper rings, bathed in olive oil and, after a light shower of hot pepper flakes, is baked until warm and creamy.
Perfect to spread on a hunk of bread just torn from the loaf. And the juices at the bottom of the bowl are eye-rolling good. Greece is full of surprises and this is one of them. Kali orexi!
Greek Baked Feta Dip
- 4-5 ripe tomatoes, cut into large, bite size pieces
- 1 long hot pepper, also known as Italian Long Hots, sliced into thin rings, seeds discarded
- 8 ounces sheep’s milk feta cheese, NOT crumbled. I use Vigo brand and it can be found at Publix in the dairy section
- red pepper flakes
- good olive oil
- hot, crunchy bread, to serve
- Pre-heat oven to 400°. Cover a 9-inch or 10-inch round oven proof dish with non-stick spray and set aside. I often use two 5-inch rounds and serve one dish at a time.
- Cover bottom of baking dish with cut tomatoes and most of the pepper rings. Reserve 6-7 for the top of the dip.
- Cut the feta in 1/4-inch slices and cover the tomatoes with them. It’s fine if they overlap a bit.
- Sprinkle feta with red pepper flakes to your liking. They do lose some of their heat while baking but, keep in mind, the long hot rings bring some heat to the dish, also.
- Top with the remaining pepper rings.
- Drizzle generously with olive oil. I use anywhere from 3/4 cup to 1 cup.
- Cover tightly with tin foil. Crimp edges as firmly as possible and bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes prior to serving.
- Serve with hot, crunchy bread.