Feta cheese

fetatomatosaladFeta cheese and late-summer vegetables go hand-in-hand.

One of my favorite late summer dishes is too simple to even be called a recipe.  Chunk up some fresh garden vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and even leftover cooked corn or green beans.  Crumble some feta cheese on top and add salt and pepper to taste.  A bit of minced fresh basil is also a great addition.  You don’t even need dressing, although a sprinkle of olive oil and splash of fresh lemon juice would be enough.  No gooey dressings please!

Feta cheese is great on salads anytime.  It’s easy to use and now widely available, in chunk or crumbled form.  How does it stack up nutritionally?  Actually that’s a bit hard to say, since there are many different types of feta.  While the grocery store varieties are typically made with cow’s milk, you can find sheep’s milk or goat’s milk feta in speciality grocery stores.  Then there’s fat content.  Some feta is non-fat, so the calories are lower.  But the consistency will be quite different, more chewy (rubbery?), while higher fat feta will be creamy.  Fat content will certainly affect the flavor; it will also affect whether it melts when heated, such as on pizza.

1 oz cheese  calories   fat    calcium   protein   sodium
Feta           75       6 g    140 mg       4 g    260 mg
Cheddar       115      9.5 g   190  mg      7 g    180 mg

Feta is lower in calories, protein and fat per ounce of cheese, mainly because it has a higher water content.  It does have a higher sodium content.  One way to compensate for that is to eat feta with low sodium/high potassium vegetables like tomatoes or greens.  Another strategy is to avoid adding salt to your summer salad.  Fresh basil, fresh oregano, pepper and even a bit of fresh mint all give the salad a lovely flavor.

Random Feta Facts

  • According to EU rules, only cheese made in certain regions of Greece can be officially labeled “feta”.  Nevertheless feta is made is many other places, such as Bulgaria and France.
  • The traditional recipe uses 30% goat’s milk and the rest sheep’s milk.
  • Feta flavors will vary according to where it’s made and what the animals eat.

My preference is feta made from sheep’s milk rather than the more common cow’s milk versions.  In my opinion, it’s creamier and has a nicer flavor.  It’s also more expensive, so if you’d rather not spend the money, there’s a variety of cow’s milk feta brands available.

Of course there are other ways to use feta.  Put it in wraps with fresh chopped vegetables, add it to vegetable pizza, use it in bean salads to boost protein or use as a topping for pasta.  There are many other possibilities.  Check out more recipe ideas from the OliveTomato website.

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