Quick Marinated Feta with Orange, Mint and Aleppo Pepper – Recipe

Quick Marinated Feta with Orange Zest, Mint and Aleppo Pepper

Here’s about as easy an appetizer as you could want for a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean meal or cocktail party spread.  We’ll just make a quick marinade of good olive oil with garlic, Aleppo pepper, orange zest and fresh mint, pour it over the top of a block of feta cheese and serve it forth with lightly toasted pita bread.

By the way, I’m calling this marinated because that seems to be the convention, but really it is more like “dressed”. You can put the dressing on earlier if you want, but it doesn’t really sink into the cheese and you don’t need it to. Your diners will spread the cheese and dressing onto the pita and the flavors will all come together on their palate.

It is worth exploring the different varieties of feta. For example, at Seattle’s Pacific Food Importers (aka Big John’s), you might find a creamy Bulgarian variety, a French sheepsmilk feta and a couple of domestic brands. Whole Foods normally has a couple of options, including a nice one from Mt. Vikos. Whichever feta you choose, pat off any surface moisture and allow it to come up to a cool room temperature before serving. If you serve cheese at refrigerator temperature, much of the flavor is muted.

Aleppo pepper is grown in what used to be the Jewish part of Syria. It has a gorgeous dark red color and earthy, robust, slightly fruity flavor that I love. If you can’t get your hands on it, use regular chili flakes.

A more typical Middle Eastern version of this marinade would actually use dried mint, and you can feel free to do that if you like. The flavor is quite different than fresh, but equally interesting.

Quick Marinated Feta with Orange Zest, Mint and Aleppo Pepper
Vegetarian and gluten free

  • 2 tablespoons best quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 big pinch Aleppo pepper or chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (from about 1/2 orange)
  • 8 mint leaves (chiffonade) or 1 teaspoon dried mint (rub to release flavor)
  • 7 ounces feta
  • 3 pita breads cut into 1/8th rounds and lightly toasted in the oven
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes, orange zest and mint.
  2. Put the feta on a plate in one large piece and pour the marinade over it.
  3. Serve at cool room temperature with the toasted pita.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, January 16th, 2012 in Appetizers, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Recipes, Seattle.

17 Responses to “Quick Marinated Feta with Orange, Mint and Aleppo Pepper – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    Lovely idea and very pretty too. I’ve done something quite similar with a lemon based dressing in the past but orange does sound – and look – really good.

  2. Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    So many flavors that I love in this!

  3. Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Oh! I didn’t know the English name for that until now! We have a ton of it at home- from Turkey, where it’s called ‘pul biber’. I am hopelessly addicted to it.

  4. Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    How easy and quick! Saving the recipe. Pacific Food Importers is a great place to shop, agree. Can’t wait for our return to Seattle. Until then your blog keeps me somewhat in the area. Thank you!

  5. Reply
    January 16, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    I made this tonight. The only change for me was to add a little orange juice from the orange that I zested. It was a little too bitter for me without it, and the smell of the mint made the prospect of a little orange juice somehow irresistible.

    It was fantastic!

    • Reply
      January 17, 2012 at 8:47 am #

      That sounds like an interesting variation!

  6. Reply
    January 17, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Just wanted to note you can find aleppo pepper at penzey’s, either in a local shop or online, here: link to penzeys.com

    Not affiliated, just a happy customer.

    Thanks for the lovely recipe!

  7. Reply
    January 21, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    I made this last night for a last-minute get-together with friends. Folks loved it. My only critiques are (a) it needed more mint, at least more “mint of the kind you can get in New England in January.” If I made it again, I’d double the amount. The mint was fresh and good and had a nice flavor when I tasted the leaves, but it was almost lost among the other flavors, and (b) I’d make double the marinade. The amount speficied covered the block of feta nicely, but then people cut off pieces and by the time we reached the middle, there was almost no marinade left. A bit more, swimming around the edge of the block, and small spoon with which to “baste” the block, would have been a good addition.

    The leftovers from a second block are still good (and lovely) the next day, but need a bit more liquid — it’s all been absorbed into the cheese while it sat in the fridge overnight.

    • Reply
      January 21, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      Thanks Spike! Great feedback as always.

  8. Reply
    January 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Sounds like a lovely little appetizer for a dinner party. Looks good and easy to make too.

  9. Reply
    April 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    Made this tonight with the Mt. Vikos feta and it was hands down one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I will make this again and again! Thank you!

  10. Reply
    July 15, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    I agree with John – mine needed more mint. I made the marinade the night before and dressed the cheese the day of the party. The flavor was predominantly orange – I couldn’t taste the garlic much, or the mint at all (used fresh). I was conservative with the Aleppo as I wasn’t sure whether everyone coming liked heat. I would love to have a more specific measurement for the mint and pepper, because I definitely want to make it again, as everyone enjoyed it. Do you think it works better not making the marinade ahead of time?

    • Reply
      July 15, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      When I’ve been making this lately, I’ve been doing sort “more everything” … more olive oil, more herbs… fresh oregano & honey is really great too. Don’t be shy, just pile on what you feel. I don’t know about doing it ahead, it never lasts that long 🙂

  11. Reply
    July 14, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    this has become my go-to app for summer pool parties, and I have used other citruses and herbs, even cheeses. Lime and cilantro work well together, of course and lemon and thyme are beautiful with the other ingredients on goat cheese.

  12. Reply
    October 19, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    We make this all the time as part of our “Mediterranean Feast.” Crispy roasted cauliflower, Lebanese roasted potatoes, pudla besan (chickpea flour flatbreads; no pita since we’re GF), baba ganoush, preserved lemon hummus, zhoug, tahini-yogurt sauce, and this dressed feta, served with olives and zesty pickled vegetables.

    It is all so good, it is hard to pick a favorite, but having the feta dressed instead of plain really adds a lot to the flavor combinations present in the dish.

  13. Reply
    October 26, 2015 at 7:53 am #

    This is one of our family’s go-to recipes, and my son makes it for friends at college now. He wrote me today and said this: “You know how the marinated feta is always a little lacking because the feta doesn’t actually soak anything up?

    “I found that if you juice the orange from which you got the zest, then cook it down with the garlic (and some zest) to about half the original volume, and the marinate the feta in it when the liquid is still a little warm, you get much more powerful (and slightly sweet) orange flavor that balances the bite of the feta really really nicely.”

    I’m trying this the next time I make it!

    • Reply
      October 26, 2015 at 7:58 am #

      Nice call!

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