This tangy, spicy, and creamy baked goat cheese dip will bring all the flavors of the Mediterranean right into your kitchen in minutes!
Desperation leads to innovation.
If I find a dish I love at a restaurant, I’m more than likely going to order that same meal every. single. time. Which is weird, because I love to try new foods. But as tempting as the menu may be, I am very often a creature of habit and go back to my old faithful friend that has served me so well in the past.
So what do you do when those flavors you loved and craved so deeply are retired from the menu – never to be seen again? Even if you beg the server to ask someone – anyone – in the kitchen if they remember the dish and wouldn’t mind recreating it for you (not that I’ve ever done such a thing).
I’ll tell you what I do: First, I order my second choice. You know, the next best item on the menu that I had been eyeing anyway and just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger for fear of the regret I may feel after cheating on my beloved meal. Second, I go home, determined. “So they’re just going to toss out *fill in the blank with the meal I’m mourning* and leave me hanging? Nah. I can make that.”
And so begins my experiment. It may start with trying to find an old menu with a short description, or I may start listing the ingredients I KNOW were in there; however it starts, I’m in the kitchen with sheer determination (which is actually what “Valerie” means, by the way) and a literal and figurative hunger that can only be fed with an accurate recreation.
Play with your palate!
One of my prouder (and yummier) accomplishments is my take on a retired appetizer at Zoe’s Kitchen. It was SO good that I ate it as a meal every time we went as a family. Of course I still ate off of someone’s hummus plate. How can you not? What was this drool-worthy appetizer, you ask? Baked Feta. That’s it. Doesn’t sound fancy at all, does it? And that’s part of the draw for me. Simple, rustic, addictive.
And it’s so easy to tweak to your favorite flavors! They used a French feta I believe, but I had trouble finding that, and I prefer goat cheese over feta anyway, so that’s what I chose to use. Cream cheese makes everything better too, right? It stretches your more expensive cheese without compromising flavor. So I started with equal parts goat cheese and cream cheese.
Don’t have fresh basil on hand? No worries, try some dried basil and rosemary instead.
I will stress, though, that I couldn’t quite get it right without the Calabrian peppers. Finding those in the grocery store was tricky, but I did stumble upon them in the food section at World Market. Amazon also has some here, and I would think your local gourmet/international food market would be able to get them for you too.
Cherry tomatoes are the best because they get warm and pop in the oven, but in a pinch, I’ve used canned diced tomatoes. You know, when I had everything else on hand and I was REALLY craving this. Sometimes I add Kalamata olives, sometimes I skip them.
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The moral of the story is: Don’t be afraid to play with your food. Get creative! Try something new. Veer off the recipe (and menu) once in awhile. You may just find a new happy accident.
Baked Goat Cheese Dip
- 4 oz. softened goat cheese
- 4 oz. softened cream cheese
- A few Calabrian peppers chopped
- Cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- Fresh or dried rosemary chopped
- Fresh or dried basil chopped
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Once combined, place in an oven-safe baking dish or ramekin. Place under the broiler for 5-7 minutes until bubbling. Drizzle with oil from the pepper jar for an extra kick, if desired. Serve with pita chips or crackers.