Recipe: This veggie dish is the jam

Lynda Balslev | TasteFood

Bring a spot of sunshine to your table with this Mediterranean-inspired dish. Don't let its summery components fool you. While you can easily serve this dish in the heat of summer, it's also a warm and bright meal on a cool spring evening. Slabs of feta cheese are braised in a jammy compote of blistered tomatoes, sweet peppers and red onion and studded with pops of olives. It makes for a fresh and light vegetarian meal or a family-style appetizer that encourages everyone to dig in.

The versatility of this recipe doesn't end there. Feel free to adjust the vegetables to your taste. You can make it exclusively with tomatoes or add more peppers and onion to the mix. The key is to cook the vegetables until they are a sweet, sludgy relish. The salty, briny cheese and olives will balance the natural sweetness. Serve it over couscous or with salad greens; or plunk the dish in the center of the table and serve it as an appetizer with pita wedges and crusty bread for sopping up the juices.

Tip: Let the braised cheese cool ever so slightly before serving to allow the flavors to meld, then serve warm.


Active time: 15 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

• 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, seeded, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

• 1/2 large red onion, sliced

• 3 garlic cloves, smashed, chopped

• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

• 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives

• 2 to 3 thyme and/or oregano sprigs, plus additional leaves for garnish

• Kosher salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

• 1 (14-ounce) block feta, drained, sliced horizontally into 2 slabs

• Finely grated lemon zest

• Pita or baguette for serving

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Make a small incision in the tomatoes with a paring knife (this step will speed up the cooking process).

2. Combine the oil and tomatoes in a large (12-inch) ovenproof skillet. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes soften and begin to release their juices, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers, onion, garlic and crushed red pepper. Continue to cook until the vegetables soften, 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in the olives, thyme and oregano sprigs, and season with salt and black pepper.

3. Nestle the cheese into the vegetables. Lightly drizzle the top of the cheese with additional olive oil and season with additional black pepper.

4. Transfer to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Turn on the broiler and continue to roast to slightly char the edges of the cheese, 3 to 5 minutes more.

5. Remove and cool slightly. Garnish with lemon zest and additional thyme, oregano or basil leaves (when in season). Serve warm with pita or baguette.

Lynda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author, and recipe developer based in northern California. Visit TasteFood at