Here in Watertown, there is a small cluster of of Armenian grocers along Mt. Auburn Street that sell a variety of baked goods, canned and jarred Armenian specialties, and self-serve dried fruit, nuts, olives, and the like. Nestled among the Armenian shops is Arax Market, which is sells Lebanese and Middle Eastern foods but also carries a variety of Armenian things. This is where Leslie goes when looking for things like flatbreads and olives. Very occasionally, she’ll pick up a small container or red pepper feta spread, which I adore.
The recipe included below is my home rendition of this spread, with some slight modifications.
Most versions of red pepper-feta dip call for roasting the pepper and then scraping off the skin, but my preference is to leave the charred skin on since the whole mixture gets whipped in the blender. Not only does this save you a step, it also means a smokier flavor from the charred bits and a more interesting look and texture.
My version has some heat from the cayenne pepper, but it’s not overly spicy. Leslie tends to be more sensitive to spicy foods than I am and she found it to have just the right amount of heat. A word of caution: the level of spiciness increases over time, so if you make a large batch don’t be surprised to have a fiery dip by day 5. For this reason I recommend using it up within 3 days.
Many versions of this dip include minced raw garlic, but I cook the garlic in advance because raw garlic is one of the things that triggers acid reflux for me.
A word of caution: the level of spiciness increases over time, so if you plan to keep this in the fridge longer than 3 days, I recommend using half the amount of cayenne pepper or skipping it altogether.
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 of a red bell pepper
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
- Turn on your oven's broiler
- Press down on the pepper to flatten it somewhat, then brush the skin with oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Place the pepper on a rack as close to the broiler as possible.
- Keeping a close watch on the pepper, roast until the skin has charred, about 5 minutes.
- Remove pepper from the oven and wrap it in plastic wrap for 10 minutes.
- Cook the garlic in a small amount of oil over medium heat until browned, about 3 minutes.
- Unwrap the pepper and put it in your food processor or blender.
- In order, add the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, feta, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Process until the mixture is pureed and only small pieces of feta are left (and use a spoon to loosen the mixture if it gets stuck around the blade.) It should be mostly smooth but will have somewhat of a coarse texture because of the feta.
- Serve with pita chips or crackers (try this homemade version!)
- Keeps for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.