Tyrokafteri (Spicy cheese dip)

 It doesn’t matter where I eat, whenever I look at a menu my eyes are immediately drawn to any mention of something spicy. Spicy curry? Yes please, with a side of Naan. Buffalo chicken wings? My hands and face will definitely be a hot mess after, but I’ll take a basket full of those. Bahn mi sandwich and a bowl of pho? Neither typically pack enough heat for my liking, but nothing a side of jalapenos and sriracha sauce can’t fix. I don’t care what it is. If it says spicy or has the potential to be, nine times out of ten I’ll order it.

Finding something spicy to eat at a Greek taverna isn’t easy. The decision is pretty much made for you because there will be only one—maybe two items on a standard Greek menu that have any kind of kick. One is spetzofai (a pepper and sausage dish) and the other is tyrokafteri. Tyrokafteri, (pronounced tee-roh-kaf-teh-ree) meaning “hot cheese.” And no, it’s not literal hot cheese like the popular saganaki, the pan-seared cheese that is brought to tables aflame.

Tyrokafteri is a classic Greek dip that can be whipped up in minutes. The dip is mostly comprised of soft feta cheese that is made spicy by the amount of peppers added and the level of heat they pack. Adding Greek yogurt and a splash of extra virgin olive turn the dip creamy. Tyrokafteri is served as a meze (appetizer) to be dipped with pita chips or spread on bread. It can also be used as a sauce for grilled meats or served alongside vegetables, and even tastes great on a sandwich. Just put it on your plate and you’ll find it goes well with nearly everything.

Tyrokafteri can be made two ways: red or white. The white version is probably more common and requires fewer ingredients, whereas the red is just slightly more complex only because it allows for greater play of flavors and spice like the addition of chili flakes and sweet peppers. I’m more fond of the red because the vibrant color is more appealing and the taste is more interesting. You really can’t go wrong with either one, they’re both tasty and both must-trys. So give both recipes a go and play around with the temperature and textures you favor—hot or mild, creamy or chunky. Just remember, the dip is meant to be spicy as its name suggests so don’t be afraid to add a little extra heat.

White Tyrokafteri
Ingredients:
-1 lb soft Feta cheese
-3 to 4 spicy green peppers, deseeded and chopped*
-1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-2 heaping Tablespoons Greek yogurt

*Use 3 to 4 peppers depending on how spicy you want the dip. Also, the kinds of peppers are up to you and the spice level you want. Some good examples are Serranos, jalapenos or banana peppers.

Directions:
1. Cut and remove the stems and seeds from peppers. Add half the olive oil to a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped peppers and sauté. Once the peppers have softened, take them off the heat and let them cool for about 10 minutes.
2. Cut the feta into chunks and place into food processor or mixer. Add the yogurt and the grilled peppers, along with the oil accumulated from the pan.
3. Mix everything together in the food processor until you have a smooth texture. As you mix on medium speed, gradually add the remaining olive oil. Check for flavor and add more yogurt if it is too salty.
4. Empty into a bowl, garnish with chives or parsley, and serve with pita bread or vegetables. Enjoy!

This dip can be stored in the refrigerator for up 5 days and will harden the longer it sits.
TyroWHITEpinterest

Red Tyrokafteri
Ingredients:
-1 lb soft Feta cheese
-4 sweet red peppers, deseeded and chopped
-4 pepperoncini peppers, deseeded and chopped
-1 to 2 long spicy red peppers, deseeded and chopped*
-1 to 2 tsp. chili flakes
-1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1 tsp red wine vinegar
-3 heaping Tablespoons Greek yogurt

*Hot red peppers are optional. Use 1 to 2 or none at all, depending on how spicy you want the dip. The chili flakes may be just enough kick for some.

Directions:
1. Cut and remove the stems and seeds from all the peppers. Add the peppers and half the olive oil to a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped red peppers and chili flakes and sauté. Once the peppers have softened, take them off the heat and let them cool for about 10 minutes.
2. Cut the feta into chunks and place into food processor or mixer. Add the yogurt, vinegar, and the grilled peppers, along with the oil accumulated from the pan.
3. Mix everything together in the food processor until you have a smooth texture. As you mix on medium, gradually add the remaining olive oil. Check for flavor and add more chili flakes for more spice, or more yogurt if it is too salty.
4. Empty into a bowl, garnish with chives or parsley, and serve with pita bread or vegetables. Enjoy!

This dip can be stored in the refrigerator for up 5 days and will harden the longer it sits.
TyrokafteriREDpinterest

3 thoughts on “Tyrokafteri (Spicy cheese dip)

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