Tyrokafteri (Spicy cheese dip)

It doesn’t matter where I eat, my eyes always race down the menu for 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 packs enough heat for my liking—until a side of jalapenos and hot sauce fix my dilemma. Whatever the menu offers, if it says spicy or has the potential for spice, 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 are few items on a standard Greek menu that have my kind of kick. One is spetzofai a delicious pepper and sausage dish. Another is TYROKAFTERI (tee-roh-kaf-teh-REE) basically meaning “hot cheese.” And no, it’s not literal hot cheese like the popular saganaki, the pan-seared cheese that is brought to tableside all aflame. This hot cheese makes your cheeks beg for mercy with its peppery chili-flakes punch.

You can whip up this classic Greek dip in minutes. Soft feta cheese is rendered spicy by the amount of peppers you add and the level of heat they pack. Greek yogurt and a splash of extra virgin olive oil turn the dip creamy. I love to serve tyrokafteri as a meze with pita chips or spread on bread. For a heartier meal, sauce grilled meats with tyrokafteri or snuggle it alongside vegetables—sneaky heat coupled with innocent veggies are a wonderful combo. This feta treat even tastes great on a sandwich. If you love heat, you’ll find it goes well with nearly everything.

Tyrokafteri can be made two ways, red or white. The better known white version requires fewer ingredients, whereas the red allows for greater play of flavors and spices with the addition of chili flakes and sweet peppers. I adore the red because the vibrant color appeals to my eyes and the taste packs more punch. You really can’t go wrong with either one, they’re both tasty and both must-try’s. Dare to play around with the temperature and textures to see what you favor—hot or mild, creamy or thick. Just remember, the dip has to be spicy as its name suggests. Tyrokafteri can take (and give) the extra heat.

White Tyrokafteri
Ingredients:
3 to 4 spicy peppers, seeded and chopped*
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
16 ounces soft feta cheese
2 heaping tablespoons Greek yogurt

*Choose peppers depending on the heat level you want. Some good variations to try are serranos, jalapenos or yellow banana peppers. If you’re less heat tolerant, simply use green bell peppers.

Directions:
1. Add half the olive oil to a frying pan over medium heat. Add all of 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 a 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. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the remaining olive oil. Check for flavor and add more yogurt if the taste is too salty.
4. Empty into a bowl, garnish with chives or parsley, and serve with pita bread or vegetables.

Note: This dip can be stored in the refrigerator for up 5 days and will harden the longer it sits. Just add oil or yogurt before serving if that happens.
TyroWHITEpinterest

Red Tyrokafteri
Ingredients:
3 to 4 sweet red peppers, seeded and chopped
1 pepperoncini or banana pepper, seeded and chopped
1 to 2 spicy red peppers, seeded and chopped*
2-3 sprinkles of chili flakes
more for more heat
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
16 ounces soft feta cheese
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3 heaping tablespoons Greek yogurt

*Hot red peppers are optional. Use 1 or 2 or none at all, depending on how hot you want the dip. The chili flakes alone are just enough kick for many people.

Directions:
1. Add half the olive oil to a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add all of the chopped 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. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the remaining olive oil. Check for flavor and add more chili flakes for more spice, or more yogurt if it seems too salty.
4. Empty into a bowl, garnish with chives or parsley, and serve with pita bread or vegetables.

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

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