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This is the kind of dish you should learn to make by heart. By any other name, this is baked feta. Put it in a cazuela, or a small oven-to-table casserole dish, and you have a filling lunch or first course served with toasted pita. Naturally, this is superb with summer tomatoes, but it will also improve the washed-out winter tomatoes that may have found their way onto your kitchen counter. Improvise and improve to your own liking as you go, and this dish will never let you down.
One 1-lb/455-g block feta cheese
2 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 roasted red bell peppers, cut into thin strips or bite-size pieces
4 thin strips lemon or orange zest
12 to 16 oil-cured black olives
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup/60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
Whole-wheat pita or flatbread for serving
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C/gas 7.
Step 2: Break the feta into large chunks and place in four 8-oz/225-g square or oval baking dishes or cazuelas or one large cazuela. Top with the tomatoes, bell peppers, lemon zest, and olives. Season with pepper and drizzle with the olive oil. Cover each baking dish with aluminum foil and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until warmed through, about 20 minutes, removing the foil after 15 minutes to let the cheese brown on the top.
Step 3: Meanwhile, place the pita on an open flame on the stove top, turning with long metal tongs, until toasted and warmed on all sides. Cut or tear into wedges. Place each baking dish on a plate or set a larger dish in the center of the table. Serve warm with the pita.
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite and is the food director of Real Simple magazine. She spent six years as a lead recipe developer for Food Network, and has appeared as a guest chef on Good Morning America. Her articles and recipes have been featured in numerous magazines, including Fitness, Health, Food Network Magazine, Saveur, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living, and she has contributed to several cookbooks. In 2012, Sarah published her first cookbook, The Newlywed Cookbook, shortly after beginning her own marriage to a vegetarian. A former omnivore herself, Sarah was determined to make him wonderful, flavorful vegetarian food. Her new book, Feast, comes out of her commitment to that goal. She lives in New York City.