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Not Your Yiayia's Cooking: Feta Meli

I love feta meli. The first time I had it, I saw it on the menu at a restaurant in Rhodes, Greece and I remember reading the item description and thinking "Feta and honey? Am I going to like that?" before deciding to just take a chance and order it. I was not sure I'd like it since I don't typically like sweet foods. My doubts were put to rest immediately after taking the first bite. Ever since then, I think I've ordered this dish every single time I've seen it on the menu and my partner and I now make it at home all the time! So, what exactly is feta meli?

Feta meli means "feta (the cheese) with honey." The word "meli" in Greek means "honey," so "feta meli" typically involves a combination of salty feta cheese and sweet honey, inspiring a delightful contrast of flavors. This is typically served as an appetizer or "meze" and occasionally during a main meal. In my experience, it's not the sort of dish you see being prepared in Greek homes as much as you see it being served at restaurants or tavernas in Greece. I personally didn't grow up eating this at all at home, and I don't even think my own Yiayia has ever prepared it (which is shocking as she cooks more than anyone I know). It's common in a variety of types of restaurants whether mid-range or more gourmet style.

Some of the delectable feta meli spreads I've had throughout the years.

If you're reading this blog, you probably are familiar with feta; however, just in case you aren't - feta is a traditional Greek cheese that is white in color, crumbles easily, and needs to be stored in a brine to prevent it from drying out. The cheese has a slightly grainy texture and the flavor is salty and creamy, but depending on the type it can range from fairly mild to more sharp. Feta is used as a table cheese, in dips, salads, and in pastries.

Feta meli is a thick slice of feta encrusted with phyllo pastry and then either baked or fried until crispy and crunchy. It can be prepared with either phyllo pastry, which tends to be thin, or puff pastry, which is thicker and more fluffy. The dish is then topped with honey and sesame seeds; sometimes, the sesame seeds are toasted and sometimes both black and regular sesame seeds are sprinkled on top before serving. The dish can also be served with smaller pieces of feta individually wrapped in phyllo rather than one large piece. The dish differs from a tyropita in that it's typically not a 'handheld' dish; people tend to eat feta meli with a fork and knife, while some types of pites can be held and eaten. The flavor could be considered similar to that of a tyropita, though, but with its own unique twist!

Even if you don't like eating sweet foods or don't like mixing savoury and sweet, this dish is 100% worth a try. Because it's topped with honey instead of a sugar-based syrup, the combination of honey with the crispy phyllo pairs perfectly and the sesame only adds to the flavor. I've never introduced this dish to anybody who didn't end up loving it - it's a must-have dish when you travel to Greece! If you see it on the menu and aren't sure whether or not to give it a try, order it, try it, and thank me later ;)

Are you a fan of feta meli? Should I share some of my favorite feta meli recipes? Be sure to let me know!


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