If you ever go to Greece and are looking for THE food scene, the city you’re looking for is likely not the one you’re thinking it would be. Head north.
Athens gets all the fame and glory (and understandably so) because of that iconic building, the Parthenon. It is a majestic and awe inspiring structure that no first-time visitor should miss, and don’t forget to visit the museum that goes with it. However, there is an equally ancient city a little ways to the north, Thessaloniki. It has it’s fair share of sites to see that span the ages, but it has also developed it’s own reputation for its food scene. You didn’t expect that one, now did you?
The food in Athens is good, don’t get me wrong, but much of it centers around the tourists seeking the Greek food standards like souvlaki, gyro, and other well-known items. Thessaloniki is where you have the new twists on old classics, along with fresh creations, and regional foods not found in the more touristy areas.
Bouyiourdi (μπουγιουρντί pronounced boo-yee-or-DEE) is one of those not-found-elsewhere type of dishes. It is amazingly simple in its construction and equally amazing in its flavor. It’s usually served as an individual appetizer, but can be readily made in larger quantities. I like to make it family sized for an easy lunch, snack, mezé (appetizer), or side dish for the main meal. Be sure to have bread on hand to soak up all the juices because I’m pretty sure it’s a sin to waste them!
Bouyourdi (Spicy Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Peppers)Recipe
Typically this is made with larger tomatoes that are sliced, and a mix of spicy and mild peppers, usually Greek pepperoncini and banana peppers. However, substitutions are always okay! This is also a no-measure recipe, just make what you feel like having.
- Tomatoes, sliced thin, or cut in segments if using smaller cherry-type tomatoes
- Spicy peppers, like pickled or fresh Greek pepperoncini, or whatever level of spicy pepper you like, seeded and sliced
- Sweet peppers, like banana peppers, or sweet mini peppers, bell peppers are also okay, seeded and sliced
- Feta cheese, cut into thick slabs
- Olive oil, extra virgin preferred
- Dried oregano, Greek preferred
- Chili pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly oil an oven proof dish large enough to hold the quantity of ingredients you want to make. It should be a deeper dish, rather than flat and shallow.
Place the mixture of peppers you are using in the bottom of the dish and drizzle lightly with a little oil. Sprinkle a little oregano over them. Layer your tomato slices or wedges over the peppers and drizzle just a little more oil and sprinkle a little more oregano over them. Add the chili flakes, if using. Place your feta over the tomatoes in a single layer.
At this point you have a couple of options. You could drizzle a little more oil and sprinkle more oregano over the feta and bake it, or you could put another, thinner layer of both peppers and tomatoes with the same oil and oregano topping. The feta gets a little more “gooey” (in a good way) if you don’t have the extra veggies. I’ve made it both ways and do prefer it with the feta uncovered, but the choice is yours!
Place the dish, uncovered, in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the feta is just starting to melt. If you are making a lot in one dish, you may want to bake the veggies first for about 10 minutes before putting the feta on to give them time enough to cook a little, then add the feta and return the dish to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve with bread. The typical way to eat this is to scoop some of the bouyourdi onto either fresh or toasted bread, and then use more bread to soak up all the lovely juices at the bottom. Yummalicious!