Here is a really great dip/spread adapted from The Greek Vegetarian, by Diane Kochilas (p.31): Kopanisti. The name is Greek for whipped or beaten, and it consists of feta cheese that is whipped with olive oil, lemon juice, and freshly ground black pepper.
There are many variations on this theme which incorporate other ingredients such as red pepper, herbs, garlic. You might see feta cheese dip recipes under these names, as well: Tirosalata, Htipiti, Htipi Tirosalata. The recipe can also include some Greek yogurt.
The texture is going to vary, depending on whether you mash by hand or use a food processor, and how heavy a hand you use with the olive oil, lemon juice, and possibly the yogurt. The yogurt is optional, but you might want to add it if your feta is especially salty or pungent.
This is lovely in a dish, surrounded by pita triangles, or spooned into little filo tartlette shells for an easy appetizer.
Or give it an Israeli spin by making it with Israeli feta and serving it drizzled with more oil and sprinkled with za’atar or with za’atar sprinkled pita chips.
I made my feta dip this time with lowfat “lite” feta and with lowfat Israeli quark because that is what I could find today at the kosher market.
modified from Diane Kochilas
8 ounces sheep’s milk feta (low fat okay), crumbled
juice 1/2 lemon (a couple of Tbl.), or more, to taste
4-5 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil (use the best because the flavor dominates), or more, to taste
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, or to taste
4 Tbl. Greek yogurt, strained yogurt, labne, or even quark (optional, and to taste)
Process the feta or mash well (processing gives a much smoother dip). Add the rest of the ingredients and mash or process until smooth. Adjust the seasonings, and readjust before serving.
So, wait, why feta dip on Hanukah? Well, it is a custom to serve cheese on the holiday to commemorate Yehudit, who vanquished the Greek general Holofernes by plying him with salty cheese and wine (also here). (and here is another explanation based on the letters of chalav).
Quick holiday tip: go visit Marlene’s blog The Jewish Hostess for more holiday ideas. She has posted this dip here, plus she has other exciting recipes like low-fat soufganiyot, baked latkes, plus more decadent treats like s’mores brownies and cookies. Plus other really fun ideas.
What else can you do with this spread/dip? Lots. You can use it as a sauce for pasta with some grape tomatoes and chick peas (good hot or cold), and you can spread it on pizza dough, sprinkle it with za’atar and bake it for a middle eastern pizza:
Tips: spread the pizza dough with olive oil, add a layer of ricotta on the bottom before adding the feta spread.