Chef Pano I. Karatassos, author of 'Modern Greek Cooking,' is a big fan of feta and honeydew in the morning
When you think about feta, your first inclinations might be that it's delicious sprinkled on a big salad for lunch, or as a salty and sharp counterpoint to bitter greens and chickpeas for dinner. But what about feta for breakfast? That's the way they do it in Greece and, as Modern Greek Cooking author Chef Pano I. Karatassos says, it has a lot going for it.
"My favorite memory is the gathering of my family—one by one waking up and entering the kitchen—to find my aunt Maria had prepared different cheeses including feta, kasseri, and graviera all sliced and cut on a wooden board with bowls of cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon," Karatassos told me. "To eat it, I’d rotate between melon and cheese. To drink, we have black coffee with sugar and fresh pomegranate, orange, and grapefruit juices."
In his book, Karatassos includes a recipe for softly scrambled eggs with tomato and feta inspired by his time in Greece. "While touring the Domaine Spiropoulos winery in the Peloponnese, I enjoyed a bowlful of eggs scrambled with butter finished with tomato and feta. In my version, I use homemade tomato sauce and extra virgin olive oil," Karatassos said. "Another great way to incorporate feta into breakfast is to make a feta cheese toast. I would suggest a slice of sourdough perfectly toasted and topped with crumbled feta, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh oregano or marjoram. If pairing cheese and melon for breakfast, my second favorite—after watermelon and feta combination—is kasseri cheese and cantaloupe."
His book also includes a recipe for a Greek staple that has taken over American supermarkets in the last decade: Greek yogurt. Greek breafast traditionally includes yogurt with honey and preserves. "Little cheese pies are also popular—twice a week to use up cheese. Overall, cheese is an important staple. I’m always blown away when I go into the basic grocery store in Greece and see cheese displays that rival my experiences in Paris," Karatassos said.
His devotion to feta has lead not just to incorporating it into dishes, but working to import excellent feta for use in his restaurants. "I’m working with a cheesemaker in Tripoli, Greece, to label my own imported feta cheese. Organic and made in the mountains, it’s a mix of cow’s and sheep’s milk cheese. I will be selling it in my family’s restaurants in Atlanta and eventually hope to expand across the US," Karatassos said. Feta for everyone!