This creamy, savory dip brings big flavor in small bites, and is also somehow the perfect excuse to eat a whole block of cheese in one sitting. We included it in our wedding snack box because it’s so distinctive, the toasted nuts lending an earthy counterpoint to the creamy, tangy, and rich cheese. The brine- packed feta is superior here, not only because the brine can be necessary as an ingredient, but because it’s more moist than dry-packed feta and will result in a creamier dip. If you can only find dry-packed feta, add a tablespoon of milk along with the cheese, and then use 2 to 3 tablespoons more milk to lighten the consistency as needed. And when toasting the nuts, push them to the limit. You don’t want them burnt, but you do want them toasted all the way through for maximum flavor.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and spread the walnuts out on an oven-safe skillet or small baking sheet. Toast for 15 to 20 minutes, until deeply browned and quite fragrant. You’re looking for a well-toasted nut here, as they’re a major flavor vehicle for the dip. Cool and set aside 1/4 cup of the nuts to use for topping.
- Place the remaining 3/4 cup nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade and pulse several times until finely chopped. Add the feta (reserving its brine), breaking it up into smaller pieces, as well as the lemon zest and several grinds of black pepper, and then process until smooth. The mixture will eventually coalesce into a ball, and then smooth out into a thick paste, and you’ll need to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times as you go. With the motor running, add 2 tablespoons of the reserved feta brine, or milk, if your feta is not brine-packed. Add another tablespoon in the same manner, if you prefer a lighter dip.
- To make the topping, stir together the reserved walnuts with the 11/2 teaspoons olive oil, the oregano, the pepper flakes, and the flaky salt.
- To serve, scrape the dip into a serving bowl. Create a little divot in the center and fill with the walnut mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
- Stored in an airtight container, the dip will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator. Store the walnut topping separately.
Lukas Volger is a cookbook author and editor. He co-founded Jarry, an award-winning queer food journal, and his most recent book is Start Simple. For more information, visit lukasvolger.com or @lukasvolger on Instagram.