TASTE
10/22/2012 11:59 am ET

Bulgarian Feta: How The Creamy, Tangy Cheese Won My Heart

Flickr: grongar

To all my Greek friends: please don't throw things at me. I know I am betraying you, and for that, I am sorry. Now that that's out of the way, I'd like to tell everyone why Bulgarian feta has won my heart.

Bulgarian feta seems mysterious in composition. The sheep's milk cheese is gently salty like the best Greek Feta, but, like the best French feta, doesn't really crumble as much as it... envelops? It has a tart, salty flavor, that can almost be characterized as lemony. But what I love most is the texture -- Bulgarian feta somehow manages to be a very firm cheese, which crumbles pleasantly and just how you'd expect. But once broken down, tossed throughout a dish, pureed into a dip, or however you decide to treat it, the cheese softens into the dish and turns into a creamy blanket. Yes, guys, a creamy cheese blanket. Doesn't that sound lovely?

A note of disclaimer: Feta, like Champagne, is a term heavily regulated based on its region of origin. As Culture magazine explains:

Today, Feta is a Protected Designation of Origin product. In order to qualify to be called Feta, it must be made in Greece, specifically in the areas of Thrace, Macedonia, Epirus and Thessaly, Central Greece, the Peloponnese or the island of Lesbos. It must also be made primarily of sheep’s milk with up to 30 percent of goat’s milk.

So, this Bulgarian cheese that I've come to love so much (known as Serene or Sirene in Bulgaria), is really a Feta-style cheese. That is fine with me, as long as I get to eat all of it. If you can't find Bulgarian feta nearby, you can order it online via iGourmet or Amazon. Which is another reason why the internet is amazing.

In addition to making excellent feta dips, Bulgarian scalloped potatoes and being eaten greedily straight out of the container, Bulgarian feta applies itself deliciously to simple salads where it can be the star. This salad of spinach, dill and lemon is one of my favorite ways to use it.

Spinach with Dill, Lemon and Bulgarian Feta
1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh dill
1 bunch scallions, chopped into 1/2 inch lengths
1/4 lb Bulgarian feta, crumbled (although it won't really crumble, it will sort of... smoosh)
juice of one lemon
olive oil
salt
pepper

Gently wilt the spinach in a hot pan, very quickly. It should just begin to soften, but not cook through. While the spinach is still warm, combine all the other ingredients and let marinate in the fridge for as long as you can stand before digging in.

Delicious hot, cold or at room temperature.

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