1. Cooking

Dress up feta cheese and cracker app with berry compote

Cheese and crackers are fair game for entertaining, and I'd be pleased with a good Gouda or something triple cream and soft with fancy crackers. But why not step it up?

Dressing up a cheese platter doesn't take much more effort. The holidays are imminent, and I'd like to offer a trick to keep up your sleeve: Baked Feta With Blackberry and Rosemary Compote. Test it on a few friends this weekend and you'll have a go-to appetizer for the season.

The name may sound a little fancy, but the steps are straightforward and the ingredients can be modified if necessary. The results are dramatic. Feta, browned and barely held together, is topped with warm berries in a rich garnet syrup with hints of spices and herbs.

A compote is fruit gently cooked with spices and sugar until it releases some of its juice while the fruit still mostly holds its shape. It can be made ahead and stored in the fridge overnight. Gently reheat the compote in a saucepan the next day while you brown the feta in the oven, and this is an easy appetizer. Serve it on a white platter and it is stunning.

This baked feta was a hit at our home when Danny's mom visited for the weekend. She has a mean sweet tooth but we always seem to prepare a cheesy dish together, too. I'm thinking this would serve 6 to 8 people who are waiting for dinner with a drink in hand. Something to tide them over and keep them entertained with a couple bites until the main event. Or you could grab a few forks and dig in, which is what we did. In that case, it serves three.

Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit She can be reached at