BAKED FETA FASCINATION

Cheese purveyors have been swept up in the video recipe phenomenon known as baked feta pasta.

My last column featured some of my favorite kitchen hacks. I had many comments on the various ideas I mentioned, though, only Marilyn Gattuso, a native of North Adams and a former Pittsfield resident, now of Naples, Fla., offered her favorite. A retired English teacher from Wahconah Regional High School, she sent me an email saying:

"When you burn your hand/fingers while baking or cooking, immediately place your hand in a container of flour or cover the area with flour — sting and potential blister/scar will disappear. You may also want to keep a Ziplock bag of flour in the freezer to have at the ready. Enjoy!"

She added in a subsequent email: "It is a staple, especially for grease splatters, in our family. All the grandchildren have known for years to 'Grab the Flour!'"

I can't attest to its effectiveness; I test many things for The Eagle food page — but purposely burning myself to test Marilyn's remedy was above and beyond the call of duty. I did, however, put a bag of flour in a bright red storage bag in my freezer for future reference.

A hack I forgot to mention — I didn't think of it as a hack until someone recently watched me do it and remarked on it — is coring a head of lettuce to wash prior to using it in a salad.

Fellow foodies put those knives down! Simply take the head of lettuce, hold it with the core pointing downward and — here's the fun part — whack it against the countertop. The core practically falls out. All you have to do is rip the head of lettuce apart a bit and it will separate perfectly.

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At the supermarket, I've been noticing people buying cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and fresh pasta like they're going out of style. Actually, they're part of a pasta recipe that's gone viral on TikTok. I decided to try it the other night when I needed dinner in a hurry. One bite and I understood what all the fuss is all about! This recipe is a definite keeper!

BAKED FETA PASTA — TIKTOK ORIGINIAL

(Courtesy of grilledcheesesocial.com)

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 40 mins

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound bowtie pasta

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for finishing

2 boxes cherry tomatoes (around 20 to 25 ounces)

1 8-ounce block feta

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

A few pinches red pepper flakes

1 handful fresh basil leaves

Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add olive oil to a baking dish and toss with whole cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper until everything is coated. Add the feta in the middle and top with a splash more of olive oil plus a few cranks of fresh pepper.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare bowtie pasta according to directions then strain.

After the 30 minutes have passed, crank the heat up to 450 degrees and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the feta and tomatoes have browned.

Remove the baking dish from the oven, and add garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir so the residual heat cooks the garlic and releases the flavors from the red pepper flakes.

Toss in the pasta and stir one more time. Finish with fresh basil, another splash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.