halloumi and summer veg salad

i only really discovered halloumi last summer, but i still feel like i over use it. i did bring it to every bbq that season, but that had a lot to do with the fact that i was convinced that grilling halloumi was much much better than pan-frying it, and being in a bbq-less condo, i jumped at every chance i got to grill it. later i learned that the perfect outer crispyness and true tenderness of the inside of this cheese, could be achieved over my little stove too. what mattered was what type of halloumi i was using. more authentic versions of this cypriot cheese are made up of sheep and goat milk, while the more commercial varieties in north america contain a (cheaper) cow’s milk, which is still tasty…but the properties change so it grills up differently. the cow’s version tends to set quicker when cooling down and it definitely has a less-pleasant squeakiness to the bite at that point. i mean, i’ll still eat it. hell, i’ll still steal your piece when you’re not looking, but the goat and sheep halloumi is superior.

so after making halloumi my “plus one” at all those bbqs and serving it up to guests at every dinner party (guests are impressed by golden, salty, melty cheeses as a first course–these ain’t your bar/pub mozzarella sticks!) i tried to lay off this treat for a while. but with summer back again, and salads subbing as dinner, how can i not invite my old friend to the table again? it was the star of a tasty summer vegetable salad i made recently. well, it was an all-star cast. really, with summer vegetables in all their glory right now, it’s hard to compete with them.

spring peas

so again, the good news: it’s incredibly easy to get a golden brown crust on your halloumi, and an even crispier breaded coating if you want one. all you need is…

all you need is a non-stick skillet and a few drops of extra virgin olive oil. slices of halloumi fry beautifully in minutes with no seasoning required. or for an even more decadent treat, dredge the slices in flour seasoned with salt and pepper (i use whole wheat flour) before pan-frying, but you will need slightly more oil. while i do think the only thing that can make fried cheese better is breading it, the plain old fried version is so good that i rarely reach for flour these days. i have yet to fry the halloumi in a panko crust. i have an addictive personality and i think that might just make me love it a little toooo much. for now, a healthier yet still perfect pairing with sweet red onion, spinach and fresh peas from markets, and bright crunchy young yellow zucchini from my mother’s garden! which i planted a mere 6 weeks earlier!

gooey halloumi

crispy halloumi and summer vegetable salad

extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, diced
a few sprigs of coriander, stems separated and chopped, leaves very roughly chopped
2 young yellow zucchinis, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into quarters
1/2 cup shelled fresh peas, or frozen peas
2 cups spinach
juice and zest of one lemon, separated
kosher salt
ground black pepper
1 package of halloumi (about 8 ozs.), sliced into 3/4 inch slabs

heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. add onions and cilantro stalks and saute until onions just start to soften. add zucchini and continue to saute, making sure that the onion does not brown. add the peas, lemon zest, salt and pepper and saute for 30 seconds. add spinach and stir through until the leaves are coated in the oil and lemon juice and start to wilt. adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper or lemon juice to taste. transfer mixture to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

remove all remaining liquid from skillet and return to heat. add a tablespoon of oilve oil and allow it to get hot, being careful not to burn it or let it smoke. add slices of halloumi to the skillet and leave them to brown on one side. check them after one minute and when the desired browning is achieve, flip them and allow the other side to brown.

serve slices of halloumi on a bed of the sauteed vegetables, garnish with cilantro leaves and enjoy immediately!

serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as an appetizer

note: on the very day i planned to make this recipe, i came across this interesting article in the ny times onย fried milk.ย the picture of the garlic fried milk reminded me a lot of breaded and fried halloumi. i wonder if it is the same texturally…if so, how cool to be able to see how so many cultures enjoy this treat! i need to try the garlic fried milk recipe soon.ย needย to.