summer plates and the send-off salad: watermelon + halloumi
Summer’s not over until mid-Sept–officially–but who doesn’t mark the end weeks earlier. After Labour Day, regardless of whether or not you have kids, it’s back to business for all of us. Any lazy, hazy, schedule I had throughout July and August snaps back in place faster than the elastic I’ve been stretching tight around my hair to keep it off my sweaty neck. (Gross.) As a child I had a lot of “back-to-school” anxiety. I might have aced grade 2 math but how was I ever going to wrap my head around long division? (Of course I did and it was just as easy so I moved on to worrying about grade 5 social sciences. Social? Sciences?!) But I still loved the ritual of school supply shopping, choosing the few new clothes I was allowed to order from the Sears catalog and the distinct change in weather that still seems to happen exactly the week that August melts into September: the colour of the evening sun is just a little more amber, the air is lighter and a telling degree or two cooler and the smell–of leaves?–I think I can smell the trees again, getting ready for their costume change. There is a summer send-off that happens and it gives me butterflies. I love what comes next but I could hold my breath and live in this magic for a long, long time.
Toward the end of this past summer, that feeling hit me over an early dinner at my friend Elena’s house. Maybe it was because the menu was a mix of oven-baked squash pasta and food from the grill, but I distinctly felt like we were between places, lingering over that very slow, very delicious meal. It made me want to hit pause. I’m ready for fall, excited even. But a summer as solid as this one deserves a proper send-off.
My contribution that day was a grilled halloumi salad over fresh summer herbs and cold, sweet watermelon. I was definitely representing summer at a table where rich pasta, buttery grits, mid-season corn, and red wine alluded to a changing of the guard. If you think you need to pay tribute to a great summer before it’s gone, and to enjoy a meal that is decidedly summer before diving into squash pasta or a heap of leaves, this will be the perfect send-off salad for you too.
Watermelon and Halloumi Salad
1/2 large, seedless watermelon
Small handful fresh mint leaves
Small handful fresh basil leaves
Good balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Maldon salt or other sea salt
1 block of halloumi cheese
Cube 1/2 watermelon, lightly salt and toss, set in colander over large bowl in fridge to drain for 15-20 mins.
Meanwhile wash and dry small handful of mint and basil, slice large leaves thinly, separate small leaves and leave whole. (One pass only with very sharp knife or the leaves will bruise.)
Drizzle watermelon with good balsamic vinegar and a little extra virgin olive oil and toss in colander. Transfer to serving bowl and scatter sliced leaves over top. Sprinkle some pepper over top and sprinkle with crushed maldon salt or sea salt.
Cut 1 block of halloumi into 1/4-inch thick slices crosswise, then halve pieces crosswise. Fry over medium-high heat in lightly oiled non-stick or well-seasoned grill pan (skillet ok too) until golden and crust starts to form which will only happen if left undisturbed for the most part. Scatter pieces over serving bowl but do not toss. scatter small herbs over top. Drizzle everything with a little more balsamic vinegar and oil and serve immediately.