Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese that is generally served grilled. I first had tasted it on a visit to the island, where it was served at a party for a group of professors I was tagging along with. Our host was proud to showcase this treat from his homeland, and he seemed pleasantly surprised that so many of us enjoyed it.
What’s not to love? The cheese made of sheep’s and goat’s milk with plenty of salt in it to reflect the briny coastal breezes and a touch of mint that adds a refreshing note. According to Wikipedia, the semi-hard cheese is unusual because “no acid or acid-producing bacterium is used in its preparation.”
I saw a package of Alambra’s version the other day at GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road, priced at $4.65 for a 250-gram slab, which is just a little more than a half pound. So, I decided to give it a try to see if it were all I remembered and enjoyed.
To find a recipe, I first turned to “Selected Cyprus Specialties” by Yiannoula Chistodoulides, a local spiral-bound cookbook I picked up during my visit. She offered no grilled version, only one for fried halloumi. It sounded good enough to include below, but I had my heart set on grilled halloumi, and I found a recipe on epicurious.com that sounded great: Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Lemon. Though it looked easy to prepare, it did not work quite as expected.
The big problem was the temperature of the grill. The recipe calls for moderately high heat, which proved to be too great. Even though I oiled the grill down and there’s plenty in the marinade, the cheese still stuck to the grill. That means it looked less than pristine, though the flavor was still salty with the added punch of citrus and garlic from the marinade and the chewy texture .
The next time I try it, I will make sure the grill is more of a medium or medium-low heat than the recipe calls for.
Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Lemon
1/2 pound haloumi cheese
1 large garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
4 (3/4-inch-thick) slices peasant or country-style bread
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
Prepare a gas grill for direct-heat cooking over moderately high heat.
Cut 8 thin slices from lemons, then squeeze enough juice from remainder to measure 2 tablespoons and put in a bowl.
Halve cheese diagonally, then cut each triangle, cut side down, into 1/3-inch-thick slices.
Mince garlic and mash to a paste with a pinch of salt using side of a large heavy knife, then add to lemon juice. Whisk in salt and sugar until dissolved, then add 1/4 cup oil, whisking until combined.
Separately toss lemon slices and cheese each with 1/2 tablespoon dressing.
Brush both sides of bread with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Grill bread, cheese, and lemon slices on grill rack, covered, turning over once (use a metal spatula to scrape under cheese to loosen before turning), until bread is toasted (2 to 3 minutes total), grill marks appear on cheese (3 to 4 minutes total), and lemons begin to wilt (4 to 6 minutes total).
Whisk dill into remaining dressing. Divide bread among 4 small plates and top with cheese and lemon slices. Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.
Cooks’ note: If you aren’t able to grill outdoors, bread, lemon, and cheese can be cooked in a hot oiled well-seasoned large (2-burner) ridged grill pan over moderate heat.
Makes 4 appetizer servings.
Saganaki Halloumi (Fried Halloumi)
250 grams halloumi cheese
Flour for coating
Olive oil or corn oil for frying
Cut cheese into 1/4-inch slices and coat with flour, if desired.
Heat enough oil in a small, 2-handled frying an to cover base to a depth of 1/4-inch and fry cheese for about 1 minute on each side. Squeeze lemon juice to taste onto cheese.
Plan pan on a heat-proof plate and take immediately to the table. Serve with additional lemon wedges and eat with crusty bread dipped into the lemon-flavored oil in the pan.
A very quick-to-prepare and tasty meze.
Makes 4 servings.
From “Selected Cyprus Specialties” by Yiannoula Christodoulides