Monday, August 6, 2007
Grilled Halloumi with Citrus, Fennel, & Parsley
Halloumi (pronounced hah-LOO-mee) is a sheep’s milk or sheep and goat’s milk cheese traditionally made in Cyprus and Turkey. Its production method is similar to that of mozzarella in that the curds are soaked in hot whey until they can be stretched and shaped. The trick is to know how long the curds should be heated. As there’s no aging involved, cooking time is imperative in determining the quality and flavor of the cheese.
Halloumi is semi-firm and squeakily evocative of styrofoam. But don’t let the texture put you off – halloumi’s salty savor makes it truly addictive. In Cyprus, the brine-soaked cheese is served sliced into pita bread or over melon. It’s frequently found in a salad made with tomatoes and radicchio, and it’s popular grated into ravioli and pastries. But best of all, halloumi can be grilled.
The beauty of grilled halloumi is that its outer shell goes beautifully golden – even crunchy – while the inside softens but never melts. Here I’ve paired the cheese with some of my favorite flavors from rugged Cyprus: the bright sweetness of orange and lemon, the hot twang of fresh chili, some earthy-sweet fennel seed, and lashings of thick fruity olive oil. The dish makes a great lunch and a wonderful addition to any mezethes table (mezethes being the plural of meze). Serve with wine, ouzo, or raki.
Serves 8 as meze
zest of 1 small orange
1 medium red chili, seeded and sliced thinly
1 tsp whole fennel seed, crushed in a mortar and pestle
a few pinches of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
16 oz halloumi cheese, drained and rinsed
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
Preheat the grill or a heavy sauté pan on medium high heat
Slice the halloumi into ½ to 1/3 inch thick pieces. When the grill or pan is hot, place the slices onto the hot metal – you may wish to work in batches here. Once the cheese is golden brown (about 60 seconds), turn it and allow to brown on the second side. Remove to a platter.
Once all the cheese is golden, drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with the orange zest, the red chili, the fennel seed, and the parsley. Shower over the lemon juice and serve warm with plenty of crusty bread for soaking up the sunny vinaigrette.