It’s been years since I last had cheese on a stick, but the memory of it stills tempts a craving occasionally. I would venture to guess that many of you reading this have never had cheese on a stick, either because your parents were wary of foods on sticks (and rightfully so) or because you didn’t frequent the Santa Monica Pier. Both of those reasons are equally valid, and while I cannot truly do justice to just how magical cheese on a stick tastes, let me provide a visual reference.
So, you can see why I still find myself daydreaming about this food stand delicacy. While I don’t have easy access to the Santa Monica Pier where I often got my cheese fix, I have found a slightly less sinful option that is worth trying immediately: fried halloumi. Not fried as in “breaded, battered, and dipped in a hot vat of oil”, but fried as in “pan-seared in a modest amount of olive oil”. To say the least, pan-seared halloumi is one of my most favorite things.
Though I knew the basics about halloumi, I did what I always do and went down the Wikipedia rabbit hole researching its origins and production. The amount of useless knowledge I have grown to amass from such endeavors is the reason that I can’t remember anything from high school Calculus. But I digress. Let’s talk about all things Halloumi! Consider this your crash course to your new favorite summer ingredient.
So what’s the deal with halloumi?
- Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese that has a very savory, almost briny flavor. This is why it pairs so well with stone fruit and cherry tomatoes.
- In the same way that Champagne must be produced in Champagne in order to earn its name, halloumi is a registered trademark in the US owned by the Cyprus government. Fun fact, in the UK the trademark is owned by the Foundation for the Protection of the Traditional Cheese of Cyprus named Halloumi (and no, I am not making this up).
- Halloumi is produced from sheep and goat’s milk, and may contain cow milk depending on the producer. In fact, there’s some major beef between dairy farmers v. goat and sheep farmers. Again, I am not making this up as crazy as it sounds!
- Halloumi is known as a “grilling cheese” because it has a high melting point that allows it to take on a crispy, golden crust when pan-seared or grilled.
- Apparently, Cypriot villages would join forces to make large batches of halloumi given it was a vital source of protein during the Medieval Byzantine Period.
Ok, if you made it through those 5 bullet points and have somehow not yet lost enthusiasm, let’s get to the recipe!
What’s in this Recipe (Besides Halloumi):
- Cherry Tomatoes: While mozzarella and tomato is a classic combo, don’t think that you have to confine your use of cherry tomatoes to a caprese salad. Halloumi and cherry tomatoes is a delightful pairing for a less conventional sweet and salty combination.
- Nectarine: if you’re wondering whether nectarine and cherry tomatoes go together, you’re not alone. I was skeptical until I read the axiom “what grow together goes together”. And in all honesty, this surprising combination is delicious!
- Cucumber: I always like my salad to have a “crunch” factor and fresh cucumber delivers a crisp textural contrast as well as a fresh flavor to this recipe.
- Red Onion: Any time I make a salad with stone fruit, I add red onion because their respective flavor profiles pair beautifully. Red onion has a peppery bite to it that complements the sweetness of the fruit in this salad.
- Basil: Basil adds a bright, herbaceous note to this salad and accentuates the already wonderful produce in this recipe.
- Balsamic Glaze: If you really want to take this recipe to the next level, drizzle a little balsamic reduction over the top to add a tart and tangy finish that will make your taste buds sing. You can absolutely go the homemade route and make your own balsamic glaze, but the Trader Joe’s variety is so simple and divine!
- 10 oz mixed greens
- 8 oz halloumi
- 1/2 cucumber
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
- 1 nectarine
- store-bought balsamic glaze to drizzle over the top
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of one lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 tsp Dijon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- Start by heating 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
- Pat the halloumi dry of any excess moisture with a paper towel, then slice the block into 1/4 inch thick pieces.
- Fry the halloumi for roughly 30 seconds on each side until a nice golden crust forms. Then remove the cheese from the pan and set aside.
- Prepare the fruits and vegetables for the salad by thinly slicing the nectarine, red onion, cucumber, and halving the cherry tomatoes.
- Next, combine the lemon juice, fresh basil, olive oil, dijon, garlic, oregano, and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend to emulsify.
- In a large bowl, add the mixed greens, nectarine, tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion together. Toss the salad in the dressing.
- Portion out each plate of salad and top with halloumi as well as a drizzle of balsamic glaze, and enjoy!