Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mrs. Fig, Meet Mr. Halloumi

Growing up, my mother bought packaged cheese.
We lived in the suburbs, and the offerings were slim.

She bought a nice block of Swiss Emmentaler, a package of pre-sliced Dorman's Muenster cheese (the BEST!!), maybe some Jarlsberg if we were lucky, and a Gouda wrapped in red wax once in a while.

Kraft American Singles was also the choice for hamburgers and grilled cheese.

There was no Pecorino Romano, or aged Parmigiano Reggiano (we had the green can, if that). No ripe Camembert, Chevre or Comte. And Mozzarella was a big gross block of Polly-O.

We were not French, Italian, Spanish, or Greek, so what the heck did we know?

The supermarket was our cheese monger, and convenience and little cheese knowledge was factored in.

I'm sure you know by now, that I love cheese.

I buy it from my local cheese man, who ages his own blocks, and I live next door to a French woman, who has taught me some things about the cheeses of France.


Halloumi (Greek χαλούμι, Turkish hellim, Arabic حلوم ḥallūm) is a Cypriot semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goats and sheep milk, and sometimes also cows milk.

It has a high melting point and so can easily be fried or grilled. Halloumi is set with rennet and is unusual in that no acid or acid-producing bacterium is used in its preparation.
Halloumi is popular in Cyprus, Greece and the Middle East.

See, you learn something new everyday.

And who doesn't love fried cheese?
I gained the Freshman 15 going to TGI Friday's every night eating fried cheese sticks!

I have wanted to make this salad from one of my favorite cookbooks Cooking for Friends forever, but my dilemma was blood oranges are in season only in the winter, and figs are in season NOW, late summer. What to do?

I guess the 2 are were meant to be together, so, I bagged the blood orange idea, and did my own thing.

You can add peaches, or regular oranges, but I added walnuts and red onion instead.

This salad is nothing short of spectacular.

It's really not about the dressing here, so use whatever you have. Even just a drizzle of olive oil is good enough.

The original recipe wants you to cut the blood oranges over a bowl and save the delicious juice for the dressing. But since I didn't have any oranges to cut, I omitted this step. Nothing was missed, it's about the grilled figs and cheese here.

Grilled Halloumi & Fig Salad (loosely adapted from Cooking w/ Friends by Williams Sonoma)

1 lb. of washed fresh arugula (also known as rocket)
2 blood oranges (yeah, good luck finding them in August), peeled and sliced in sections over a bowl (to save the juice)
5 ripe fresh figs (not dried), halved
6 oz. of Halloumi cheese, sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced thin
handful of toasted walnuts
Maldon sea salt & pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
drizzle of white balsamic vinegar
GOOD olive oil for drizzling

Start with my favorite grill pan (I swear, it's the best pan I own), and heat it with a little olive oil.

Plate the arugula leaves on a big platter.

Grill the cheese and figs together, or if the pan is too crowded, in separate batches, for about 1 minute on each side.

Carefully flip each slice of cheese and each fig over until the cheese is nice and crispy, and the figs are jammy and bubbling.

Plate on top of the arugula and scatter with the walnuts and onion slices.

If you are lucky enough to have some Sicilian connections and can get blood oranges in NJ in August, then drizzle the gorgeous juice of the oranges over the salad.

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the salad and some sea salt.

A drizzle of good olive oil and white balsamic vinegar to finish.

Serve right away, while the figs and cheese are nice and warm.

The grilled warm salty cheese, with the grilled jammy ripe figs. Perfect match. They should be dating.

Mr. Halloumi, I am addicted. Nice to meet you.

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Gourmet Goddess said...

Congratulations on meeting Mr Haloumi , he rocks !!!

I enjoy haloumi cheese fried and just with a squeeze of lemon juice over a bed of arugula ..... and a drizzle of the best olive oil you have .

enjoy !


Katie C. said...

I learned about halloumi cheese watching an old Jamie Oliver show. Sauteed cheese? What's not to like and the super saltiness goes great with the acid from a vinaigrette.

ps I grew up with the same cheese choices plus Cheez Whiz (that's what my mom used for mac & cheese).

Anonymous said...

Childhood cheeses...anybody remember the dubiously named Cracker Barrel Coon Cheese in the black wrapper? Understandably discountinued, but I loved it as a kid!

Susan..... said...

I believe the Mexican counterpart is Queso Blanco. It softens but does not melt, so if you can't find haloumi and want to try this, you can use that.

I tried to buy figs this week but they were all shriveled & dried out. I envy your produce where you live.
Lovely salad.

Noelle Marie said...

This looks great Stacey! Great to know about the high heat tolerance!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

beautiful salad Stacey. I was wondering how long it would take for you to post another fig recipe.

tasteofbeirut said...

In Lebanon halloum as it is called is consumed on a daily basis, usually in sandwiches or fried in butter; love your idea of adding figs to the mix and some greens. Halloum is my favorite cheese but it is too salty for my taste so I soak it in water several times to desalt it.

The Simple Gourmet said...

I lived in Cyprus for 2 years in the early 70's and halloumi was one of my favorite appetizers at my favorite Greek restaurant. It was pan fried tableside, brushed with a little olive and served with wonderful fresh bread.

I still get it occasionally here, but I have to special order it.

Joanne said...

My parents still use Polly-o!! Gross. I've really been wanting to try halloumi and I think you've got the perfect marriage of flavors going on here with the figs!

Oui Chef said...

I like the way Halloumi squeaks when you eat it, and I bet it would be killer with figs....nicely done.

Proud Italian Cook said...

The figs in your salad look nice and ripe, pared with the squeaky cheese, superb!

Eileen said...

This looks great! Can you believe I haven't purchased any figs yet this season?