Have you heard of halloumi or perhaps something called grilling cheese? A longtime favorite in the Mediterranean, including Israel, this Greek cheese is slowly making its way into US grocery stores (you can even find it at Trader Joe’s for a few limited months) and hopefully onto your plate very soon. Easy to add to recipes already in your rotation—think end-of-summer tomato salads, backyard barbecues and Rosh Hashanah apple tastings—halloumi is the perfect addition to your cheese drawer.
A semi-hard, unripened and brined cheese, halloumi is made from both goat and sheep’s milk, and sometimes also cow’s milk. Packaged like feta or mozzarella in a bag with its brine, halloumi is unique because of its high melting point. This means you can apply heat to this cheese for quite a bit of time before it becomes a melty, burned mess. With a saltiness similar to that of feta, yet a firm, smooth and almost rubbery texture, halloumi is a cheese that takes a bit of understanding to properly enjoy.
Eaten raw, halloumi is not so great. Its salty taste and rubbery texture is not meant to be enjoyed without some heat. But cook the halloumi, and you not only remove the saltiness of the brine, but also turn the hard cheese into a texture powerhouse with a creamy interior surrounded by a perfectly crisp exterior. This “marshmallow of cheeses” is the perfect ingredient to bring to your next campfire.
The simplest way to cook halloumi is on the stove, pan-fried with a bit of oil and a hot pan. You need to be careful to not make it too hot, as you want the cheese to spend about a minute on each side to get that perfectly gooey center. Crisped halloumi is the perfect addition to this refreshing Tangy Turmeric Tomato Watermelon Salad. Summer’s juiciest tomatoes and watermelons get tossed with a bright turmeric, pepper and coriander-infused oil and some crispy halloumi bites. While many watermelon salads use feta, this one swaps out the cold cheese for some halloumi “croutons.”
Halloumi works equally well with other summer produce, such as in Corn and Fregola with Grilled Halloumi Cheese. Or take your Greek salad up a notch, and go for a Greek Salad with Fried Halloumi Cheese instead.
Halloumi with Strawberries, Pickled Chilies and Carob Molasses is a great way to explore halloumi’s versatility. A bit more complicated than simple pan-frying, deep-fried halloumi is the next best thing to a latke if you’re looking to get an early start on your Chanukah frying. The cheese gets a perfectly crisp and crunchy exterior while the inside becomes a molten mess. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the cheese burning or falling apart while frying.
Since halloumi has a texture not unlike tofu’s, you can substitute it in recipes that call for pan-frying the tofu. For example, try swapping out the tofu for some halloumi in Sizzling Tofu Fajitas. The peppers will take longer to cook than the halloumi so get them started first and then add the cheese in for the last few minutes.
Put a Middle Eastern spin on cheesy hash browns, by topping Fried Potatoes with Harissa Tehina with fried halloumi. The starchy pickle-brined potatoes pair perfectly with the cheese’s salty tang. We think Michael Solomonov, the recipe’s creator, would approve, seeing as Crispy Halloumi Cheese with Dates, Walnuts and Apples is one of the most popular dishes on his restaurant Zahav’s menu.
So what do you say—isn’t it time to give halloumi a try? Put it on the grill, toss it in a salad or have it for breakfast on top of a piece of buttered toast with a sweet honey drizzle (or perhaps some challah). Melty, crispy, sweet and savory—I’m willing to bet it will become a favorite.