Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Squeaky Cheese - Haloumi 3 ways

I have two older sisters, both are amazing cooks, but my eldest sister, in particular, is something of a marvel in the kitchen. There are eight (human) mouths to feed in her family, not to mention the two cats, horses, goats, rabbit, and (last I checked) single goldfish acquired at the state fair. A less capable and adventurous person might surrender to pizza and take-out most nights of the week to feed a family of that size. Not so with Erika. She creates (from scratch!) the most remarkable, delicious and comforting feasts you can imagine.

Whether its her famous and totally indulgent lasagna (the one with a beschamel sauce and slices of camembert cheese in between the layers) the fragrant tangines, a delectable Carmel pear trifle or tandoori chicken, there are always, always numerous dishes on the table. A main dish accompanied by rice or pasta, fresh bread, a vegetable and a salad. Meals are never skimped on. They are a family affair; always shared and always enjoyed. I could go on and on recounting the tastes and smells that have come from Erika's kitchen, and I reap the benefits with so many recipes collected over the years. When I was in college I lived not far from their tiny, storybook Ashland, Oregon home. I came over weekly for those family dinners, and since moving to the Bay Area, my dinners and time with them is one of the things I miss the most.

I picked up one little addiction in particular from her. It's called Haloumi. Haloumi is, as advertised on the package, the Greek cheese that grills. It doesn't melt, it grills. And once it has been grilled and has ended up in your mouth, it squeaks delightfully between the teeth. The cheese is actually cured before it's brined, which gives it it's resistance to melting at a low temperature. It's very salty, savory and totally unique. It's one of my favorite toppings for toasted pita bread and it's also spectacular with slices of peaches, watermelon and cantaloupe, or when used as a garnish in salads. It also occurs to me that it would be a fantastic take on a new and improved grilled cheese sandwich, the possibilites are really quite endess. However, I happen to think it's always best when served with a few squirts of fresh lemon juice on top. Sour and salty is one of my favorite flavor combinations.

And that's how my sister would serve it, a few slices of toasted pita, halloumi and lemon on top. Served alongside hummus, babaganoush and tabouli, she'd whip together a Mediterranean feast in a few minutes. A whirling dervish in the kitchen.

You can find this cheese in most grocery stores. The kind I usually get comes in a white plastic package with blue lettering. Definitely carried at Whole Foods.

Haloumi three ways

Cut the cheese into slices, about 1/4 inch thick. You can cook Haloumi in a pan on the stove or over the grill, about 4 minutes per-side. It will be quite dark on both sides, don't let it burn, but it should be very brown.

Serve with toasted pita bread and slices of lemon, garnish with parsley.

Serve with sliced grilled peaches. Garnish with mint and lemon.

Garnish a mixed greens salad with the halloumi. Dress with vinaigrette.


  1. So what does a girl have to do to get her hands on the oh so delectable carmel pear trifle recipe? I've only been waiting like 15 years. Put it up already!

  2. I promise you it's coming. Perhaps we should do the cooking and photoing at your place some coming weekend? Would you take the photos and eat the evidence? Let me know!

  3. Hi Elissa,

    This is the sweetest thing ever! You should turn this into a book - I mean it. Your writing is very charming and the pictures are wonderful. The description of my culinary efforts is quite flattering although undeserved I think...

    Dalia and I want to try some of these recipes. The strawberry scones look great.

    Love you and miss you,

  4. You can use a barbecue, or a grill pan on the stove. Just make sure it's good and hot. Cut the peach into 4 sections and stick them on for a minute or more on each side. They should end up fairly soft and juicy with grill marks. Delicious!