I’ve been thinking about Halloumi. I’ve got to say that I generally file it under “not my favorite,” but as I have mentioned before, favorites and cheese are complicated for me.
I like Halloumi, but it’s not something I choose to eat regularly. To my taste buds, it is almost too salty and the squeaky texture has to be one of my least favorite cheese textures.
Halloumi is a traditional cheese from Cyprus. It can be made with sheep, goat or cow milk or a mix of two or all three. It is semi-hard and unripened. The cheese is actually pretty mild but it is brined. This is where it gets its defining salty flavor.
It is also traditionally rubbed with mint so if you see some dark specks in your Halloumi don’t worry. Its supposed to be there.
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Halloumi is made in such a way that very little acid is produced in the process. Acid producing bacteria are not added to the cheese and the high heat that it is cooked at precludes the acid formation. The low acid or high PH is the main contributor to the cheese’s texture.
This leads to a cheese that can be fried or grilled. Halloumi does melt but not in the way we are used to cheese melting. As the cheese melts it keeps its shape and browns. It gets softer but it quickly returns to its original squeaky and chewy texture as it cools.
I’ve been thinking about how to tame the salt and move Halloumi out of the “not my favorite” file. Halloumi is usually prepared by cutting relatively thick slices and then frying them, I thought that this might be why I find it a little overwhelming, so I started to experiment with grating Halloumi instead.
When grated, the cheese can be fried into thin round wafers. I call them “frico” for lack of a better name — or maybe out of ignorance. When fried it becomes a lacy, crispy and chewy snack.
All you need is a little olive oil, a brick of Halloumi and a heavy frying pan — I like cast iron. Heat the pan over medium-high heat and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and the shredded cheese in piles. The amount depends on how big of a frico you want.
The cheese does not really spread out so you will have to spread it to the size you want. Once the edges brown flip the frico. Three or four minutes a side will do — check out the pictures in the slide show above.
I have several simple recipes using these Halloumi frico, one for each meal of the day. Try them out. Check out the pictures above for examples.
If Halloumi for breakfast, lunch and dinner just doesn’t cut it, you could also do desert. Check out this recipe for a take on Kanafeh from local travel and food bloggerNicholas Andriani
In his hybrid of Kanafeh and Baklava (or maybe Baklanafeh), phyllo pastry layered with Halloumi and flavored with honey, pistachios, cardamom, cinnamon, and rose water.
For the chimichurri, finely chop the cilantro and parsley place in a bowl. Mince the garlic clove and add it to the herbs. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, red pepper flake, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. For the egg, fry, baste, poach, or scramble. Whatever you prefer. Place the egg on the frico and drizzle the chimichurri over the top.Lunch: Halloumi Caprese Taco’s 2 Halloumi frico (5 to 6 inch round) 2 Roma tomatoes 6 basil Leaves Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil Drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar Pepper to taste
The Halloumi frico serve as your tortilla’s. They remain flexible so they work great as a gluten free alternative. Chop the tomatoes into bite size pieces. Place them in a bowl along with the basil leaves that have been cut or torn. Add the olive oil, balsamic and pepper to taste. Don’t add salt the cheese has what you need. Simply spoon the tomatoes onto the frico and fold like a taco.Dinner: Halloumi Frico Napoleon with Dukkah Spiced Port Tenderloin 3 small Halloumi frico (about 2 inch rounds) for each Nepoleon 1 small pork tenderloin (about 1 pound) 5 or 6 baby zucchini Strained plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage) 3 to 4 tablespoons of dukkah Salt and pepper to taste
Salt and pepper the pork. Use the salt sparingly. Grill the pork tenderloin with the grill covered for 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Take the pork off the grill and tent it with foil. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and place them in a bowl with a little olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Then toss to coat in the olive oil. On medium heat place the zucchini cut side down on the grill for 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
To assemble the napoleon, cut the pork into half inch medallions. For each serving start with a pork medallion. Dip one side of the pork into the dukkah. The pork juices should be enough to make the dukkah stick. Place that on the plate. Next add a small dollop of the yogurt on to the dukkah-covered pork medallion. Cut a zucchini half in half then place them side-by-side on the yogurt, cut side up. The yogurt should hold them in place. Then place a frico on top of the zucchini. Repeat this two more times for a total of three layers.Lincoln Broadbooks loves cheese. He is one of the first cheesemongers in the United States and Canada to become an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional. He is the manager and buyer for The Better Cheddar in Prairie Village. You can find him on Twitter @LincolnBbook and on Instagram @lincycheese.