I stepped off the blue cheese path this week to wander into the realm of grillable cheese. That's right, cheese you slap right on the barby. I first tried Halloumi earlier this month at London's Borough Market, where a group of dreadlocked dreamers were grilling up Heavenly Halloumi Burgers. I waited in a long queue to buy one and soon realized I had been missing out on something wonderful. Halloumi is heavenly, if only because it makes such an easy, vegetarian summer meal. Ready the grill, cut the cheese into quarter-inch slabs, toss on the slices until they sizzle, and you have the basis for a quick, savory supper.
The Cypriots claim Halloumi as their national cheese, and friends who traveled through Greece this summer tell me you can't spit an olive pit without hitting someone who is selling, grilling or eating Halloumi, even for breakfast. It looks firm, like mozzarella, but tastes more like feta -- pleasantly salty. It really is a lovely, light, summer cheese, and I can imagine it fitting in nicely amid sliced tomatoes and whole basil leaves in a grilled spin-off of a Caprese salad. It really does need to be eaten while it's hot, though, which is why it makes compelling party food. It makes an impressive appetizer as friends are milling about the backyard.
Halloumi is easy to find at specialty food stores. Look for it amid the shrink-wrapped, iceberg-shaped cheeses. (Whole Foods, in Madison, carries the Mt. Vikos brand.) Then begin experimenting. Skewer it alongside veggies. Try it with figs or melon, lightly drizzled with honey. Or attempt your own Heavenly Halloumi burgers by finely dicing it and combining it with chopped mint and plenty of grated zucchini and carrot.
Wisconsinites should find Halloumi especially pleasing -- it gives off good squeak, just like the best curds at the farmers' market.
Tenaya Darlington blogs about cheese at Madame Fromage.