While any red-blooded foodie enjoys a veggie burger now and again, it can get tiresome to keep chowing down on the same prepackaged bulgar patty as meat-eaters feast on a vast array of grilled options from shrimp skewers to pulled pork, salmon sides and steaks. What is the vegetarian-minded BBQer to do amidst the seemingly endless parade of imitation-meat options? Sick of soy and tired of tempeh, I’ve turned to halloumi cheese as my protein source of delicious grill flavor.
Halloumi has a high melting point which allows it to keep its shape and firm consistency when cooked. It is a fresh cheese, prepared much like mozzarella from goat’s or sheep’s milk. While it comes from Cyprus and is common throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East, I first encountered it when I lived in Brazil where it is served as a beach snack. A good place to look for Halloumi is a Mediterranian or Middle Eastern grocery, but some supermarkets have started to carry the cheese. I’ve even found it at my farmer’s market, where one of the vendors is like-minded when it comes to grilling. Preparations after the jump.
Brazilian Beach Skewers
Brick of Halloumi
Molasses heated and/or mixed with some water to form the consistency of syrup
Dried Oregano in a shallow dish
I know this sounds weird, but it is ridiculously delicious. Fire up the grill, soak the skewers in some water for 20 minutes. Cut the halloumi into cubes with each face about the size of a postage stamp. Slide the halloumi pieces onto the soaked skewers, brush the grill with olive oil and grill the cheese until it is golden brown with black grill marks. When you have finished, drizzle the molasses mixture on top and roll in the oregano.
Halloumi, Watermelon and Mint Salad
Halloumi brick, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch thick medallions and grilled
Half a watermelon
2 handfuls of mint leaves
salt + pepper
This is a traditional Cypriot flavor combination that tastes incredible. Cube equal parts grilled halloumi and watermelon and toss in a bowl with torn mint leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar and honey.
The combination of tomato, cucumber and feta is classic in Greco-Turkish cooking and this sandwich is an opportunity to play with that. I would brush crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic, grill it along with the halloumi steaks (and maybe even some pieces of eggplant). Top the sandwich stack with tomato and cucumber slices and basil leaves.