Much like getting re-acquainted with a childhood best friend, summer is the time of year where my love for Halloumi cheese comes out in full force. This sturdy, squeaky cheese is pretty addictive, let me warn you. And unlike a lot of other cheeses, Halloumi can hold it’s own under the heat.
Since Halloumi is best served warm - either pan fried or grilled - it’s a great vegetarian option to satiate even the most meatiest of meat-eaters at barbecues and cookouts. We’ve been doing a lot of entertaining this summer, and if there’s one thing that rivals the attention our new rooftop patio gets, it’s definitely this dish. We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve served it, but it always disappears in minutes!
When I first dreamed up this recipe, I was inspired by a Caprese salad. Layers of juicy summer tomatoes provide a refreshing contrast to the salty cheese. Fresh herbs brighten the dish and add a pop of color. But rather than settling on a single herb, I like to whip up a quick and easy topping made from mint, parsley, lemon and capers. It’s fresh, zesty and totally complementary. You’ll want to spoon it over the plate with abandon, and you totally should.
The dish can be served on it’s own as a side or accompaniment - or if you want a more complete meal, you can serve it with cooked grains or greens of your choice. We typically serve it with farro, spelt, or brown rice, depending what we have on hand. The recipe makes for a generous amount of herb topping, which can be stirred into the grains for an extra boost of flavor.
If Halloumi is new to you, look for it in the specialty cheese section of your local grocery. It’s often near the feta cheese, and typically sold in pre-packaged blocks. The most traditional Halloumi is made from a combination of sheep and goat’s milk (not cow’s milk). If you can’t find Halloumi, you can substitute with another grillable cheese. Just make sure it has a high melting point, and if it’s less salty than Halloumi, you may wish to add a pinch of salt to the herb topping.
Seared Halloumi with Tomato and Fresh Herbs
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced mint
- 2 tablespoons minced scallion/green onion
- 2 tablespoons minced capers
- 2 tablespoons loosely packed lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
- 8.8 oz Halloumi cheese, sliced (¼-inch thick) (1 block)
- 3 large tomatoes, sliced (½-inch thick)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Cooked grains (for serving, optional)
- Start fresh herb topping: In a small bowl, combine parsley, mint, scallion, capers, lemon zest, and pepper. Set aside (see note 1).
- Sear halloumi: Heat grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, arrange cheese slices in a single layer (see note 2). Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Assemble: Layer the seared halloumi and tomatoes on a serving platter. Stir lemon juice and olive oil into the herb topping, then spoon topping over the halloumi and tomatoes. Serve with cooked grains, if using.
- Fresh herb topping: The fresh herb topping also has lemon juice and olive oil in it. But, those get added at the end (just before serving), to keep the herbs as fresh and bright as possible.
- Cooking halloumi: I like to use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet for searing halloumi. Next best is a non-stick skillet. If using another type of pan, such as stainless steel, you may need to use a bit more oil to prevent sticking. If the cheese won't fit in a single layer, cook in multiple batches, making sure the bottom of the pan is well oiled before adding the next batch. You don't want the crisp, golden brown cheese to get stuck to the pan!