In only four short months of hosting our "No Croutons Required" recipe roundup, Holler and I seemed to have already established a tradition of submitting our own recipes to each other at the last possible moment when it's our co-founder's turn to host. Maybe it's the pressure of trying to come up with something extra special to please each other, or maybe it's … well, maybe it's just that the month just flies by so fast. Well, whatever, apparently it's my turn to be a bad blogger, but I think I've just managed to slide under the deadline for Holler's "Cheese Salad" challenge.
And what a challenge it was! It's not uncommon for me to dress a salad with a little Parmesan or Feta cheese, but I've never made a salad with cheese as the main feature or even in a prominent supporting role, so I had to give this one some thought (see Excuse #1). As it turns out, I have been thinking a lot lately about Halloumi, a traditional salty Cypriot cheese made from sheep's, goat's and frequently cow's milk that Peter M from Kalofagas has been raving about lately. Known for its ability to hold its shape and firm texture when cooked and for the "squeaky" sound it makes when you chew it, I've been wanting to try it for a while now and it sounded like a fun cheese to create a "Cheese Salad" challenge around.
Once the decision to make Halloumi the centerpiece of my salad had been made, it was only natural to make "saganaki", an old Greek appetizer of fried or broiled cheese for which Halloumi is a perfect choice, as Peter M and others I've come across have suggested. Nothing fancy here, as the idea was to surround the saganaki with a tidy, basic salad featuring simple, complementary Greek flavors like herbs, tomatoes, peppers and Kalamata olives (and just one jalapeño to provide a little kick — I just can't resist).
It turned out that the real challenge was to find real Halloumi cheese. The Greek bakery I always go to in town for the most perfect sheep's milk Feta cheese, not to mention the plumpest and juiciest Kalamata olives, had only just stopped selling Halloumi right before I got there to do my shopping because, as they said, nobody ever bought it. What sort of Greeks do we have here in London! I was crestfallen, since there was no way I was going to buy the made-in-Canada supermarket knock-off that I was amazed to find under the suggestive name "halloum" without the "i" — it's made strictly from industrial cow's milk, and not packed in brine either, as the genuine article is supposed to be. Yes, I could have made the saganaki with Kefalograviera cheese, as it's usually done, but I had set all my hopes on using Halloumi after Peter M's amazing write-ups. Just about on the point of giving up the cheese salad idea altogether though, I was lucky enough to find Halloumi at a cheese shop in the local market that, even though it was packaged, was at least imported from Cyprus and packaged with brine, and listed sheep's and goat's milk ahead of the cow's. Those of you who live in a slightly more cosmopolitan city than London, Ontario probably ought to be able to find good authentic Halloumi cheese at a local Greek shop, although you may have to ask for it.
Onward ho at all events, and I have to say with all honesty that fried Halloumi is now among my favorite cheese snacks (thank you, Peter). After nibbling on the saganaki (the cook's prerogative, you know) it was just about all I could do to get it as far as the salad. But there it arrived for an astonishingly good Greek saganaki salad, and I'm not in the least ashamed to make this my entry for Holler's challenge if she'll still have me for being so tardy!
|Fried Saganaki with Halloumi on a Greek Tomato Salad with Kalamata Olives|
|Recipe by Lisa Turner|
Published on May 19, 2008
Simple and beautiful fresh Greek tomato salad topped with fried lemon saganaki made with Halloumi cheese