Fried Saganaki with Halloumi on a Greek Tomato Salad with Kalamata Olives

Fried Saganaki with Halloumi on a Greek Tomato Salad with Kalamata Olives

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 OlivesFried Saganaki with Halloumi on a Greek Tomato Salad with Kalamata Olives
Recipe by
Cuisine: Greek
Published on May 19, 2008

Simple and beautiful fresh Greek tomato salad topped with fried lemon saganaki made with Halloumi cheese

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Dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
Salad:
  • 1 large firm tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 12 pitted Kalamata olives
Saganaki:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 oz (225 g) Halloumi cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces across the narrow end
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • grated zest from 1/2 lemon
  • fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  • Whisk together the dressing and toss with the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

  • Heat a large frying pan over just higher than medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Arrange the Halloumi slices in the pan, trying to avoid touching, and fry until browned on the bottom. Use tongs to turn the cheese over and fry the other side until browned. While still in the pan, drizzle the lemon juice and scatter the lemon zest over the cheese, and finish with a good seasoning of fresh ground black pepper.

  • Remove from pan and add pieces of the Halloumi over servings of the salad. Serve right away.

Makes 2 lunch servings or 4 side servings

Fried Saganaki with Halloumi on a Greek Tomato Salad with Kalamata Olives

17 comments:

Holler said...

Hey, It is not bad blogging to get in at the last moment! It is ussually just an acomplishment to get it in at all, we are all such busy peeps!

I am so pleased that you have found and love Halloumi as much as Graham & I do! It is a fab cheese!

Lovely looking salad! Gold star to you, girlie :)

Lucy said...

I'm so pleased you've discovered halloumi - the real stuff - and it's amazing melty, squeaky texture. It's like feta meets mozarella. Lovely salad.

We are lucky here in Melbourne as our large Greek population makes us the second largest 'Greek' city after Athens. Quite cool, don't you think? The real thing is, thanksfully, never far away.

Lisa said...

I absolutely loved the cheese. It was even better than I expected. I nibbled on a piece before it was fried, and I'm glad I did, because while I was intrigued, I was blow away by the taste after it was fried.

You are a lucky lady Lucy. I'm thinking I should move to Melbourne.

Cynthia said...

I'm definitely going to dry making this salad.

Ricki said...

Saganaki. . . one of my all-time favorites! This looks terrific. (And thanks for the memories. . . ) :)

Peter M said...

Lisa, this is a wonderful write-up and intro to Halloumi cheese for your readers. As you found out, it's not a cheap cheese but it's worth splurging on.

Thank you for your kind words and props for paying a wonderful homage to Halloumi cheese.

OPA!

Lucy said...

I'd be happy to show ya 'round, darls! ;-)

Lisa said...

Very sweet of you Lucy. Would you cook dinner for me too :)

Thank you Peter for introducing me to this cheese. It is now on my list of favorites, along with goat cheese, feta and extra old cheddar cheese.

maybelles parents said...

Halloumi is so hearty it makes a great salad. I will definitely make yours--olives and halloumi are perfect.

LisaRene said...

Excellent submission for the roundup, the cheese really does take center stage. So much flavor in this salad between the crispy saltiness of the cheese, the tart lemon, salty briny olives and cool refreshing veggies. Very appealing!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Oh, yes, that halloumi looks delicious. It's so lovely in warm salads like this one.

Bellini Valli said...

You know that I am loving your Greek/halloumi salad Lisa. No one seemed to sell it here at all either, although one fellow did say he could order it in for me. Where did I find it...Safeway!!!

Anu said...

Lisa,

Thank you for your kind words. Please accept my condolences on your loss. There’s something to be said about mothers’ prowess in the kitchen, isn’t there..? One look at your beautiful and inspiring blog, however, it is obvious that you emulate yours in such unique, fascinating ways.

Mona said...

The salad looks too good to me, I love cheeses, and this looks delicious. Am gonna try this, thnx for sharing!

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Kevin said...

Fried halloumi is so good!! Using it in a salad with olives is a great idea! That salad must have been really tasty.

Kalyn said...

What a wonderful sounding salad!

Ivy said...

Hi Lisa, at last my computer is now ready and upgraded. I am glad you liked halloumi and your salad is making me hungry. Actually as I am from Cyprus I use it a lot and you can find a few more uses of it on my blog if you like, by just typing the word halloumi in the search engine.