When it comes to summer cooking, there's nothing better than starting up the grill and putting just about anything on the hot grates, including cheese. While you might think cheese will make a big mess as it melts and sticks to the grill grates, there's one type of cheese that's specifically made for grilling: halloumi.
What is halloumi cheese?
"I call it a squeaky cheese," says Vassilis Coumbaros, chef and owner of Taverna Opa in Orlando, Fla. "It's not like Parmesan, and it's not something that melts completely." Coumbaros has a halloumi cheese dish he serves to hungry customers daily at his popular Greek restaurant.
So what exactly is halloumi cheese and how should you cook it?
Halloumi cheese originates from Cyprus and is traditionally made with sheep's and goat's milk. "A lot of people make it differently," Coumbaros tells Yahoo Life. "Some people also add a little bit of cow's [milk]."
Is halloumi meant to be grilled?
At his restaurant, Coumbaros makes halloumi cheese on a charcoal grill. "We grill it on the charcoal so you can have those grill marks on the cheese," he explains. "Then [we] put sesame seeds [on top], and you definitely need to have some lemon on top of it."
If you don't have an outdoor charcoal grill at home, or it's a rainy day outside but you need to curb that halloumi craving, you can also fry halloumi inside on the stovetop. "Just put a little bit of olive oil in the pan and put it on the stovetop," says Coumbaros. After flipping the cheese over in the pan, he suggests putting sesame seeds on top so they can warm up.
According to Coumbaros, halloumi cheese is meant to be more of an appetizer, but you can get as creative as you want with it. While you can eat halloumi raw, he suggests grilling the cheese and some tomatoes for a tasty dish. "It will have a good contrast with the cheese and the tomatoes," he explains.
What does halloumi cheese taste like?
Depending on how you cook it, halloumi cheese may taste different. The base flavor of halloumi is slightly tangy, like mild feta cheese, but not sharp like aged cheddar. If you choose to grill it, the cheese will get a slightly smoky taste, while griddled halloumi will be more toasty like cheese that gets crispy after it's melted in a grilled cheese sandwich. It's similar to a mix of mozzarella and feta, but with the firm texture of uncooked cheese curds.
Halloumi cheese may be hard to find at the grocery store, but Coumbaros suggests searching your local international market or specialty food store with a good cheese counter to find halloumi. If you can't find it, most traditional grocery stores have what's known as "grilling cheese."
Halloumi cheese and grilling cheeses are similar in style, but because of legal proprietary reasons, grilling cheeses made in the U.S. or Canada cannot be called halloumi.
Is halloumi cheese good for you?
Those who are more health-conscious will be happy to know halloumi is relatively healthy, though you shouldn't eat it every day. A one-ounce serving of halloumi has 110 calories, zero carbs, seven grams of protein and 25% of your daily intake of calcium.
The downside to the cheese is the sodium, which is 15% of your daily intake per one-ounce serving. Depending on the cooking method and any additional toppings, the healthy aspects of the cheese may dwindle, especially if it's cooked in oil or doused in excessive toppings.
"It's great by itself, or you can be more creative," says Coumbaros, who provided Yahoo Life with his go-to recipe for halloumi.
Grilled Halloumi Cheese
Courtesy of Taverna Opa Orlando
1 package of halloumi cheese
Toasted sesame seeds
Place a thick slice of halloumi cheese directly onto the grill. Grill each side for 2-3 minutes to heat through and make defined grill marks.
Served warm with pita bread or crostini and one of the topping variations below:
Toasted sesame seeds, fresh lemon juice and sea salt (Serve on a bed of greens such as arugula)
Toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of honey
Chopped marinated tomatoes and drizzle of Greek olive oil
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