maybe for “Meatless Monday” or some other government holiday, then I heartily recommend this halloumi salad. One of its most appealing features is that you’ll feel as though you’re eating something healthy, though in reality you’re eating a pile of fried cheese atop what is essentially garden clippings.
Yes, for the uninitiated, halloumi is cheese. The intrepid among us will make their own halloumi, as it is entirely possible to whip up a batch in a couple of hours. I know this because Tanya took a cheese-making class where they made this stuff, and with some of the residue of the process, made ricotta. Even as a professional, full-time carnivore, I confess that I was positively dazzled by such dairy-centric wizardry.
Let’s dive straight into the ingredients, shall we:
- a block of halloumi (save trouble and just get some at the supermarket)
- a head of lettuce
- pepper (capsicum)
To point out the obvious: you don’t have to use exactly these vegetables. These are simply vegetables I’m willing to tolerate when I feel the need to impress vegetarians. (This is not particularly often, and I note that this recipe will absolutely NOT impress vegans — who are as close as you can get to un-impress-able, without actually being soulless holograms pretending to require nutrients for survival.)
((I’m fairly certain my vegan readership just plummeted to zero. Can you hear the rage-fuelled clicks of closing browser tabs? They must be fuelled by rage; they’re sure as hell not fuelled by cheeseburgers!))
Anyway, as often is the case around here, technique is key.
First, deal with the vegetables. Because I’m actually allergic to lots of raw foods, (seriously, I am — Pollen-Food Allergy, which is incredibly annoying), in my kitchen we tend to cook everything. Given the ingredients I’ve listed here, I prepare the broccoli as usual in a cast iron skillet. Then I lightly sauté the onion and pepper in — you guessed it — a cast iron skillet. (Ten points if you can guess what I’ll cook the halloumi in.)
Chop the lettuce into salad-sized bits, and by all means wash it. Wash it not only for the possibility of dirt, but for the sake of the slugs. Seriously. I found a slug in a salad (at least) once. The salad was, therefore, not vegan. And imagine the catastrophe of a salty dressing. Good heavens, please by all means wash the lettuce!
Halloumi is excellent pan fried. (What isn’t, except ice cream??) To accomplish this, lightly oil your cast iron skillet, and heat it until the pan smokes. Chuck the chunk of halloumi in and let one side crisp up, then flip it and let the other side crisp up. This is very quick, mind you. And to be honest, I don’t know why I do this first, prior to cutting the halloumi block into salad-sized morsels.
As far as size goes — and it doesn’t really matter in this case — I prefer rectangles about a centimetre deep. A block of halloumi is usually a couple centimetres thick, so I leave that dimension alone and hack a grid into it with an extremely sharp chef’s knife. This part just feels meaty, and it’s immensely satisfying.
Then, dump these pieces back into the skillet, which should be quite hot by now.
The trick is this: get the pan hot enough to sear the outside of the cheese without burning it. And, when you dump all the bits in, separate them immediately so that they don’t melt back together into a clump.
Give them half a minute or so, and flip them all. They’ll start to develop browned faces, but inevitably a few faces will never see the surface of the pan. Let it be. This is vegetarian; it doesn’t need to be perfect.
Once you’re satisfied with the look of the cheese, remove it from the skillet. If you leave it in the skillet, it will melt back together into a disgusting clump resembling a salted slug, and then even the vegetarians will turn their noses. Avoid this.
Fried halloumi is best served when hot, so don’t wait around. Peel your guests away from their chatter about organic pumpkin basil hummus and cow farts, and assemble the salads. I take it as obvious how to assemble the salad. Seriously, when you break it down, a salad is, as I said at the top and I still believe it, a bunch of shit piled on garden clippings. A handful of green stuff from the mower bag creates your base, then plop a few broccoli stalks here and there, sprinkle some onion and pepper across the surface, and top it off with that warm halloumi. Mmm.
Optionally, you can drizzle a favourite dressing. Balsamic Vinaigrette can be lovely.
OK, we’re done.
But I have to tell you: all of this reminds me of a time in California when some of the lettuce in Tanya’s vegetable garden went to seed. The seeds flew around the back yard (as Californians would call the back garden), and after I neglected my mowing duties for a couple weeks, we had what I can only describe as lettuce-lawn. When I finally did get around to mowing it, I essentially chopped the world’s largest salad. The scent that wafted through the air could have brought a smile to a vegan’s face….
Anyway. Enjoy this, a rare foray into the world of food that neither walks, swims, nor breaks wind.