Randy and I moved to London in the summer of 2003. If you are European, you probably remember that summer because it was the one with the unbelievable heat wave. Temperatures soared in normally very mild (read: cold) London and got so high in France that hundreds of people died. For over a week, temperatures in jolly old England were close to 100 degrees (that would be 33 Celcius) and we were all miserable.
When we get high temps in Seattle each summer (for three or four days), people go crazy because no one has air conditioning. But, to be fair, all the shopping malls, movie theatres, museums, and many restaurants do. There are places where you can go to be cool. And, of course, Seattle is surrounded by water. There are many places to just go, well, jump in a lake (or the Sound).
London? Not so much. First of all, no one in their right mind would jump in the Thames. And, at least when we were there, every place we thought would be cool was not. And believe me when I tell you that we tried a variety of options. On the fifth or sixth day of the heat wave, we decided to head out of the city to try and find some cool. I’m not sure why we thought taking the Tube was a good idea but there we were, with my brother Michael in tow, heading to Hampton Court, trying not to move a muscle, trying not to stick to the seat.
We went to a movie and sweated. We ate lunch and sweated. We sweated even more on the way home. Just blinking my eyes made me hot. I remember a lot about that day – I even remember the movie we saw (Pirates of the Caribbean – come on, we were desperate.) For people who love to eat, many memories are associated with food. That day sticks out so clearly for me because it was the first time I tasted Haloumi.
Ha-what? you may ask. Haloumi is a cheese originating from Cyprus that is, in my experience, totally unique. It is extremely dense and holds its shape when you cook it. Raw, it’s a bit intense. Squeaky is not usually an adjective I like to use in describing a cheese I am eating. Cooked, it mellows a bit – softens, gets less squeaky. It is quite salty, but for savory loving people like me, that is a compliment. That hot hot day, the cheese was in a salad and it really blew my mind. It is such a treat to be a food person and to eat something completely new and different. Since then, I have tried numerous recipes using it and this is my favorite.
For this appetizer, you grill both the haloumi and lemon slices. The taste combination with the dill-intense dressing is so unique that everyone I have ever served it to goes crazy for it. If you have a non-stick grill pan, that is a great thing to use for the cheese. I gave that pan away and used the grill on my stove and made a mess. Totally worth it though.
UPDATE: I’ve had a few questions about whether or not you eat the lemon rind. You do! The lemon is sliced very thinly and being tossed in the marinade and then grilled, it becomes very soft. Its intense citrus flavor is most welcome against the saltiness of the cheese.
One Year Ago: Dinner Spanikopita
Grilled Haloumi Cheese and Lemon
Adapted from Gourmet
Haloumi can be a bit hard to find, but they always have it at my Whole Foods. I would recommend using a nice dense bread (like a pain de campagne) and cut multiple slices – I’ve done as many as 8 depending on the size of the bread.
½ pound Haloumi cheese
1 large garlic clove
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
4-8 (¾-inch thick) slices country bread
2 tbsp. finely chopped dill
Prepare a gas grill (or a grill pan) over moderately high heat.
Cut 8 thin slices from the lemons, then squeeze enough juice from remainder to measure 2 tablespoons and put it in a bowl.
Halve cheese diagonally, then cut each triangle, cut side down, into 1/3-inch thick slices.
Mince garlic and mash to a paste with a pinch of salt using the side of a large heavy knife, then add to lemon juice. Whisk in salt and s sugar until dissolved, then add ¼ cup oil, whisking until combined. Separately toss lemon slices ad cheese each with ½ tablespoon dressing. Brush both sides of bread with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
Grill bread, cheese, and lemon slices on grill rack (or in pan), covered, turning once (use a metal spatula to scrape under cheese) until bread is toasted (2 to 3 minutes), grill marks appear on cheese (3 to 4 minutes total), and lemons begin to wilt (4 to 6 minutes total).
Whisk dill into remaining dressing. Divide cheese and lemon slices between bread and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.