It's no secret that I love Greek food, and living in Astoria has certainly intensified my affinity for it. Since moving here over six years ago, I've grown accustomed to Greek foods that were downright foreign to me in the past - dishes such as spanakopita, gyros, tzatziki and also halloumi cheese. Mmmm...just thinking about the latter makes me hungry for a bite.
For those of you who aren't that familiar with it, halloumi is a traditional Cypriot cheese that comes from a mixture of goat's milk and sheep's milk. It's deliciously salty and tastes wonderful when grilled or even on its own, without fancy preparation.
The only other time that I've worked with halloumi was when I made pastichio. Dan and I loved the cheese sprinkled on top of this hearty Greek pasta dish and we were eager to try it again, but this time prepared in a different style. So I decided to grill it and serve it simply with grilled pita, fresh tomatoes, lemon and parsley. Yum! The freshness of the dish spoke volumes, and the salty bite from the halloumi made it a treat. I love all the gorgeous grill marks that the cheese acquired, but just to give you a hint, make sure to leave it on the grill for a few minutes before you turn it. If you do it too fast, the cheese can fall apart, as it needs a few minutes to firm up.
Here's how to make this at home:
Grilled Halloumi on Pita (serves 2)
1/2 lb of halloumi cheese, sliced into 1/2 inch slices (you can buy it at a specialty foods store - I got it from Mediterranean Foods on 34th Street near 30th Avenue)
2 small tomatoes, sliced across into 1/2 inch slices
2 pita breads, grilled and cut into fourths
1 whole lemon, quartered
Fresh parsley, chopped or ripped
Heat a grill pan or a grill on medium - high heat. Lightly brush slices of halloumi with olive oil and place on hot grill. You can lightly brush the grill with some oil to prevent sticking. Turn after about five minutes or until the cheese has settled a bit. Turn over and check if the cheese has acquired nice char marks. Grill the other side for another 5 minutes.
In the meantime, assemble your grilled pita slices. Place a tomato on top of the pita and then top with the halloumi and then the parsley for garnish. Arrange on platter and place slices of lemon between the halloumi pita. Squeeze lemon juice over pita before taking a bite.