When it comes to summer cooking, there's nothing better than firing up the grill and putting anything on a hot grate, including cheese. While you may think cheese makes a mess when it melts and sticks to the grill, there is one cheese made specifically for the grill: Halloumi cheese.
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 a Parmesan cheese, and it's not something that's completely melted." Coumbaros serves up halloumi cheese dishes daily to hungry customers at his popular Greek restaurant.
So what exactly is halloumi cheese and how should you make it?
Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and is traditionally made from sheep's and goat's milk. "A lot of people make it differently," Koumbaros tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "Some people also add a little bit of milk."
Is halloumi for baking?
At his restaurant, Coumbaros makes halloumi cheese on a charcoal grill. "We grill it over charcoal so you can leave grill marks on the cheese," he explains. "Then [we] put sesame seeds [on top], and you definitely need some lemon on top."
If you don't have an outdoor charcoal grill at home, or if it's raining outside but you need to curb your craving for halloumi, you can also fry halloumi inside on the stove. "Just put a little olive oil in the pan and put it on the stove," says Koumbaros. After turning the cheese over in the pan, he suggests putting the sesame seeds on top so they can warm up.
According to Coumbaros, halloumi cheese is more of an appetizer, but you can get as creative as you want. While you can eat halloumi raw, he suggests grilled cheese and some tomatoes for a tasty dish. "It will be a nice contrast to the cheese and tomatoes," he explains.
What does halloumi cheese taste like?
Depending on how you cook it, the flavor of halloumi cheese may vary. Halloumi has a somewhat rich base, like a mild feta, but not as sharp as aged cheddar. If you choose to grill it, the cheese will be a bit smoky, while grilled halloumi cheese will be more like a grilled cheese sandwich, melting and becoming crispy in a grilled cheese sandwich. It is similar to a mixture of mozzarella and feta, but has the texture of uncooked cheese curds.
Halloumi cheese can be difficult to find in grocery stores, but Coumbaros recommends looking for halloumi cheese at local international markets or specialty food stores with cheese counters. If you can't find it, most traditional grocery stores carry what is known as "grilled cheese".
Halloumi cheese and grilled cheese are similar in style, but for legal proprietary reasons, grilled cheese made in the United States or Canada cannot be called halloumi cheese.
Is halloumi cheese good for you?
Those who are more health conscious will be happy to know that halloumi is relatively healthy, although you shouldn't eat it every day. One ounce of halloumi contains 110 calories, zero carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein and 25% of your daily calcium intake.
The downside to cheese is sodium, which is 15% of your daily intake per ounce serving. Depending on the cooking method and any additional toppings, the health aspects of the cheese may be reduced, especially if it is cooked in oil or topped with too many ingredients.
"It's great on its own, or you can get more creative," says Kumbalos, who offers his halloumi recipe for Yahoo Lifestyle.
Baked Halloumi Cheese
1 package of halloumi cheese
Toasted sesame seeds
Place a thick slice of halloumi cheese directly on the grill. Grill each side for 2-3 minutes to heat through and make definite grill marks.
Serve hot with pita bread or crostini and one of the following ingredients.
Toasted sesame seeds, fresh lemon juice and sea salt (on a bed of vegetables, such as arugula)
Toasted sesame seeds and a little honey
A fine drizzle of chopped marinated tomatoes and Greek olive oil