As some of you may recall, months and months ago, I gave my students an assignment to visit grocery stores they do not normally visit and look for cheeses they would not normally look for. My goal was to get them out of their comfort zone. An education should move one to a higher level of thinking on a variety of subjects – food included.
To say that I am behind schedule on my assignment is an understatement. But, I am not getting a grade. However, I am bound and determined to complete my assignment. Never let it be said that I left a job undone.
For my fourth assignment, I picked a Middle Eastern cheese, haloumi. I learned about this cheese from reading Greek recipes. I have never tried it, so this is a new experience for me too.
Haloumi (Halloumi) originated in Cyprus and is also popular in the rest of the Middle East and Greece. Traditionally, it is made from a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk. Haloumi is a white cheese, similar to mozzarella. It has a salty taste. It is unusual in that it can be fried or grilled until brown without melting due to its higher than normal melting point. Its resistance to melting comes from the fresh curd being heated before being shaped and brined. Haloumi can be used to make saganaki, a fried cheese appetizer often found on Greek menus.
Although some of my sources state that haloumi is similar to mozzarella, I’m not sure that I agree. First of all, I did not find it to be as tough as mozzarella. The texture was more grainy and fell apart easier than mozzarella. It has a stronger flavor than mozzarella.
I decided to make saganaki with my haloumi. Saganaki is often served in Greek restaurants as an appetizer. Saganaki gets its name from the pan in which the cheese is cooked. However, I made mine in a small cast iron skillet. I have never made this before and was a little intimidated. As I was making this dish, I thought of fried mozzarella. I now wonder if this is how fried mozzarella got started. If anyone in the blogosphere knows, please let me know.
Classic Saganaki with Olives and Lemon
Serves 4 to 6.
1 package (8 ounce) haloumi
All purpose flour
2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1. Rinse cheese under cold water. Do not pat dry. Coat with flour. Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add cheese and cook until beginning to brown, about 1 minute per slide. Transfer to plates and serve.
2. Squeeze lemon over cheese; sprinkle with oregano. Serve with tomato, pita and olives.