All hail the squeaky cheese!

I applaud my sister-in-law and other friends who have gone vegan in the past couple of years. But there’s one huge reason why I can never join their ranks.

Cheese.

It’s hard to get through a day here without cheese showing up in some form – from convenient Baby Bells in lunch boxes to ubiquitous cheddar and blue cheeses of any whey, shape or form.

Parmesan makes anything better. We’ve discovered that its salty tang even combines well with watermelon. And live without melted Swiss, funky Port Salut, or dill Havarti? Never.

One of our favorite dishes, ever, is saganaki, the flaming, squeaky, lemony cheese dish served in Greek restaurants. But last week, during lunch at a Turkish establishment, we found another great way to enjoy the halloumi cheese that’s usually used in saganaki. The restaurant simply grilled it and served it in a wrap with falafel, vegetables and some tzaiki sauce.

New love.

We headed straight to a nearby Middle Eastern grocery to pick up our own halloumi for dinner the next night.

With an elasticity like fresh mozzarella and a salty brininess like feta, halloumi offers the best of both tastes. Made with sheep or goat’s milk, it’s semi-firm and has such a high melting point that you can grill it or pan saute it until it’s nicely browned on both sides, without it turning to goo. That’s right, it’s grilled cheese without the bread.

The new Whole Foods in Charlotte carries it, and it comes in its own brine, so it lasts for months in the fridge and even freezes well. We’ll be stocking up, because as a simple dinner, it can’t be beat.

Grilled Halloumi cheese with rocket salad

Feeds two

2 Tbsp. olive oil

8 oz. halloumi cheese

2 cups arugala (rocket)

juice of one lime

1/4 cup roasted red peppers, drained

fresh ground pepper

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove cheese from its brine, place in colander and rinse briefly with cold water. Dry cheese by blotting with a paper towel. Cut into thick slices. Brown the cheese on both sides (about five minutes a side). Place on plates, top with rocket and peppers. Use a spatula to scrape any browned cheese bits from the bottom of the pan. Top the salad with lime juice and the warm olive oil from the pan. Finish with a few grinds of pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

 

 

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