Pan-Fried Halloumi

Thanks to its high melting point, rich, salty halloumi cheese is ideal for pan-frying to a crisp golden brown.

Pan-Fried Halloumi
SERVES 6 to 8 FAST VEG
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Named for the small frying pan traditionally used to prepare this dish, Greek saganaki is an appetizer made by pan-searing slabs of firm cheese. We chose to create a version using halloumi. To achieve the classic crisp, browned exterior that would offer a satisfying contrast to the chewy interior, we tried pan frying the halloumi plain and dusted with flour, bread crumbs, and cornmeal. A combination of stone-ground cornmeal and a little all-purpose flour provided just the right golden-brown, textured crust. A squeeze of bright lemon juice offered welcome tang. To make a slightly more dressed-up version, we made a quick sauce with thinly sliced garlic, fresh parsley, and red pepper flakes to drizzle over the top. The pan-fried halloumi also tastes great with a drizzle of honey.

2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 (8-ounce) block halloumi cheese, sliced into ½-inch-thick slabs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon wedges

1. Combine cornmeal and flour in shallow dish. Working with 1 piece of cheese at a time, coat both wide sides with cornmeal mixture, pressing to help coating adhere; transfer to plate.
2. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Arrange halloumi in single layer in skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter and serve with lemon wedges.

VARIATION
Pan-Fried Halloumi with Garlic-Parsley Sauce FAST VEG
After frying halloumi, discard oil left in skillet and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to now-empty skillet and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 thinly sliced garlic clove, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook until garlic is golden brown and fragrant, about 1 minute. Drizzle oil mixture over pan-fried halloumi and serve with lemon wedges.

NOTES FROM THE TEST KITCHEN
Getting to Know Halloumi
This brined cheese is originally from Cyprus but is now popular throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Made from cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk (or even a combination of the three), it has an elastic quality that is similar to that of mozzarella, but firmer and more dense. Its dairy flavor is mild, and it is typically quite salty. You will often find it packed in brine and sold in blocks.
Because of how it’s made, halloumi has a very strong protein network, which means that when it’s heated, it softens but doesn’t melt. Many recipes, like our recipe for Pan-Fried Halloumi , take advantage of this quality by calling for pan frying or grilling cubes or slabs of the cheese, which gives it a crispy, flavorful exterior to contrast with the creamy interior.

Slicing Halloumi

Slice block of halloumi crosswise into ½-inch-thick slabs.

BRUSCHETTA
This classic Italian antipasto starts with slices of simple toasted garlic bread. A combination of chopped tomatoes and olive oil is the most traditional topping, but there are endless variations. Here are a few of our favorites.
Toasted Bread for Bruschetta
SERVES 8 to 10 FAST VEG
Toast the bread just before assembling the bruschetta.

1 (10 by 5-inch) loaf country bread with thick crust, ends discarded, sliced crosswise into ¾-inch-thick pieces
1 garlic clove, peeled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Adjust oven rack 4 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place bread on aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Broil until bread is deep golden and toasted on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Lightly rub 1 side of each toast with garlic (you will not use all of garlic). Brush with oil and season with salt to taste.

Bruschetta with Arugula Pesto and Goat Cheese
SERVES 8 to 10 FAST VEG
5 ounces (5 cups) baby arugula
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon juice
Salt and pepper
1 recipe Toasted Bread for Bruschetta
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Pulse arugula, oil, pine nuts, shallot, lemon zest and juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in food processor until mostly smooth, about 8 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Spread arugula mixture evenly on toasts, top with goat cheese, and drizzle with extra oil to taste. Serve.

Bruschetta with Ricotta, Tomatoes, and Basil
SERVES 8 to 10 FAST VEG
We prefer the rich flavor of whole-milk ricotta; however, part-skim ricotta can be substituted. Do not use fat-free ricotta.
1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
5 tablespoons shredded fresh basil
10 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 recipe Toasted Bread for Bruschetta
Toss tomatoes with 1 teaspoon salt in colander and let drain for 15 minutes. Transfer drained tomatoes to bowl, toss with oil and ¼ cup basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. In separate bowl, combine ricotta with remaining 1 tablespoon basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread ricotta mixture evenly on toasts, top with tomato mixture, and drizzle lightly with extra oil to taste. Serve.

Bruschetta with Black Olive Pesto, Ricotta, and Basil
SERVES 8 to 10 FAST VEG
We prefer the rich flavor of whole-milk ricotta; however, part-skim ricotta can be substituted. Do not use fat-free ricotta.
¾ cup pitted kalamata olives
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1½ teaspoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
10 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
1 recipe Toasted Bread for Bruschetta
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil
Pulse olives, shallot, oil, lemon juice, and garlic in food processor until coarsely chopped, about 10 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Season ricotta with salt and pepper to taste. Spread ricotta mixture evenly on toasts, top with olive mixture, and drizzle with extra oil to taste. Sprinkle with basil before serving.

Bruschetta with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan
SERVES 8 to 10 FAST VEG
While we prefer the flavor and texture of jarred whole baby artichoke hearts, you can substitute 6 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry, for the jarred.
1 cup jarred whole baby artichoke hearts packed in water, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, 1 ounce grated fine, 1 ounce shaved
1 recipe Toasted Bread for Bruschetta
Pulse artichoke hearts, oil, basil, lemon juice, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in food processor until coarsely pureed, about 6 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add grated Parmesan and pulse to combine, about 2 pulses. Spread artichoke mixture evenly on toasts and top with shaved Parmesan. Season with pepper to taste, and drizzle with extra oil to taste. Serve.

 

Appetizer & Meze

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