The first time I tried halloumi was on senior spring break. (WOOOOO!)
I’m sure you’re picturing me crushing a chunk of halloumi at Señor Frog’s or some other equally classy establishment, but I actually spent my spring break traveling around Israel. That may seem like an odd choice for a 21-year-old’s last kollege vacay, and it was, but it was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. (And I’ve made so many decisions!)
I have no clue whose idea it was to go to Israel, but a group of my favorite people somehow made their way to my friend Tamara’s house in Tel Aviv in March of 2009, and the activities that ensued were truly legendary. I’m temped to wax poetic on the many magical aspects of that trip (and I probably will at some point), but it’s Friday and we’ve got places to go and rosé to drink, so I’ll restrain myself. In short, I bobbed in the Dead Sea, repelled down cliffs in the dessert, slept in a Bedouin tent, wandered the streets of Jerusalem, and ultimately left the country feeling very proud to be ¼ Jewish. Shalom!
The only mildly unpleasant aspect of Israel-fest 2009 was the food. Blergh. I now regret missing out on so much Mediterranean/Middle Eastern deliciousness, but I was vehemently anti-hummus, falafel and tomato at the time, which left me with few options. I’m ashamed to admit that I consumed mostly babka and French fries for 7 days straight, but there’s one legitimate meal that sticks out in my memory. And that, friends, is a grilled halloumi salad.
My young mind was blown by the salty, just melting cheese over a bed of lightly dressed greens and fresh vegetables. The fact that I was eating it on the beach, three glasses of wine deep and surrounded by besties probably contributed to the earth-shattering awesomeness of that salad, but whatever. Grilled halloumi was/is glorious, and that is the truth.
Anyhoo, I was shopping to make a BLT salad yesterday, when I stumbled upon a little halloumi display right before the checkout. Immediately overwhelmed by fond Israeli memories and an intense cheese craving, I impulsively added several pounds of the stuff to my basket. As you can imagine, I panicked a little when I got home with 3 blocks of a somewhat random cheese (I rarely think things through), but then I realized the universe meant for me to put it on top of the aforementioned BLT salad.
And I did.
I’m not going to waste your time describing the wonders of the BLT Salad with Grilled Halloumi in flowery food blogger language because this salad 100% sells itself. I mean, slabs of melty, savory grilled cheese with mustardy greens, bursting summer tomatoes, and an inappropriate amount of crispy BACON? Unless you’re lactose-intolerant or one of the handful of vegans/veg heads/paleo peeps that hang out around here (hi! I appreciate you!), I imagine that’s enough to get you amped on this recipe. Yes?
Did I mention that the whole thing is doable from start to finish in about 30 MINUTES???!! I am a wizard. (You can be too.)
I fed this cheesy BLT salad to a very psyched roommate on the couch last night, but I firmly believe it was made to party. It’s an incredibly sassy appetizer for casual entertaining, an excellent addition to summer bbq spreads (we’ve still got a few weeks left!), and a kickass centerpiece for a weekend lunch/brunch. Honestly, you can’t really go wrong with dressed up cheese. Total showstopper.
In case you need a little extra push to take the grilled halloumi plunge, visualize yourself parading this out of the kitchen to a roomful of tipsy/starving guests. Do you hear Queen in the background? Are people crying? Is everyone in love with you? (If the answer to all three questions isn’t a resounding “YASSS!,” that’s not the salad’s fault. You need to work on your creative visualization skills.)
In my non-so-humble opinion, this salad is summer perfection, but as always, feel free to get creative. Swap grilled peaches for tomatoes (or go halfsies), basil pesto or vinaigrette for the Dijon dressing, and baby lettuces for arugula. Maybe forego bacon in favor of some crispy prosciutto or pancetta, or ditch the meat altogether for a crowd-pleasing vegetarian option. And if you wanted to go all No-Calorie Sunday on this bitch and sandwich everything between a grilled, garlic-rubbed baguette? No judgment. You must do you.
Happy Friday, you sexy things.
BLT Salad with Grilled Halloumi (Serves 4-6)
5 slices bacon
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
1 pound halloumi cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 ounces baby arugula
4 basil leaves, thinly sliced
For the dressing:
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
¼ teaspoon honey
Fresh ground pepper
Preparing your BLT Salad with Grilled Halloumi:
-Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
-Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray a wire rack with cooking spray, and place it on top of the prepared baking sheet. Arrange the bacon on the wire rack.
-Pre-heat a lightly oiled grill or grill pan over high heat.
-In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the salad dressing. Briefly set aside. Please don’t add too much salt to the dressing, peeps. You’ll get plenty of salt from the bacon and cheese.
-Brush the tomatoes with a little bit of olive oil and place them on the grill. Cook for 4-6 minutes, rotating occasionally, until they’re lightly charred in spots. Remove from the grill and let cool slightly.