Halloumi is an under-appreciated part of the cheese world that not enough people seem to know about. It’s similar to a grilled cheese cube that you may have been enticed to enjoy at a farmers market. Halloumi is a firm cheese, delicate in flavor but has a creamy richness. We’re using it in a Halloumi Pomegranate Greens Salad to emphasize its deliciousness and highlight the cultural reference of this cheese in the Middle East. Flavors like za’atar, tart pomegranate, and sweet-fresh mint leaves make this salad so beautiful and tasty. Herbs aren’t just meant for garnish, especially in this salad.
Halloumi is perhaps most recognizable as a meat substitute; think along the lines of tofu. It’s made with a combination of goat and sheep’s milk. Halloumi has a high melting point which means it can withstand grilling or frying and still maintain its shape. I pan-fry the halloumi cheese until it takes on a gorgeous golden color. It will add a nice heartiness to this simple salad.
Another layer of flavor here is the quick-pickled red onions. The red onions sit in red wine vinegar for 20-30 minutes so it’s a good idea to do this early so there’s more than enough time to achieve the vinegary pickled bite of the peppery red onions.
I love a fresh vinaigrette and this one is delicious. It’s made with the usual suspects of olive oil and lemon juice, but I’m adding tahini and cumin into the mix for a subtle nod to the spices that appear in the rest of the Winter in the Middle East menu. This vinaigrette is massaged into the kale, and the massaging is kind of essential here. I really want to infuse the kale with flavor and break them down a little bit so that every centimeter of those bitter leafy greens will capture be infused with the tart vinegar.
At this point, there’s really not much more left to do. I’ll add the arugula into the bowl and the rest of the salad’s “accessories,” Panko bread crumbs, pomegranate seeds, halloumi cubes, pickled red onions and the vinaigrette. All that’s left is for me to say that this Halloumi Pomegranate Greens Salad is absolutely magical. The dressing is light and flavorful, the grilled halloumi cheese is creamy-toasty, and the pomegranate seeds and pickled red onions pack a one-two punch of sweetness and vinegary tang.
Halloumi Pomegranate Greens Salad is from the Winter in the Middle East menu at Table for 12. It was served with Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken, Fluffy Persian Jeweled Rice, and Black Sesame Marbled Tahini Cake.
Halloumi Pommegranet Greens Salad
For the salad:
- 8 oz. halloumi cheese, cubed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 5 oz. baby arugula
- 2.5 oz. baby kale
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons za’atar
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Combine the sliced red onion and red wine vinegar in a bowl to create a raw quick pickle. Let onions pickle for 20 - 30 minutes.
- Toast the Panko breadcrumbs, butter, and za’atar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, until the Panko starts to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Sear halloumi cubes in a sauté pan over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sear each side for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the cheese turns golden. Remove to a plate.
- Make the vinaigrette by whisking together all ingredients. Taste for seasoning.
- Toss salad in a bowl starting with the kale and massage the kale with extra red wine vinegar from the pickled onions. The goal is to coat each kale leaf with vinegar and break down the kale.
- Drizzle in dressing and add arugula, then lightly toss. Sprinkle over toasted breadcrumbs and toss again.
- Layer the salad starting with massaged greens, seared halloumi, torn mint, pomegranate, & pistachios. Enjoy!
This recipe is from the Winter in the Middle East menu at Table for 12.