Halloumi How-to

After a couple of written and oral comments on Doug’s Halloumi post, I’ve decided to provide our (very few) loyal readers with a more detailed description and explanation on how to prepare this wondrous treat.

1. Purchase halloumi cheese

This may seem like the obvious first step (unless you’re a Cypriot shepherd who makes this unpasteurized cheese using his own sheep’s and goats’ milk), but it is unfortunately not a simple one.

The cheese isn’t so obscure to Westerners as to be impossible to find, but it can certainly take some hunting.

I’d sometimes buy it at an Israeli store near my old apartment, but it had a slightly different texture than the version Doug and I have taken to eating most often, purchased at Union Market (see below).  I’ve also found it at Garden of Eden, a gourmet grocery store that has locations in the tristate area.  A Cypriot/Greek cheese, it’s used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, so try looking somewhere that may carry such specialty items.

2. Heat your skillet before putting the cheese in

Put the skillet over medium heat while you cut up your cheese.  You want the skillet to be hot before you put the cheese in as it helps the cheese crisp up and brown nicely.

You do NOT need to put anything on the skillet. No butter, no olive oil.  Nothing. The cheese will brown in its own brine.

I’d recommend using a non-stick skillet so that you don’t have to worry about complications in flipping the cheese.

I don’t have a hard and fast rule as to how hot the skillet should be before putting in the cheese, although you can always flick a few drops of water into the skillet to see if they sizzle up and evaporate.  If they do, your skillet is definitely ready.

3. Cut halloumi cheese into ~1/4″ slices

You’ll want to cut them pieces into slices thick enough to grill.  Halloumi’s melting point is higher than most cheeses’, which allows you to grill it neatly.  If the slices are too thin, though, they may fall apart as you try to flip them.  I’ve found that slices that are about 1/4″ thick (say, the width of a pinky) work well.

Don’t worry if the slices break in half when you cut them (as mine did–you can see the breaks in the images below). If they do break apart, they should do so with a clean cut–so when you grill it, just piece the two halves together neatly.  They should melt together enough that they’ll stick to one another.

Sliced halloumi

~1/4"

4. Put the halloumi slices into the skillet

Once you put the slices into the skillet, lower the heat to medium-low.  This allows the cheese to soften up and get warmer.  After a minute or so, raise the heat back up to medium heat and let them sit a minute or so longer.

As the cheese warms, you’ll see it begin to release liquid (depending on the brand you purchase, you may have a lot of liquid or very little liquid).  It will begin to brown around the edges of the cheese as the cheese grills.  You can monitor how brown the cheese is getting by lifting it up with a spatula every so often, but don’t mess with it too much.

Getting those halloumi slices grilled.

5. Once the first side is brown, flip the halloumi

Flippin' away!

6. Let the second side grill

You don’t need to lower the heat for the second side–leave it on medium heat.  It should brown more quickly than the first side.

Here, you can see the break in my halloumi slice and how the piece stuck together regardless.  You can also see some of the liquid released by the cheese as it grilled.

Beautifully browned.

7. Once the second side browns, remove from skillet and enjoy immediately

Grilled halloumi is meant to be eaten warm.  It becomes gummy and rubbery if left to cool.  It also should not be reheated.  So grill what you plan to eat and eat what you grill.  That shouldn’t be hard, considering how delicious grilled halloumi is–if anything, you’ll want to grill more.

Recommendations 

Halloumi can be eaten with just about anything, I’d say. But I also love just about every type of cheese with just about any meal.  I will say that I’ve had some exceptional, exquisite meals that combine halloumi with foods that compliment its salty deliciousness.

Figs

Halloumi tastes wonderful with fig jam.  I would eat grilled halloumi with fig jam spread on a daily basis if I wouldn’t be liable to clog my arteries in the process.

Eggs

A classic.  Try poaching an egg and placing it atop grilled halloumi.  I had this combination with roasted red peppers and zatar pita at Cafe Mogador.  It was divine.

Salad

Something about Israeli salad, comprised of red peppers, green peppers, yellow peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, and carrots, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, makes me salivate like no American salad ever has.  Throw in some cubes of grilled halloumi? My soul might just melt in a way halloumi cheese can’t.

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The Big, Bruised, Begrimed Apple (also known as New York City)

“We are pleased to inform you that after reviewing your file you have been accepted to the September 2011 session of the Career Israel program,”  I read over Doug’s shoulder.  I quickly checked my iPhone, hoping I got a similar email.

Nothing.

I eagerly/expectantly/nervously waited to receive my acceptance email.  I kept wondering what we’d do if I didn’t get accepted to the program. Apply for a different one, even as time to do so was quickly running out? Go sans program and have to worry about finding an apartment, getting a job, and worrying about health insurance? Go for less time and do heavens knows what?

Luckily, I was officially accepted a few days later.  And with that acceptance has come a ridiculously strong desire to leave New York as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, Doug and I plan to stay through the end of June.  Our remaining time here will largely be spent inside NYU’s Bobst Library, toiling away at relatively thankless jobs.

Since my pre-NYU days, I’ve worked away every summer in the hopes of making a little extra money.  It usually isn’t so bad–I would just get a little bummed about spending my summer vacations cooped up in a workplace rather than poolside or at the beach.  But this time it’s way worse.  I dread waking up in the morning and getting ready to go to work almost as much as I dread being at work.

Maybe my desperate desire to finish with my current job and get ready to leave for Israel wouldn’t be so intense if I wasn’t surrounded by awkward librarians, dusty boxes, and uppity researchers.   Or maybe it’s the windowless, sub-zero environment I work in that does it.  Layering up against winter-weather-cold  in April is bad enough.  It’s June, darn it, and I’m tired of having to wear long pants and sweaters so that I don’t freeze while trying to make some dough.

But the woes of the NYU Library employee aside, I’m itching for it to be July, restlessly waiting to leave this city.  Simone De Beauvior once said: “There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.”  Sure, New York has its glamor, its beauty, and its charm.  I love that I could eat virtually any type of cuisine with relative ease and can reach almost anywhere I’d be interested in going using the NYC public transportation system.  I appreciate the city’s diversity and people’s general tolerance of difference.   The cultural and artistic offerings in New York are extraordinary and, for the most part, accessible and affordable, even with a student’s budget.

But New York is also a tiring, frustrating, dirty city.  It’s usually either too cold or too hot–rarely is the weather perfect.  When it snows, you have to vault over snow mounds and slush piles for the next two weeks every time you try to cross the street.  In the summertime, wearing flip flops means blackened feet by the end of the day.  Despite the less than ideal weather, the city is always a tourist destination.  The concentration of tourists make certain areas awful to walk through as every time a tourist stops to snap a photo (mid-sidewalk, of course), I get stopped, too.  On the dirty, gum-covered, cigarette-riddled, dog-poop-flecked sidewalks of the city.

Subway travel can be even worse.  People who lack subway etiquette refuse to move into the subway cars, turning the conductor’s instruction, “stand clear of the closing doors,” into a cruel joke as you either awkwardly stand packed next to twelve other people smooshed by the door as open space wastes away further into the train or you can’t squeeze onto the train at all.  The instances when you get onto the subway and snag a seat are wonderful… until a drunk, high hobo stands right next to where you’re sitting, wobbling, leaning towards you, looking like he’s going to be sick.

And even if the people near you on the train aren’t drunk, high hobos, they have their own issues and they’re willing to voice them.  Impatient, loud, and rude, New Yorkers will push and shove you, step on your feet and not apologize, and shoot you dirty looks if you’re bag enters what they perceive as their personal space on a crowded train.

But fine, I’m willing to resign myself to crowded trains.  Rush hour exists everywhere and for New Yorkers that means over-stuffed, uncomfortable subway rides.  Unfortunately, the crowds are everywhere–in restaurants, bars, even supermarkets.  I’ll be damned if I can quickly swing by my local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to pick up milk when I run out.  Grocery shopping has to be a scheduled event because the lines are so long.  But it isn’t so bad–at least I can listen to someone’s over-loud cell phone conversation while I wait.  Always entertaining, considering notions of privacy are pretty much non-existent.  And when the glorious moment when I reach the cashier arrives, I stare incredulously at the price display as my pasta, rice, beans, milk, and yogurt come to $25.  New York prices, how I loathe thee.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love New York most of the time.  After all, I chose to come back to Manhattan for law school, despite having the option to study in Los Angeles.  I’m really hoping that the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” shtick holds true, and that I’ll miss New York eventually.

But as the days working in an icebox library in a crowded, hot, frustrating city drag on, the countdowns begin.

Until leaving NYC:

15 days.

Until vacationing on Cape Cod with Doug’s family:

31 days.

Until my birthday:

37 days.

Until the Philadelphia Union v. Real Madrid game:

38 days.

Until Israel (this one is an estimate):

75 days.

I saw the bears, can lions and tigers be far behind?

While revolutions, some violent, some peaceful, and some stalled, invigorate the Middle East, I have had some worries about the safety of living in the region for a whole year. On the other hand, this last weekend in Connecticut convinced me that it might be even more dangerous staying in the northeast. Syria may have violent protests and Bahrain is the current battle ground of the Saudi/Iranian rivalry, neither of these conflicts holds a candle to the turmoil brewing in usually peaceful Harwinton.

This sleepy hamlet is the center of a war between man and his age old enemy: ferocious nature. Yes, gentle reader, I speak of the threat posed by the hordes of vicious animals sweeping the northeast. On Friday night a merciless bear not only disrupted my LSAT studying but he tore into one of my mom’s standing birdfeeders like David Ortiz into a curveball or a wolf in the sheep pen. Of course, with the appearance of bears, can wolves be far behind? Where are our helicopters full of hunters to protect us?

The one bear was bad enough, but the next day a bear cub broke the Pickard household’s morning tranquility when he rambled through the yard on his way for parts unknown (probably headed to rough up old people or steal candy from babies). This aggression will not, nay must not, stand! A bear cub may be cute, but next thing you know he will disrupt your blueberry picking or complain that his porridge is too cold.

So, I am no longer worried about democracy craving protestors and their anti-dictator agendas, rather I seek only to escape the from the nefarious schemes of the cute, but obviously Janus faced, wildlife invading America.

It is about ten fingertips away on the globe…what is that in miles?

Two years ago, I moved from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Brooklyn, New York, in order to attended the World History M.A. program at New York University.  This wasn’t a big relocation, nor was it far from Philadelphia, where I attended college, or northwest Connecticut, my childhood home.  In two months, I will fly to Israel with my wonderful girlfriend to live and work for a year.  This will be the longest I’ve ever been away from the northwestern United States.

Whatever unease I feel about the distance from home, it pales in comparison with my excitement about what awaits us on the coast of the Mediterranean.  In graduate school I studied Middle Eastern history, but I’ve never actually been to the Middle East.  I don’t think I can truly understand the area, the people, or the history until I’ve seen it all first-hand.  This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’ll get as much out of it as I possibly can.  I want to walk in the Negev at sunrise, learn Tel Aviv’s bustling streets, attend Israeli basketball and soccer games, and wade into the Mediterranean’s clear blue expanse.

In all of these adventures, it is my greatest blessing to have Taly (a more experienced world traveler) for companionship and guidance.  We first met working at NYU last spring, and while it may have taken me a couple of months to ask her out, I noticed her immediately and wished she’d talk to me.  Regardless of how I might feel about NYU (graduate school can be disappointing, but I’d say it was a good experience for me), I can’t, and I don’t, want to imagine what it would be like if I never met Taly there.  Together I think we managed to make the most of our last year at NYU, cooked and ate plenty good tasty meals (accompanied by as much avocado as possible), and slowly formulated this plan to live together in Israel for a year.   While we come from different backgrounds and come to this trip with different experiences, we both realize this is an important and exciting step for us.  Personally, I hope to be able to hold regular conversations in Hebrew with Taly by the end of the trip.

Hmm….I think I’m forgetting something.  Lets see, what haven’t I mentioned?  History, check…  Taly and I, check…  Learning Hebrew, check….  Oh, of course! I forgot to mention all the wonderful food we will eat.  I can’t wait for Israeli salad, halloumi (or, haloumi) cheese, pitas that don’t fall apart, lamb kebabs. And, of course, hummus!  I’ll eat lots and lots of hummus.  I should probably get ready by eating some now.  I wonder if I have any in the fridge….