A barbecue-friendly cheese? Sounds like something Bobby Flay invented, but Halloumi, a surprisingly grillable cheese, has been made in Cyprus, Greece for centuries.
Authentic Halloumi is traditionally made from unpasteurized sheep and goat's milk, though today cow's milk is also used. The Halloumi from Cyprus has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), but "Halloumi-style" cheese is now made throughout the world.
Traditionally, Halloumi was often wrapped with mint leaves, which was used as a preservative, and, even now Halloumi is often sold with mint as a garnish.
While you can eat Halloumi raw, it's usually enjoyed cooked—not just because you can, but also because cooking improves the taste and texture. Some of the saltiness (from brining) fades as it cooks. And the texture, which starts out a bit like mozzarella, becomes a bit creamier with cooking.
To make grilled Halloumi, simply slide the cheese onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water first. Drizzle the cheese with olive oil and sprinkle with spices, if you like. Cook the skewered cheese just two to three minutes on each side, until it's warmed through. Large pieces of Halloumi can simply be placed directly on the grill, or you can also fry Halloumi in a skillet.
If you like, marinate the cheese before cooking—in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, red pepper, oregano or combinations of other spices, such as cumin, chili powder, ground ginger or fresh herbs like thyme, mint, basil or rosemary.
Try Halloumi Cypriot-style: with watermelon, or with smoked pork or lamb sausage. Use it on sandwiches (it's delicious in pita with cucumbers and tomatoes), to stuff ravioli, and over pasta, potatoes, or salads (toss the grilled cheese with any greens, and try it in place of mozzarella in a Caprese salad). Place Halloumi on kebabs with veggies. Serve it with eggs for breakfast, and on grilled burgers (meat or veggie) and eggplant. Here's a tasty recipe for Grilled Eggplant Napoleon.
Try drizzling the cheese with honey—which plays off the saltiness—and serving on a cheese tray. A lager makes a perfect accompaniment.
If you find Halloumi a bit too salty for your taste, simply simmer it in water for five minutes. Then refrigerate until firm again before cooking.
Halloumi will keep in the refrigerator for as long as a year, if it's unopened. Once opened, store it in the refrigerator in salt water in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Or wrap it tightly in waxed paper, parchment paper or cheese wrap. Rewrap in fresh paper whenever you unwrap it.
The cheese can also be frozen for a few months. Thaw it in the refrigerator a day before you want to use it.
If you haven't yet tried this unusual cheese, you're in for a treat—and a fun, delicious new addition to your grilling repertoire.