Crispy halloumi cheese with dates, walnuts and apples
Author of bestselling cookbook 'Zahav' shares a classic recipe that's a hit at his Philadelphia restaurant.
When I tried to take this dish starring Cypriot sheep’s milk cheese off the menu at Zahav, my Mediterranean restaurant in Philadelphia, our guests turned into a pack of angry villagers. I can’t blame them – there’s something so primal and delicious about the pairing of crispy, salty, warm cheese with sweet and tangy date paste.
Many Europeans, including my great-grandparents, moved to Israel in 1948, bringing halloumi with them. Halloumi has a high melting point, which makes it great for frying, searing or grilling. Just make sure to serve the fried cheese right after you cook it. It gets really firm as it cools and your guests will be making squeaking noises as they eat it.
There’s really no good substitute for halloumi and its ability to take heat. Halloumi is increasingly available in markets around the world.
- 1 cup roughly chopped dried dates
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- Kosher salt
- Canola oil
- 8 ounces haloumi cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 apple, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- Chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 teaspoon ground Urfa pepper
Combine the dates, walnuts, olive oil, vinegar, a couple pinches of salt and 1/2 cup hot water in a food processor and puree until smooth. Set the date paste aside.
Coat a skillet with canola oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering but not smoking. Arrange the cheese cubes in a single layer in the skillet and cook, turning, until the exteriors are golden and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.
Spread the date paste over the bottom of a serving plate and add the fried halloumi. Top with the apple, dill and Urfa pepper, and serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from 'Zahav,' by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Copyright 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.