Now that summer weather is right around the corner for most of us, it might be the case that rumblings about 'grillable' cheese have started to surface around the internet. Perhaps someone caught word of a grill-safe cheese in the grocery store or a recipe on social media came bouncing around, as this is the season for all things grill-worthy: fish, chicken, steak, vegetables, and, yes... even cheese.
Halloumi is the name of this amazing cheese and while it's fairly new to most people, it's a cheese that the people of Cyprus, have been making for centuries. With so much attention being given to Greek food and Mediterranean cusine lately, halloumi cheese is definitely something worth giving a chance to this summer. The texture and flavor is unlike anything else and this cheese is mild, lending itself over to the flavors imposed upon it. Basically, it's the perfect unique item to throw on the grill to impress guests... And keep them coming back this season. Get ready to fire up that barbecue and stock up on cheese.
Still unconvinced? Here's a little histry and how-to when it comes to Halloumi.
How Halloumi Was (And Still Is) Made
Also known as hellim, halloumi is considered to be a semi-hard cheese that has not been ripened (aged) which leaves it with a fresh, springy texture that's firm but springy to the touch. The cheese itself is made with a combination of sheep and goat's milk which makes it a great option for those who can't eat or drink cow's milk products; sometimes, the cheese is made with cow milk but it's easy enough to determine this with a quick scan of the cheese package.
It's estimated that the cheese was first made during the Medieval Byzantine period which took place between AD 395 and 1191. The specific recipe for this cheese - the first ever found for halloumi - was found dating back to the 14th-century in an Egyptian cookbook. However, halloumi then somehow made its way to Cyprus as early records of it were found during the 16th century and this is where it's presumed the cheese truly gainted its reputation.
The cheese then traveled across the Mediterranean and became popular in Lebanon and Levant, making it a popular favorite across the region rather than just in Cyprus. By the 19th century, the cheese was well-known throughout Europe and by the 20th century, it was being requested throughout Britain, as well. Now, it's even popular in the U.S. and can be found in most grocery stores in the cheese and dairy section.
How Halloumi Is Used And What It Tastes Like
One of the reasons halloumi has gained such popularity in the U.S. is due to its meat-like texture. What do we mean by this? The cheese itself has a firm texture that still carries some give with it, making it the perfect meatless option for sandwiches, burgers, and even pieces of chicken or fish. With its mild flavor, the cheese easily takes on the flavor of whatever spices or marinades are being used. Therefore, it's easily substituted in practically any disht that would otherwise use meat.
In Cyprus, the cheese is often eaten uncooked and it has a similar texture to the cheese curds found in the in Northeast U.S. and Canada, with a flavor that's akin to the mildest form of feta cheese, without the bold tang. It's been compared to mozzerella but is not as rich as the fresh cheese, and if it's not being eaten uncooked, it's usually grilled, broiled, or pan-fried with olive oil and herbs like oregano and basil. The cheese can be used in salads, on sandwiches, and even on skewers due to its high melting point - which is thanks to the lack of acid-producing bacteria which usually gives a cheese a low melting point.
The texture of halloumi is something that catches many people off-guard initially as it's very similar to that of cheese curds but without the melting point. When biting into the cheese, it gives off a chewy, squeaky feeling that might even be audible when eating it (and that's half the fun!). The cheese can be cut into bite-sized pieces or sliced thinly which will cut down on that squeak, similar to the way that tofu can. When grilling, halloumi holds up so well that it will even take on grill marks if left untouched on a well-oiled grill or pan, with its perfectly golden-brown color echoing that of any meat.