Baked feta may be having a moment, but it’s got nothing on a slab of halloumi seared until golden, crisp and slightly melted.
Halloumi — a mild, firm Cypriot cheese traditionally made from a combination of sheep and goat milk and submerged in brine — has a higher melting point than many other cheeses. This makes it ideal for any fiery encounters: whether fried in a skillet, seared on the grill or flambeed in a saganaki, a small pan with two handles that is also the name for the cheese dish cooked in it.
For this recipe, I cubed the halloumi before pan-frying it. This gives it more surface area, meaning greater caramelization and crispier edges. Another upside: The small, golden cubes mingling with the leafy greens resemble croutons but offer a springy, cheesy bite rather than a crunchy, toasted one.
As for the greens, I chose escarole because of its pleasing bitterness and rigid texture, which won’t immediately wilt on contact with the hot cheese.
A handful of slivered shallot or red onion adds pungency, while fresh parsley leaves brighten everything up. And finally, as an optional garnish, I sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top. Not only pretty, the ruby seeds lend a juicy sweetness that’s perfect with the saltiness of the cheese and garlicky bite of the dressing.
Escarole salad with smoky halloumi croutons
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 20 minutes
For the dressing:
1 small garlic clove, grated or pressed
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
For the salad:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
6 ounces halloumi cheese, diced into 1-inch cubes and patted dry
3/4 teaspoon sweet pimenton (smoked paprika)
6 cups escarole, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup parsley leaves and tender stems
1/2 shallot, or 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)
1. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, lemon juice and salt. Let sit for 30 seconds for the salt to dissolve, then whisk in olive oil. Taste and add more salt if needed. Set aside.
2. Prepare the salad: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium-high until it thins out, about 20 seconds. Add cheese and cook until golden on one side, 1 to 2 minutes, adding more oil if the pan dries out. Flip cheese and sprinkle with pimenton. Let cook without moving until golden on the other side, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
3. Put escarole, parsley and shallot in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and warm halloumi, and toss well, adding more oil, lemon juice and salt, to taste. Serve immediately, strewn with pomegranate seeds, if you like.