|Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Tomato Salad|
I'm a Jersey girl – born and raised in The Garden State.
As a child, I remember going to the Paterson Farmers' Market with my mother and grandmother. Our end-of-the-summer visits meant that Mom and Nanny were on the hunt for ripe, ready to use Jersey tomatoes. Their sweet, juiciness couldn’t be beat.
Mom and Nan would scrutinize the vendors’ wares, making their selection based on quality and price. The trunk of our car sagged with bushels of tomatoes and red peppers – two important ingredients for Nanny’s recipes. The red peppers were ear-marked for Nan’s red pepper paste. The tomatoes served numerous purposes – some for tomato paste, some for specific recipes such as dolma, and the firm, ripe, sweet tomatoes were assigned to any dish that Nan would conjure up.
Having lived in Florida for over 35 years, I can safely say I'm a Floridian (with Jersey overtones).
We Floridians don’t have to wait until summer’s end to feast on delicious tomatoes, ours are in season when most of the country’s landscape is still covered in snow.
Here’s a recipe that features red and yellow tomatoes (or heirloom tomatoes when available) that would even have met Nanny’s approval!
Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Tomato Salad
Yield: 4 servings
Tomato Salad Ingredients:
6 medium red vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
6 medium yellow vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
NOTE: 1- 12 oz. pkg. of red grape or cherry tomatoes, and 1-12 oz. pkg. of yellow grape or cherry tomatoes may be substituted. If using the smaller tomatoes, cut each in half.
2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Grilled Halloumi Ingredients:
8 ounces halloumi cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick (8 slices total)
NOTE: Halloumi cheese, sold in most Middle Eastern and Whole Foods markets, is made from a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk. Since it’s not a melting cheese, it holds up well on the grill. Be warned: Halloumi cheese is rather salty!
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp. zaatar, or to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Garnish: Slivered basil leaves, or toasted pine nuts or pistachio nuts, optional
Directions for Tomato Salad:
1. Place all tomato wedges (or halves, if using smaller tomatoes) in a mixing bowl. Add basil strips.
2. Combine olive oil with lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper; toss gently with tomatoes and basil.
3. Evenly divide tomato salad among 4 serving plates; set aside.
Directions for Grilled Halloumi Cheese:
1. Pat cheese slices dry between sheets of paper towel.
2. Season both sides of cheese slices with zaatar and black pepper.
3. Heat oil in a large grill pan set over medium-high heat. Cook cheese for 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. (NOTE: If you don’t have a grill pan, a large non-stick skillet will do the trick. You just won’t get grill marks.)
4. Top each salad with two slices of grilled cheese. Garnish with toasted pine nuts or pistachio nuts if desired. Serve immediately.