Halloumi is Cypriot cheese with salty flavor and semi-hard texture. Because of its high melting point, it’s great for frying and grilling. In this salad flavorful halloumi is combined with sweet strawberries — these two counterpoints make a perfect combination. This mouth-watering combination gets a subtle kick from freshly ground black pepper. Good-quality extra virgin olive oil gives the final touch with its richness and healthful fats.
In case you cannot get halloumi or other cheese suitable for grilling, I’ll give some ideas how to replace it in this salad. I’ll also give vegan and dairy-free alternatives in the end of the post.
Tips for making the salad
If you can only find, I recommend to use real halloumi because of its great characteristics and unbeatable taste. Halloumi stands high heat without melting. Another salty cheese suitable for grilling will also do, but like I said, nothing beats halloumi.
Try to use as sweet strawberries as you can. They do have a slightly higher carb count than their sourer counterparts, but since there is no need to use that many strawberries, a shade higher amount of carbs shouldn’t matter too much.
If you don’t have a chance to grill, you can fry the cheese slices on a skillet. Use medium-high heat and some olive oil for frying to get a crispy and golden brown exterior.
My Strawberry Halloumi Salad experiments
Usually I fail to grow plants. Whichever plant I try to grow, it suddenly dies after a successful start. Therefore I was extremely pleasantly surprised, when my brand new vegetable patch was bursting with lettuce, pumpkin and kale. For the first time in my life. Well, the summer is young, so anything can happen and the hefty harvest could be only wishful thinking and my good luck with growing these healthful plants could turn into the usual ill luck at any point.
But there was lettuce. Plenty of lettuce. I was thrilled and wanted to use the lettuce for a tasty salad dish. I still had some strawberries after last week’s strawberry pop recipe, so those could be a nice and fruity addition.
I wanted to add some contrast to my salad. There was a beautiful bunch of spring onions in my fridge. You could smell the existence of that just by opening the fridge door. Very handy. Anyway, I presumed the onions would be a great addition to lettuce and strawberries.
I still needed something filling, preferably something salty to complement the salad. Cheese! Naturally. In my mind’s eye I saw a colorful salad with green lettuce leaves, bright red strawberries and spots of something blue and white. Blue cheese.
Luckily I found a package of blue cheese from my second fridge where I store my cheese and meat products. Even the variety was smelly, this cheese I didn’t find because of smell, even the expiry date has passed a while ago. Well, for my experiments it would still do.
I collected a small bundle of chopped lettuce leaves, halved strawberry, a couple of rings of chopped spring onion and a small piece of blue cheese to my hand. I fine-tuned the combination with some good-quality olive oil. Then the most exciting part: tasting.
Sharp. That was my first reaction. Far too sharp. The blue cheese was overpowering with all its smelly and sharp power. I don’t think passing the expiry date had anything to do with it, the variety of cheese was simply too sharp for this salad.
I also tried some black pepper and balsamic vinegar, but the vinegar was the last thing to add. No need to say it made everything even sharper and was emphasizing all strong flavors in the salad. Not in a good way. On the contrary, black pepper gave a piquant kick and bound the flavors together creating a tasty combination.
I tried all varieties of cheese which I found from my fridge (I found surprisingly many; some forgotten but still valid cheeses). Then I went to the grocery store and bought some more.
Here are the types of cheese I tried with this salad, followed by score how well the cheese suits this salad and especially the strawberries in my opinion. The list isn’t by any means comprehensive, just what I happened to have at hand (* = inedible; ***** = incredible):
- Brie, young **
- Blue cheese, sharp (the variety I used was too sharp, milder blue cheese would suit better, although I doubt it would be the best companion to strawberries) **
- Goat cheese, soft ***
- Gouda cheese, aged ***
- Halloumi, grilled *****
- Havarti ****
- Maasdam cheese **
- Mozzarella *
- Parmesan *
- Processed cheese, quite sharp ****
- Smoked cheese **
- Swiss cheese, aged ***
- Swiss cheese, young ****
So, grilled halloumi was the perfect companion to this strawberry salad. Ultimately I would have used halloumi grilled in charcoal grill, but since my virtuoso-of-the-grilling husband was on business trip, I had to resign myself to frying the cheese in cast iron grill pan. After all, that brought also a great result.
I left out the spring onion. It was simply too much and didn’t add anything nice to the flavor combination, some unneeded pungent flavor at the most. Black pepper, however, was the perfect companion to cheese and strawberries. It’s a staple with olive oil, too. Definitely a keeper.
Actually, when I wanted to take photos for this blog post, there was no halloumi left in the nearest grocery store. Usually they carry several different types of halloumi. We Finns were celebrating Midsummer and that includes grilling and lots of booze. Since Finns are aware that halloumi is great for grilling, all the halloumi was sold out. My luck. Fortunately I found some other cheese meant for grilling, so I took that. It wasn’t that strong-flavored and salty like halloumi, but luckily you cannot see that from the photos 🙂
I managed to get some wild strawberries while spending some time in our summer cottage. Wild strawberries are early this year, thanks to that hot weather I already complained about. With their intense and sweet taste, wild strawberries were perfect with strong-flavored and salty halloumi.
|Per serving if 4 servings in total:
|Per serving if 6 servings in total:
Tips for variation
Vegan or dairy-free version of the salad is easy to make by replacing cheese with avocado or tofu. Also some cheese-type vegan products are worth trying. Avocado makes also a great addition to the halloumi version, it gives more richness and softens the intense flavors. It also makes the salad more filling, which is welcome if you serve the salad as main dish.
For parties you can serve the salad as a snack on cocktail sticks. On each stick, put a cube of grilled or fried halloumi, a piece of strawberry and a piece of lettuce leave. Top with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Spoons are also great for serving these savories, the olive oil doesn’t escape from them.
In case you cannot get halloumi or other cheese suitable for grilling, the following types of cheese are also great (naturally without grilling or frying, just cubed): aged gouda cheese, Swiss cheese, Havarti and processed cheese. I would suggest relatively sharp version of processed cheese. I didn’t have a chance to try American cheese, but would be interesting to know how it suits this salad.