Grilled Salad: Romaine and Queso Fresco (or haloumi)
Have you used haloumi cheese in your kitchen? It features prominently in middle east cuisine and used for frying or grilling thanks to its high melting point (it begins melting only at very high temperature). It originates in Cyprus and is made from goat, sheep or cow’s milk. I have been looking for haloumi cheese here for a while and not finding any. I tried the Italian stores, the Greek shop and our Janice Beaton cheese store but none had it. I ended up getting the Mexican queso fresco that apparently is comparable in the sense that you can grill it without having it melt. It ended up working quite well and I like the lightly salty, rich flavour that it brought to the dish. If you have haloumi go head and use it. If not, queso fresco is an alternative.
I wanted to grill the cheese and serve it with a salad, which is the way it is served in Israel (best salads over there). Instead of doing a regular salad I thought I’d make a grilled one. Grilled Romaine is my standard salad at the beautiful and authentic Eldorado Hotel on the lake in Kelowna. I love the warm yet crisp romaine with the tangy, creamy dressing. I thought the grilled queso fresco/ haloumi would be a wonderful accompaniment to the grilled romaine, and it was. Here is how I made it:
1 small romaine per person
2-3 slices of queso fresco or haloumi per person
Grilling the cheese:
Cut the cheese into slices, about 1/4 inch thick.
Heat up a ridged pan (or a flat pan) over medium high heat. Brush with a little olive oil and lay the cheese slices over. Let cook until grill marks show on one side, then turn over and grill the other side. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
To grill the romaine:
Trim romaine, removing tougher outer leaves. Cut each romaine in half vertically through the root end, keeping the root intact to keep the leaves together.
Drizzle olive oil onto a flat plate so it covers the bottom with a thin film of oil. Place each half of the romaine, cut side down in the oil and press lightly to coat the cut side.
Heat the same pan you used for the cheese to high heat. With tongs place romaine cut side down on the heated pan and cook 1-2 minutes until underside is golden. You do not want to cook the lettuce, only to char the cut side. Remove to a plate and continue with remaining romaine.
To serve place two halves per person on a plate, lay 2-3 slices of grilled cheese over the romaine and drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle a few capers or pink peppercorns preserved in brine over for garnish.
Serve with grilled garlic bread.
creamy mustard vinaigrette:
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons coarse grain mustard
1 clove garlic, grated
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon crème fraiche or cream optional
1/2 cup olive oil
To make the vinaigrette combine all ingredients except oil in a small dish and whisk to blend well. Slowly add the olive oil by a slow drizzle, whisking constantly to emulsify the dressing. Taste and correct seasoning.