My kids and I were waiting in line for cookies from Fire Fly Farm at the Bangor Farmers’ Market when my son spotted the fuzzy sheepskins at the nearby Lor Farm booth. Attracted by the soft whites and creams, he wanted one for our house (“What for?” I asked … I am not sure where I would put such an addition. His response? “Because it’s cool!” Can’t argue with that).
The moment was serendipitous. If my son hadn’t mentioned the sheepskins, I never would have noticed the halloumi cheese at Lor Farm’s stand. Lor Farm of Thorndike is a MOFGA certified organic dairy and creamery that makes yogurt and cheese in their licensed creamery on the farm. Among those cheeses is their signature halloumi, a Cypriot frying cheese — a personal favorite of mine.
Aktan Askin of Lor Farm told BDN columnist Emily Burnham that he grew up eating Halloumi served fried with watermelon — an interesting, and definitively summery combination that intrigues me.
My experience with halloumi is a little different. The first time I had halloumi, a springy cheese with a high melting point that makes it perfect for frying or grilling, was after a long cross-country flight that deposited a friend and me in Seattle. We arrived at the end of the day, hungry and tired, so we stumbled down to the hotel bar for nourishment. That bar, it turned out, was one of restaurateur Tom Douglas’s acclaimed institutions — Lola. And the meal was appropriately delicious.
For the halloumi’s part, it was served on a kabob with fresh figs, balsamic reduction and other deliciousness. Fried on the outside and warm on the inside, it was like nothing I’d tasted before.
And I loved it.
It was years before I spotted halloumi again — this time in a local, family-owned grocery store in Connecticut. I bought it, but never ended up doing anything with it. The whole idea of cheese that can be fried and grilled just seemed daunting at the time — though it shouldn’t. It’s so easy to work with.
These days you can find halloumi more and more — I’ve seen it in Portland at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and in Hannaford’s here in Bangor too. But freshly made from a farm? You don’t get much better than that.
Choosing a smaller half-moon of the semi-hard, brined cheese from the Lor Farm stand, I handed over $8.25 and went along on my merry way. The halloumi is priced by weight, so prices vary.
Once home, I wasted no time in whipping up an easy farmers market bruschetta with beet greens from Peacemeal Farm and fried thin slices of halloumi. All of that was piled on little slices of baguette from the Daily Bread.
With a crisp, fried outside and a slightly melted inside, the halloumi is a nice contrast to the fresh, warm bruschetta with hints of briny kalamata olives and tart red wine vinegar. Serve it as an appetizer or as an easy farmers market lunch.
Haven’t had halloumi? Parmigiano reggiano (and feta!) lovers will appreciate the saltiness, and fans of fried mozzarella will appreciate the fact that it is simply incredible fried.
Fried Halloumi with Beet Greens Bruschetta
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch beet greens, washed and chopped (about 4-5 cups)
3 scallions, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 oz. halloumi cheese, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (about 2-inches long)
1 small (12-inch) loaf French bread, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the beet greens and scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes until the beet greens are wilted. Stir in the kalamata olives and red wine vinegar. Cook, uncovered, for an additional 4-5 minutes, until most of the moisture is evaporated.
Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the halloumi slices and cook, flipping once, until golden on both sides — about 4-5 minutes.
To serve, top each slice of baguette with a halloumi slice, and a generous spoonful of the bruschetta. Enjoy immediately. The halloumi is best served hot.