Haloumi is a sheep’s milk cheese from Cyprus. It’s brined like feta but it has a firm texture that is perfect for frying. There is no need to bread or flour the cheese before frying; you don’t even need to use oil in the pan. The cheese browns naturally from the sugar in the brine and keeps its shape. Haloumi is often flavored with dried mint, which goes perfectly with pears and dates. It’s also beautiful paired with grilled peaches and red peppers during the summer months. To add drama, sugar, and a slight anise flavor, carefully flambé the dish with ouzo at the table.
You can make the dates ahead of time and brown the pear in a separate pan, at the same time you’re browning the haloumi, to speed up the process a bit.
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (just the only black seeds from within the green pod)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 dates, cut in half and pits removed
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ pound haloumi cheese cut into 8 slices
- 1 pear, quartered, seeded and sliced into 8 pieces
- 3 tablespoons ouzo
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a small sauté pan, big enough to hold the dates, mix the lemon juice, lemon zest, and brown sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the brown sugar melts. Add the spices and dates and cook until the dates soften a little, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and set the mixture aside,
3. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Arrange the cheese slice in the skillet, being careful not to overlap or crowd them. Brown the cheese, about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown on each side. Transfer to a heavy gratin or baking dish, placing the haloumi slices side by side.
4. Using the same sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat and then add the pears. Brown the pears for 4 to 5 minutes on one side. Remove the pears from the pan and add them to the baking pan with the haloumi. Spoon a date onto each piece of haloumi and place the pan in the oven until it gets hot and the cheese gets a little softer. 6 to 8 minutes.
5. Remove the pan from the oven, place it on the table, and without waiting, add the ouzo to the pan and carefully ignite it. Stand back when you light the dish, as the flames can reach 5 inches. The fire will bum off the alcohol, and after about a minute, it will leave the sweet flavor of the ouzo.