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Kitchen Experiment: Halloumi - The Cheese That Doesn’t Melt

Posted Jan 14 2009 4:42pm

As I mentioned I have been reading the TNT diet book again and one thing I had not seen before was a mention of a type of cheese from Cyprus called halloumi that didn’t melt when you heated it - it browned. Their suggestion was that the stuff could substitute for bread or act as a pancake-like thing with a little zero sugar syrup on it.

Sounded odd. And hard to find.

But I found myself, somewhat reluctantly, in Whole Foods. Now, I don’t like Whole Foods - not because of their selection, which is actually wonderful, nor their prices on some high-quality staples such as milk and eggs, which are sometimes the same, or even better than the regular supermarket prices.

I even like the fact that my Whole Foods has a roof covered in solar panels.

But when I walk in there and see for example, a small wheel of Laughing Cow cheese for double the price of the exact same item right down the street at the regular grocery store - I feel like my intelligence is being insulted.

C’mon Whole Foods - just match the prices on the readily available items, keep your frighteningly high prices on the specialty items, and the insult will at least not be so overt.

But anyway…halloumi, right? We were talking about halloumi. 

So, if any store would have halloumi, it’s Whole Foods - and of course I found it there - at maybe close to $9.00/lb. 

This was NOT about to become a staple of my diet at that price, but I did want to try it - at least to say: “I tried it.”

So I bought a small slab of the stuff and put it in the fridge for a week - not knowing what to do with it.

Then I did my search and came across this recipe for cheese fingers, which showed a neat little picture of the cheese nicely browned and parked aside some Mediterranean foodstuffs. 

I decided to - of course - completely ignore this, and just decided to try frying in butter, which had been recommended at another link (lost as my 2-year-old got to my computer and rebooted it on me before I saved the link).

First mistake: too much butter. I probably put in 3 tablespoons, but the stuff itself had enough fat content on its own and I probably could have gotten away with just enough to impart a butter flavor.

One observation: the stuff does tend to melt a bit - this is apparently a side effect of purchasing commercially-produced halloumi rather than traditionally produced halloumi, but since Cyprus is a little out of my way for a cheese run, I’ll have to grin and bear this - wasn’t a show-stopper, though - you just have to be careful in turning it over.

The cheese did brown nicely, as advertised, and I soon had a plate of these very greasy browned cheese sticks. The cheese itself has little flavor of it’s own, similar to mozzarella, so it can take on the flavor of whatever you spice it with.

I was intrigued by the notion mentioned in the TNT book of using it as a fried sweet like a pancake, so I sprinkled Splenda on some and tried it.

Second mistake: I had read somewhere that the stuff is salty - that typically doesn’t bother me, and I know that salt intensifies sweetness when cooking, but this stuff was SALTY. I had read that you can wash some of the salt off, and in retrospect, I should have at least rinsed the cheese sticks and patted dry before cooking - maybe even let them site a bit in some water before cooking to reduce the salt.

The result wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great - the word that came to mind was: feh. I don’t know the origin of the word or it’s offical meaning - or even where I first heard it, but I’d liken the meaning to ’spectacularly underwhelming’.

OK - still had some to go, so I tried some with The Condiment That Makes Everything Better: Low Carb ketchup. 

Yep, it was edible - but I wanted more than edible for the price per pound.

Now - perhaps if I had followed the recipe and had it with oregano and a squirt of lemon juice, it might have been better. 

Maybe if I washed some of the salt off. 

Maybe if it wasn’t so damn expensive.

In short, it was an interesting experiment, but unless a situation comes up where I’m looking for some special substitute - or there’s a sudden precipitous drop in halloumi prices due to the global financial crisis, I think halloumi and I will be going our separate ways.

      
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