Hello Halloumi, the Next Big Cheese

Say cheese!

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Ink-stained media types mingled over glasses of Cypriot wine at “Bin no. 18 – European Bistro & Wine Bar” the other night. The occasion was a Cyprus Halloumi Dinner hosted by visiting dairy producers such as the Cyprus Dairy Association and Cyprus Association for the Promotion of Milk Products. The idea behind the gathering was to introduce halloumi cheese, which is largely unknown in these parts (the only place you can purchase it is at Whole Foods Market) -- and also as an encouragement for those attending the 10th Americas Food & Beverage Show at the Miami Beach Convention Center to stop by the CheesEU Halloumi Pavilion booth and have a taste or two. The show runs through Wednesday.

Halloumi is a good cheese to get to know, as it’s one of the most eminently cookable of curds -- part goat milk, part sheep milk, white, tangy, and, if you haven’t yet guessed, indigenous to Cyprus.

Produced in a manner similar to that of mozzarella, and packaged in a block, like feta, the texture lies somewhere between these two; the taste exudes more of a feta/ricotta salata saltiness. Due to a low moisture content and high melting point, it can be fried or grilled to a golden brown without melting. Grilled halloumi tastes great with just a splash of lemon juice, but Bin 18’s Chef Alfred Patiño put together a special menu in which each of the courses incorporated the cheese.

We started with a chowder in which small curds of halloumi mixed with corn kernels and flecks of Cornish hen. The cheese was subsequently paired with beets in a salad; diced and fried with similarly sized potatoes alongside pork as a main course; and for dessert sprinkled around a rectangle each of quince and watermelon (this is not how Cypriots eat the cheese -- chef Patiño insisted on doing his own thing). It was a delicious dinner, but this summation isn’t of much use to you, as this was a one-night only menu. The reason I write is simply to plug halloumi as being unique and something I think home cooks might really enjoy experimenting with For recipe ideas, visit this site. --Lee Klein

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