Monday, May 12, 2014

Warm Halloumi Salad

Several years ago when we lived in England, Scott discovered donair kebabs (pronounced donner  kebahbs, for some reason).  These are not kebabs as we Canadians know them, but are actually donairs.  At the time, I was a fish-eating vegetarian (otherwise know as a pescetarian) and couldn't eat the meat donairs that he was eating; however, there was one little Lebanese shop down the street from us that served vegetarian halloumi donair kebabs.  I had never heard of halloumi before, but it is a wonderfully mild cheese that you can grill because it doesn't melt.  Depending on the kind you buy, it can be a bit salty and might need to be rinsed, but otherwise it is a great addition to many savoury meals.  This recipe is a healthy way to incorporate halloumi into a warm salad that makes a very filling meal.

Serves two as a main or four as a side.


3/4 cup whole grains (spelt, wheat berries, farro)
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, or more or less to taste
1 large or 2 small leeks, cleaned and sliced into half moons
1 tbsp ready-to-eat sun-dried tomatoes (or packed in oil)
6 kalamata olives
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 clamshell of baby spinach, chard, kale
juice of half of one lemon
1 tsp honey
4 1/4 inch slices of halloumi
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp fresh basil


1. Cook whole grains ahead of time.  Most will need to be soaked overnight.  I used spelt for this recipe.  Because I forgot to soak it, I poured boiling water over it and let it sit for two hours, did the same thing again, and then cooked it for about 25 minutes.  However, it can take up to 60 minutes of cooking time.  For that reason, it is always easier to cook whole grains ahead of time and then throw them into boiling water for 30 seconds when you need them.  You can even freeze them and then throw them in the pot, frozen, when you need them.

2. In a dry medium pan, toast pine nuts.  Keep an eye on them.  You want them to be brown, but they burn quickly.  Set aside to cool.

3. In the same pan, sauté oil, red pepper flakes, and leeks until leeks are tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes, olives, garlic, and basil.  Slice the halloumi and rinse, if needed.

5. When the leeks are tender, add the garlic and baby spinach.  Continue cooking until the spinach has wilted.  Add in the lemon juice, honey, and a bit more oil, if needed.  Add pepper but do not add salt as the olives and haloumi are both salty.

6. Add the cooked spelt to the leeks and spinach.  Toss to coat with the dressing in the pan.  Add in the olives and sun-dried tomatoes and set aside.

7. Heat a small pan.  Brush both sides of the halloumi with oil and sprinkle each piece with the Italian seasoning.  Grill the cheese in the hot pan on both sides until it is brown.  Place on top of the salad and top with fresh basil.  Enjoy!

This salad is great warm, cold, or room temperature although the cheese is best served hot.

Shopping Tips:

1. Halloumi is not sold in all grocery stores.  It is sold at Superstore as "halloom".  This is what I buy as it is not as salty as the haloumi that I have bought from specialty stores in the past.  They also sell a herbed version if you do not have Italian seasoning.

2. I buy the plastic clamshells of mixed baby spinach, chard, and kale, but if you can only get spinach, that's perfectly fine.

3. Whole grains are becoming more available, but I make a special trip to the organic store to buy them in bulk.  I then store them in 1L canning jars.  If you are going to use them quickly, you can store them in the pantry, otherwise, you can keep them in the freezer to keep them from going rancid. The same goes for nuts.

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