Grilled Haloumi in Fig Leaves + Olivada Lemon Relish

Eating, for me, is as much about the feel of the food as it is about the flavor. One of my favorite foods that is all about texture is Haloumi.

To some, Haloumi may just look and taste like an overly salted brick of white rubber. {Mmm...have I whet your appetite yet?} To be fair, you might not have known that Haloumi should not be eaten uncooked {even though I do, but only in small bites when preparing it for cooking}. It is meant to be pan sautéed, grilled or baked. In otherwords, you have to get it hot and melty, with a nicely seared crust, so it becomes the wonderful Greek dish it is meant to be. I love its creamy, bright-white color; its briny, just-from-the-sea fresh flavor;its chewy, crispy texture. And while this recipe takes poetic license with traditional fare, I hope it will help you fall in love with Haloumi as much as I have!


This recipe is a great way to use fig leaves. If you aren't growing them in your backyard, you can substitute pickled grape leaves. Find them at a specialty grocer or online.

8 ounces Haloumi cheese
2-4 fig or grape leaves, depending on size
2 skewers, soaked in water for 10-15 minutes
1/3 cup Olive Pesto {you can substitute chopped Kalamata olives}
1 wedge of Preserved Lemons, rinsed and chopped {you can substitute lemon zest and lemon juice, but it won't quite be the same}. * notation below.
1 teaspoon salt-packed capers, rinsed
Toasted crostini bread rounds

Rinse and dry the leaves. Lay them out flat and overlap them to make a nice bedding for the cheese. Place the cheese in the middle of the leaves. {Sometimes I like to add a pinch of crushed peperoncini chili flakes.} Fold the leaves over the cheese, like making a package. Secure the leaves by threading the skewers through the leaves and cheese on opposite ends.

In a small bowl, gently fold together the pesto, preserved lemons and capers. Reserve a few pieces of lemon and capers to garnish the top.

Place on the grill and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the leaves are nicely charred and the cheese is very soft.

Place cheese on a platter, remove the skewers and open up the leaves. Serve immediately with the relish and toasted bread rounds.

Serves two to four as an appetizer.

*NOTE: Bella Cucina is one of the few artisan producers making Mediterranean-style preserved lemons. The lemons are cut into wedges before they are preserved so they are easier to use. Not available on the website, please call the store to order. 800.580.5674.

Buon appetito!
copyright 2009 Alisa Barry

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