When I cook for our family of three — soon to be four! — I cook meals that I know (and hope) Sierra will like or at least try. I do gently nudge her into tasting new vegetables and flavors but let’s be real: the girl’s not even three years old. If I can get a decent amount of fruit and vegetables into her on a weekly basis without a big struggle I consider it a success. I balance our plates with grains and greens, tofu and fish and chicken and eggs and legumes, and don’t worry overmuch if we are not exactly the most adventurous of diners. Healthy and wholesome is always my goal. Still, every so often I’ll treat myself to a lunch I know she won’t touch and appreciate every bite. One example is this refreshing, summery halloumi, cucumber, and tomato salad.
Halloumi is a cheese from Cyprus that is made from a mix of sheep and goat’s milk. It’s easy for me to find in my Riyadh grocery stores (usually labeled as “Turkish” halloumi), always a bonus. I probably ate it for the first time in Greece, possibly in saganaki, without realizing it. It has a high melting point thus making it perfect for frying. In the photos on this post you can see the cheese is just lightly fried, but I also like to fry is until it turns a bit brown and crispy and will eat it with crackers or alone.
If I’m lucky I’ll get a full one and a half hours during nap time to myself; if I wait on lunch I can really savor my meal. (Or at least I’ll be able to sit down without a sweet little voice asking me to read another book or pour a glass of milk whilst the fork is halfway from bowl to mouth!) Even eaten quickly on the fly, though, this salad is wholly refreshing and satisfying. I like to make it more hearty with a generous scoop of quinoa but if you’d like to serve this as an appetizer or complement to dinner you may easily leave it out. Sweet-tart ripe cherry tomatoes, in season now, are the best to use if you can get them.
As I enter my final weeks of pregnancy I’m craving lots of ripe fruit and raw vegetables, less dairy (except for yogurt) and more whole grains. There’s still a goodly amount of ice cream being consumed, which I may regret later, but it’s so difficult to abstain when I’m in the land of plenty that is Northern California. Organic … everything has graced my palate this last month and all that locally grown and sourced produce is making my head spin in the best way. Would that I could cram my suitcase full of it all — but then again that would defeat the point. Better simply to appreciate what I have when I have it.
Save this salad to make on the hottest of summer days when you can’t bear to think about cooking anything too elaborate. Glass of white wine optional.
Makes 2 servings.
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 basket cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
1/2 block halloumi, cut into rough 1/2-inch pieces
Freshly ground pepper
Place quinoa and vegetables in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic. Lightly toss to combine.
In a frying pan over medium heat, fry the halloumi pieces, turning and stirring to fry both sides evenly. Remove from heat.
Divide quinoa and vegetables between two salad plates. Top with halloumi and freshly ground pepper.