Monday, July 25, 2016

Grilled halloumi with a cherry tomato, cherry and pomegranate molasses salsa

I would never become a vegetarian but with all the beautiful vegetarian dishes the cuisine of my country, Greece, has, I could easily spend the whole summer —when all the delicious vegetables are in season— without even a single bite of meat.

Briam, stuffed tomatoes, peas with potatoes, spanakorizo, green beans in a tomato sauce are only a sample of the Greek dishes that are perfect for this time of year. Give me a big slab of good Greek feta, preferably barrel-aged which is a bit tangier than the regular one, and a crusty loaf of bread and I’m set. I honestly don’t need anything else.

As much as I love all the aforementioned dishes, I also love dishes that are easy to cook smack in the middle of summer when the temperatures are high and the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven or spend more time than necessary in the kitchen.

Such dishes are of course salads, generous, luscious and full of flavor and texture, capable to satisfy your hunger but also please the eye with their vibrant color, and dishes that are based on cheese, like this one, in which essentially the halloumi substitutes the main protein like meat or fish.

If you like halloumi, then this dish is for you. The halloumi is grilled or pan-fried in a little bit of olive oil just enough to create a thin, golden crust that’s crispy and addictive while inside it is transformed into a wonderfully soft and slightly chewy cheese that melts in the mouth. It is served with a flavorsome and visually appealing salsa which includes plump cherry tomatoes and sweet, juicy cherries, red onion and fiery dried red chilli flakes, fresh herbs to “cleanse” the palate, olive oil and the secret ingredient, pomegranate molasses, which provides the necessary acidity and tang that blends and balances all the other flavors.

You need to try it. This is a main course, but it fits very nicely as an accompaniment to various meat dishes that are cooked on the grill or the bbq, or it can be served as a meze dish together with a cold beer.

See you again soon! I have so many recipes to share with you.

Grilled (or pan-fried) halloumi with a cherry tomato, cherry and pomegranate molasses salsa

Some people don’t like halloumi because of its squeaky texture. Well, the secret to halloumi is that it needs to be eaten while still hot/warm and freshly cooked. If it cools down, then it becomes rubbery.

I’ve made this salsa before with watermelon, peaches or plums cut into small pieces instead of cherries and it was great. I’ve also made it with pomegranate seeds. So, you can substitute the cherries with any one of these fruits if cherry season is over where you live, and by using pomegranate seeds, you can make this salsa even during the winter.

Don’t make the salsa ahead of time but only before you start grilling the halloumi. If it sits, then it loses its freshness and you definitely need the fruits to be crisp and the herbs lively and fresh.

Yield: 6 servings (for light lunch or side dish)


for the salsa
150 g cherry tomatoes (about 13), cut in half
½ red onion, sliced
7-8 dark sweet cherries, pits removed, cut in half
A handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
A handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (see here to make your own)
1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, 3-4 grinds of the pepper mill

for the halloumi
500 g halloumi, cut into ½ cm-thick slices
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil


for the salsa
In a medium-sized bowl, add all the ingredients for the salsa and mix together gently.
Set the salsa aside. Don’t make it ahead, but only just before you cook the cheese, so it stays fresh and crisp.

for the halloumi
In a griddle/grill pan or a frying pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, lower heat to medium and add the cheese. Fry it for 2 minutes on each side, or until it has softened and has taken on a golden color on the outside.
Remove it from the pan and place it on absorbent kitchen paper.

serve the dish
On a large plate, arrange the slices of cooked halloumi and top with the salsa.
Serve immediately.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Date, coconut, cacao and almond balls (truffles)

Hello, friends. It’s been a while, huh?
I never meant to stay away from this place this long but sometimes life happens, things get busy, summer hits and you get all crazy and can’t stay in one place too long, you know how it is.

I’ve been in the kitchen a lot, as per usual —it is my favorite room in the house to be in even when it’s hot— and I’ve been cooking delicious sweet and savory things. I’ve been photographing as well, taking notes, testing recipes, but I didn’t get around to posting them. Somehow the thought of sitting down and writing was something that I didn’t want to do.

It’s been a constant struggle of mine throughout the years that I’ve been blogging, this sitting down to write thing. Many times, I’d rather the photos, food or recipe talk for themselves but then, when I plan to do a post like that, I feel like it’s cheating. Is it cheating?

Anyway, here I am, sharing with you a recipe that I fell in love with because of its simplicity, flavor and overall deliciousness. And it’s also good for you. Winning combination, right? Plus, if summer has hit you hard where you’re living and it’s terribly hot, you won’t even have to break a sweat making this; nor turn on your oven.

So, here it is. My favorite date, coconut, almond and cacao balls of goodness. They’re jammy sweet from the dates, ultra coconutty from the dried coconut, crispy and earthy from the almonds, beautifully chocolaty from the raw cacao powder and there’s a hint of cinnamon that ties the whole thing together. They’re fudgy but not ultra dense or cloggy as I don’t process the mixture to oblivion but just enough to have a sticky yet coarse mixture that holds together and retain the texture of the individual ingredients.

I roll half of the balls in desiccated coconut and the other half in cacao powder, which actually makes them distinct not only in flavor but also in texture.
It’s the perfect healthy dessert, quick breakfast, or snack. Hope you enjoy them!
Tag me on instagram if you make them, or leave me a comment here.

P.S. This.

Date, coconut, cacao and almond balls (truffles) (Vegan)

I don’t use any other kind of date than medjool in this recipe. You need those large, soft, juicy dates with caramel flavor and not the small flavorless ones.

If you can’t find raw cacao powder, use regular cocoa powder. The difference in flavor is small.

Yield: 18 balls (truffles)

100 g Medjool dates without pits (about 7 dates)
90 g blanched almonds
75 g coconut flakes (or desiccated coconut)
15 g (2 Tbsp) raw cacao powder
90 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt

Raw cacao powder, for rolling half of the balls
Desiccated coconut, for rolling half of the balls

Special equipment: (strong) food processor

Grind the almonds in the food processor until crumbly. Don’t process them finely because you need them to give texture and crunch to the balls. Empty them in a bowl.

Add the coconut flakes to the food processor and grind them but not to a powder. You want them to be almost like desiccated coconut, but even a bit coarser than that is even better, because it will give more texture to the balls. (If you’re using desiccated coconut skip this step).

Add all the ingredients in the food processor and process for a few seconds until you have a sticky mixture that holds together but that is still slightly coarse. Again, I’m stressing the texture aspect here because if you process the mixture too much, you will have a mush.

Empty the mixture in a bowl, take tablespoonfuls of the mixture (the size of a small walnut) and roll them into balls. Place on a baking paper.
Then roll half of them in cacao powder and half in desiccated coconut.

Place them in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.
Store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.