Wednesday, December 16, 2009

some great holiday (cheese) appetizers - recipe: haloumi cheese appetizer

If you’re hosting a holiday party and looking for a delicious appetizer idea, look no further. My latest food obsession and appetizer of choice, is halloumi cheese.

My first taste of halloumi was in Zingerman’s Deli (Ann Arbor, Michigan). It was served on a bed of greens with chicken, olives and tomatoes. If you haven’t heard of Zingermans, my all time favourite food shop/deli/restaurant/bakery/creamery (among other things) try:

Back to business: halloumi is a slightly salty firm cheese from Cyprus. It’s soft, but holds its shape when grilled on the bbq (my method of choice in warmer months) or sautéed in a frying pan (when the bbq is covered in ice & snow, like this past week). You can find this cheese at Zehrs; the President’s Choice brand is called Halloom. It is quite good and reasonably priced. I was delighted to find a delicious version at Melitsa’s, a fabulous Greek deli/café in Belmont Village.


The preparation is simple:

  • Slice the cheese into one-quarter inch thick disks and sauté over medium-high heat in a frying pan for about 1-2 minutes per side.
  • Place each disk/slice of cheese on a piece of baguette or gourmet cracker, and finish with a squeeze of lemon and fresh ground pepper (do not season with salt as it’s already naturally salty).
  • If I have any on hand, I also love to sprinkle chopped rosemary, or mint, or thyme leaves on top.

Here are some other great cheese appetizers:

  • Cut a wedge of asiago into large chunks, then blitz in the food processor into smaller chunks/pieces. Add a handful of chopped parsley, some minced garlic and chopped sundried tomatoes in oil. Spread this mixture onto baguette slices and bake in a 350º F oven until cheese is hot and bread is slightly toasted, about 8 minutes.
  • Top a wheel of brie with your favourite chutney, jam or preserves. Bake in 375º F oven (preferably in a brie baker – the latest and greatest gift to give your hostess, or yourself… yes, we sell them at my shop!) until the brie is melted, about 12 minutes (for an approx. 200 gram wheel). Serve the warm brie with fresh bread, crackers and biscuits.
  • Make your own cheese crisps. Simply preheat oven to 400º F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Grate some fresh parmesan and make little “disks” of parmesan cheese about one-and-one-half inches in diameter (leave space between the disks as if you were making cookies). Bake the crisps in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and medium-golden in colour. Cool on a wire rack and serve at room temperature (do not refrigerate, they’ll get soggy).

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