Tue Jun 16, 2015
Now is as good a time as any to let you in on some big Meatwave news—we're moving! Yup, I'm taking the plunge and saying goodbye to New York and hello to North Carolina early next month. While the move will hopefully mean more grilling and more recipes in the long run, there's sadness in losing some of the things I've come to take for granted in the neighborhood I've called home for nearly 13 years, Astoria. With a heavily Greek population, Mediterranean foods abound, and my wife and I have grown accustomed to easily making a delicious and quick dinner out of the readily available halloumi cheese, top quality pita, and tzatziki that combine into one stellar sandwich.
I write about halloumi—the king of grilling cheeses—all the time and I inevitably get the same comment or email after each post complaining the cheese is either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Knowing that reality will be in my future is upsetting, especially since I can walk into any grocery by me now and pick up a brick of this Cypriot semi-hard goat and sheep milk cheese for a reasonable price.
The cheese is so firm that it's a bit too hard and dense when cool or at room temperature, requiring some heating to get it into its ideal soft and squeaky state. Luckily it's hearty enough to both be pan fried as well as grilled, and since I'm a grilling man, I almost always opt to get a batch of coals going and cook it over a searing hot fire.
Using a fresh fire means it only takes a mere two to three minutes to cook the cheese. Basically I just let it go until it develops nice grill marks, sometimes even getting fancy with it at making a crosshatch pattern like above. The halloumi will burn, so once it's nicely browned on both sides and releases from the grates, I consider it done so I don't accidentally ruin a piece of prime cheese.
With the grill now clear, I quickly warm my pita until it's soft of pliable. The difference between room temperature pita and hot pita is huge—so much softer and tastier—so I never skip this step.
About four minutes of cooking is all this sandwich requires. All that's left now is to add in fresh lettuce, tomato, red onion, and tzatziki. I usually make my own tzatziki, but this is another ingredient I can easily get in Astoria, so if I'm feeling lazy, I don't even need to take the ten minutes or so of extra prep this Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce requires.
This sandwich is seemingly simple, by incredibly flavorful. The halloumi alone brings a ton of complexity with it's salty, tangy flavor paired with the distinct char and squeaky character. The tzatziki provides another level of tang and creaminess along with the introduction of freshness by way of cucumber and dill, a trait that's further enhanced by the lettuce and tomato while the red onion deals a contrasting bite. The pita also can't be understated, the quality and freshness can make or break this sandwich, and I've been lucky enough to never have this be any issue for me for so long. Thinking of losing the ease, low cost, and quality of this staple of our diet is a little heartbreaking, but of course, I may be picking up other things in North Carolina I don't even consider now, which is part of the thrill of taking this big leap in my life.
Grilled Halloumi Pita Sandwiches
- Prep Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 5 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 15 Minutes
- 4 servings
- 4 Greek-style pocketless pitas
- 1 pound Halloumi cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small head red leaf lettuce, rinsed and dried
- 1 cup Tzatziki
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place pita on grill and cook until warm and pliable, about 30 seconds per side. Remove pita from grill.
- Grill cheese until well browned on both sides, 1-2 minutes per side.
- Transfer cheese to warmed pita and top with tomato slices, red onion, lettuce, and tzatziki. Serve immediately.