Thu May 5, 2016
Just before I began writing this post, my wife told me one of the sweetest things—she picked up a pint of fresh strawberries at the farmer's market on her way home. It was soured though when she made it clear they were intended for her own personal smoothie use. Oh what a cruel fate, in the height of strawberry season I have my favorite fruit in its most delicious state sitting in the kitchen and was instructed not to eat it. There's no way I was going to be beholden to those demands and have already sneaked a few berries for myself, and that led me to thinking this is a perfect time to bust out this recipe for a strawberry and halloumi salad dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette.
Strawberries were the inspiration and were meant to be the centerpiece of this spring salad, but I find salads topped with strawberries alone veer too sweet, missing an important contrast that make great salads. I found that contrast here by way of halloumi. This undisputed king of grilling cheeses is salty and tangy, a fitting combo to go along with the fruit.
It's also a fact that strawberries are made even more awesome when paired with balsamic vinegar. So there was little doubt I was going with a balsamic vinaigrette here. Nothing fancy with this dressing, just the standard mixture of oil, balsamic, Dijon, shallots, salt, and pepper to create an emulsified tangy and smooth dressing that has a little bite.
I needed to utilize the grill to cook the halloumi, and I thought while I had the coals going, why not try grilling the strawberries as well. I couldn't decide if this was a grand or horrid idea, but you don't learn by not doing, so I skewered up my berries to make them easy to manage over the flames.
Then I grilled them very quickly. My goal was to try to just slightly soften them and enhance their sweetness while maintaining a bit of crisp freshness in the strawberries as well. Just a minute per side seemed to be enough to achieve this balance.
Then I grilled up the halloumi, which seared like a champ and was pleasing soft and squeaky once done being cooked.
Prior to dishing out the salad, I had lightly coasted my spinach and arugula mix with the dressing in a mixing bowl. Once plated, I piled on a healthy portion of the halloumi and strawberries, which I had diced into large, but still bite-sized, pieces. Then a sprinkling of mint completed the dish.
The sum of all the parts worked together in harmony to create a light and refreshing spring salad. It delivered on a pleasing sweet and tart contrast that was given complexity by the salty cheese and peppery arugula, while the mint played an important supporting role. It was the grilled strawberries and halloumi that really made this salad stand out though, bringing with them the distinct flavor of the grill that you won't find in the everyday salad. I couldn't decided if I was totally sold on the grilled strawberries—they weren't bad, but in the height of strawberry season, do I really want to mess with natural perfection?
Strawberry and Halloumi Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 25 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Vinaigrette
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot (about 1 small)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1lb strawberries
- 8oz Halloumi cheese, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 3oz arugula, washed and dried
- 3oz spinach, washed and dried
- 1/4 cup packed mint chiffonade
- 4 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes prior to use
- To make the vinaigrette: Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, and shallot in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- 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. Skewer strawberries and place on grill. Cook until grill marks develop, 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer strawberries to cutting board and discard skewers. Stem and quarter strawberries, cutting quarters in half if strawberries are very large.
- Place halloumi on grill and cook until browned on both sides, 2-4 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board and cut into 1/4-inch dice.
- Place arugula and spinach in a large bowl, add in vinaigrette to taste, and toss to coat. Top with strawberries, halloumi, and mint. Serve immediately.