Thu Jul 11, 2019
It was kismet that someone who loved grilling as much as I do, used to live in a Greek heavy neighborhood where halloumi—a salty, grill-able sheep and cow's milk cheese—was both plentiful and inexpensive. It had definitely become a staple in my diet and a go-to for recipe development. After moving to North Carolina, I assumed this magical cheese would cease to be part of my repertoire, but to my surprise, my new local grocery stores did stock the stuff, albeit at price almost twice that I was used to paying. So I didn't bid farewell to halloumi, but instead it became a special occasion thing rather part of the normal rotation. So it was with grand glee that, while at my corner Middle Eastern market the other day, I saw halloumi and inquired about the price and found out was even cheaper than what I was paying in Astoria. In a flash, I bought six bricks of it and came home and began making all new halloumi recipes again, starting with this halloumi with za'atar and grilled squash couscous.
I kinda of threw this meal together very haphazardly, using things I had in the house and trying to minimize grilling and overall prep time for a quick weeknight meal. I personally could eat grilled halloumi alone and call it dinner, but that's not really a meal, so decided to serve it on a bed of vegetable-laden couscous.
Summer squash are some of my favorite grilled veggies, so it was my default go-to to here. I used both zucchini and yellow squash sliced into quarter inch strips and brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. These grilled up to a very attractive deep brown in a few minutes per side, and once they were done, I removed them from the grill and cut them into a medium dice.
I then moved into the kitchen to quickly make the couscous, which just required me to boil some stock with a bit of butter and oil, then stir in the couscous, and let it rest off the heat for five minutes. I then fluffed it up with a fork and tossed in the squash and fresh halved grape tomatoes. The couscous needed a little boost of flavor, so I added in lemon juice, salt, and pepper. It was only after I was finished with this that I realized I probably could have done this all on the grill, so feel free to keep utilizing your hot outdoor fire instead of running back and forth like I did.
Next it was back to the grill to cook up the halloumi. This cheese is at its peak right after it's finished grilling, so it's definitely the last thing you want to do in putting together this meal. Just like fish, halloumi needs to cook until it's well browned to be able to flip it without any sticking. Depending on the heat of your fire, this can take anywhere from two to four minutes, so be patient and test before flipping—if it's not giving and clinging to the grates, just wait a little longer and then try again.
One the halloumi was done I spread a bed of the couscous on a plate and placed the hot cheese slices on top. I then sprinkled the halloumi with za'atar and gave it a drizzle with olive oil and dug in. I won't lie and say this is the most mind blowing meal you'll ever have, but for a quick weeknight dinner, it definitely impressed. I mean, it's hard not to impress when you have some grilled salty and squeaky halloumi going, but the herbal and toasted flavor of the za'atar really paired well with the cheese, and couscous provided a heartiness along with some contrasting sweetness from the squash and tomatoes that made everything work quite well together. My real excitement in the end was that I now have an affordable source of one of the greatest cheeses on Earth, which makes tossing together an experimental, last-minute meal like this with halloumi something I can bring back into my life.
Halloumi with Za'atar and Grilled Squash Couscous
- Prep Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 40 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Grilled Squash
- 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch thick strips, lengthwise
- 2 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch thick strips, lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the Couscous
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups couscous
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- For the Halloumi
- 18 oz halloumi, cut into 1/2-inch sliced
- 2 tablespoons za'atar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 lemon wedges, for serving
- To grill the squash: 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. Brush squash slices all over with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place squash slices on grill and cook until well browned, about 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until second side is well browned and squash is tender, about 3 minutes more. Transfer squash to a cutting board and cut into a medium dice.
- To make the couscous: Place stock, butter, and olive oil in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove saucepan from heat, stir in couscous, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Using a fork, fluff up the couscous. Add in the diced squash, tomatoes, and lemon juice; gently toss to distribute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- To make the halloumi: Place halloumi on grill and cook until well browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until second side is well browned, about 2 to 4 minutes more. Transfer halloumi to a cutting board or plate and season generously with za'atar and drizzle with olive oil.
- Place a bed of couscous on 4 dinner plates. Top with halloumi slices. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.