Saganaki Halloumi (Cypriot Fried Halloumi)

Halloumi cheese is fried in clarified butter, then brushed in a spiced honey and served with lemon yogurt, brandy-basted nectarines, and fresh tomatoes in this sweet and savory appetizer from Christian Hernandez, chef de cuisine of March in Houston. Sommeliers June Rodil and Mark Sayre pair a bottle of 2020 Benanti Etna Bianco, from Sicily, with this vibrant dish. "Carricante inherently has peachy stone-fruit and melon notes and a texture that goes really well with the squeaky Saganaki Halloumi," they say. "It's bright and fresh, with a lovely coastal salinity."

Saganaki Halloumi (Cypriot Fried Halloumi)
Photo: Photo by Cedric Angeles / Prop Styling by Stephanie Bohn
Total Time:
2 hrs 45 mins
Servings:
2

Ingredients

Spiced Honey

  • ½ cup honey

  • 6 rosemary sprigs

  • 2 whole coriander seeds

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Lemon Yogurt

  • cup plain whole-milk yogurt

  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Nectarine

  • 2 teaspoons clarified butter or neutral cooking oil (such as canola, grapeseed, or vegetable oil)

  • 1 medium (6-ounce) nectarine, halved and pitted

  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) brandy

Halloumi

  • ¾ cup clarified butter (from 1 [7 1/2-ounce] jar) or neutral cooking oil (such as canola, grapeseed, or vegetable oil)

  • 1 (4-ounce) Halloumi cheese block (2- x 2- x 3-inch) (such as Alambra), drained

  • 25 cup finely chopped fresh mint

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano 

Additional Ingredients

  • ¼ cup Sun Gold or multicolored cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise (about 1/3 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Flaky sea salt, for garnish

Directions

Make the spiced honey:

  1. Combine honey, rosemary sprigs, coriander seeds, salt, and pepper in a small saucepan; cook over low, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a small heatproof bowl. Discard solids. Let spiced honey cool 15 minutes.

While spiced honey cooks, make the lemon yogurt:

  1. Whisk together yogurt, lemon zest and juice, and salt in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the nectarine:

  1. Heat clarified butter in a medium-size nonstick skillet over medium-high. Brush cut sides of nectarine halves evenly with some of the brandy. Place nectarine halves, cut side down, in skillet, and brush tops evenly with some of the brandy. Cook, undisturbed, until cut sides are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip nectarine halves, and cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes, brushing liberally with brandy every 10 to 15 seconds. Remove from heat. Transfer nectarine halves to a cutting board. Cut into bite-size oblique pieces, and set aside.

Make the Halloumi:

  1. Wipe skillet clean, and add clarified butter. Heat over medium until butter shimmers. Cut Halloumi evenly into 2 (1- x 1- x 3-inch) pieces, and pat dry with paper towels. Add cheese pieces to skillet, and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer cheese to a plate. Stir together mint and oregano in a shallow dish. Spread 2 tablespoons spiced honey on all sides of cheese. (Reserve remaining spiced honey for another use.) Dip cheese in mint mixture until evenly coated, pressing gently to adhere. Cut each cheese piece in half lengthwise to create 4 (1- x 1/2- x 3-inch) pieces.

  2. Divide lemon yogurt evenly among 2 shallow bowls. Top evenly with cheese pieces. Arrange nectarine halves evenly on and around cheese. Arrange tomato halves evenly on and around cheese. Drizzle evenly with extra-virgin olive oil, and garnish with flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead

Spiced honey can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 6 months.

Note

Halloumi can be found at most Middle Eastern markets and online at parthenonfoods.com.

Suggested Pairing

Benanti Etna Bianco

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