Monday, May 4, 2009

Mediterranean 'Fajitas' with Halloumi Cheese, Roasted Peppers, Shallots, and Basil

Have you had Halloumi cheese? I hadn't heard of it until a couple of years ago, and now I'm an addict. I've even gotten Kris addicted too. He calls it 'that squeaky cheese.'

Halloumi is traditionally made with both sheep and goat's milk, but I understand that the addition of cow's milk is common when you purchase it in the states. Its origin is a little confusing, with it having ties to both Greece and Turkey. It is often said to have derived from Cypriot cuisine (Cyprus being an island in the eastern Mediterranean.)

But what makes it extra special is the fact that its high melting point allows you to grill it. Literally - you can throw it on the grill next to some bell peppers and slices of fresh Ciabatta for an elegant, quick crostini.

The recipe below sadly doesn't take advantage of its David Blaine-esque/fireproof characteristic, but is delicious nonetheless. And while I admit the piquillo peppers and Halloumi are on the pricey side, I can easily rationalize their purchase by the fact that the whole thing comes together in a half hour and that it's a quasi healthy dinner on the whole.

Mediterranean 'Fajitas' with Halloumi Cheese, Roasted Peppers, Shallots, and Basil

4 fresh (raw) chicken sausages
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the back of your knife
3 large shallots, cut in half length-wise then thinly sliced cross-wise
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra
1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine
8 piquillo peppers, halved (or roasted red bell peppers from a jar)
6 oz Haloumi cheese, cut into little 1/4 inch logs
zest of one small lemon (just a small pinch)
couple handfuls of fresh basil leaves, torn

Tortillas, for serving (I used the whole wheat healthy ones - but by all means use what you like!)

Preheat the oven to 400. Take a wide, rimmed baking dish (I use my round 12x12 Le Creuset) and spray it with nonstick spray. Add the sliced shallots and drizzle with olive oil, a little salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Mix around the pan with a spoon to incorporate. Add the sausages, spacing them out evenly, then the garlic cloves and drizzle lightly with additional olive oil.

Roast for fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully pour over the vermouth or white wine to deglaze the pan, loosening any sticking shallots with a wooden spoon. Flip the sausages to the other side, then sprinkle over the halved peppers and halloumi slices distributing evenly throughout the pan. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese has softened nicely and browned on the edges.

Remove and sprinkle over the lemon zest, stirring around to 'scent' the entire dish, then the basil leaves.

Cut the sausages into slices and serve in warmed tortillas, kind of like a mediterranean fajita, with additional red pepper flakes if desired.

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