Seared Halloumi Cheese with Roasted Strawberries and Mint Is the Dreamiest Summer Recipe
Some of the best friendships start completely by accident, when happenstance puts two people together. And sometimes you discover a brilliant recipe quite by accident, and it’s equally delightful.
I wasn’t expecting Lush Life, Valerie Rice’s new garden-inspired cookbook, to show up in my mailbox. But the publicist sent me a surprise copy, and I was immediately smitten. Turning the pages of this handsome book, I was drawn in by photos of Rice’s family’s verdant Montecito, California, gardens filled with beautiful herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables that inspire her fresh and original cocktails and recipes year-round. And after thumbing through the pages, I felt compelled to go to the kitchen and try one of her original recipes myself. My pick? Seared halloumi with roasted strawberries and mint, which turned out to be the perfect example of the kind of delicious, easy, and unexpected fare you’ll find in Lush Life.
Halloumi is a white, slightly chewy Greek sheep’s milk cheese with a mild, slightly salty taste and pleasantly springy texture. It gets even more delicious when you brown it lightly, kind of like the flaming cheese dish saganaki — just be sure not to have your pan too hot when you brown the halloumi, or it might get a little too dark and dried out. And I’ve always loved strawberries: They’re bright, sweet, and versatile, and roasting them deepens their flavor and creates a brilliant contrast for the cheese.
But the star ingredient that elevates this simple recipe is the fresh mint. Rice knows how little touches of fresh herbs can take a dish or drink to the next level. Mint has long been one of my favorite secret-weapon ingredients, ever since I tasted a fresh tomato salsa seasoned with mint. Mint-lovers will be happy that Rice sprinkles mint throughout her book, using it to brighten grilled zucchini and a green drink with pineapple, arugula, and ginger.
This Seared Halloumi Is Good Any Time of Day
Rice says her strawberry and halloumi recipe started as a quick and healthy-ish after-school snack for her daughters and their friends. But then the moms started requesting it too, and it became a part of her recipe repertoire.
It’s the kind of recipe that’s good any time of day. With the sweet and savory mix, it sort of reminds me of a strawberry cream cheese French toast made with spongy cheese instead of bread. It would also be delicious as the centerpiece of a light lunch; just pair it with a zesty arugula salad. And it’s a sophisticated cheese course, deftly bridging the gap between dinner and a sweeter dessert.
Rice oven-roasts the berries with a little sugar and red pepper flakes to create a lovely spicy-sweet syrup. It’s delicious over ice cream, in case you have any leftovers.