Call me a tomato snob, but why even bother when they’re mealy and dry? Instead, I sit back patiently until I spot the good stuff: tomatoes that are heavy in the hand and sold in a rainbow of colors, from ruby to yellow. That’s when I make Caprese salad. Layered with milky mozzarella and fresh basil, it’s a simple Italian dish that celebrates peak season tomatoes.
Earlier this summer, I got a bit overly excited at Trader Joe’s when I spotted very affordable packages of halloumi, a semi-firm Cypriot cheese that can be cooked without it melting. I carried home multiple packages thinking I’d try out all sorts of new recipes with them. Instead, I fell back on Caprese.
While it’s hardly traditional, swapping the fresh mozzarella with slices of grilled halloumi takes Caprese salad for a whole new spin. The charred, warm cheese is salty with a pleasantly chewy texture, making it a nice counterpoint to the soft and juicy tomatoes.
What Is Halloumi Cheese?
Halloumi is a cheese that hails from the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus. It can be made with goat’s, sheep’s, or cow’s milk and semi-hard, unripened, or brined. The cheese has a firm, chewy texture and a tangy, salty flavor. Though it can be eaten raw, it’s much better grilled or fried because the outside gets crispy and caramelized while the inside softens to the perfect texture.
My Favorite Herbs for This Caprese
After swapping the cheese, I couldn’t help but play around a little more with the Caprese. I replaced the traditional basil with fresh oregano and mint, not only because both were overflowing in my garden but because they felt like kindred spirits with the Mediterranean halloumi.
You could use a combination of the two, like I most often do, stick with one, or try another herb. Thyme leaves would be lovely, as would chopped fresh parsley. You can also stick with fresh basil, which is always a good idea.
How To Make Grilled Halloumi Caprese
To make a salad for two hungry people, you’ll need:
- 8 ounces halloumi cheese
- 2 medium heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes (about 1 pound)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- A few large oregano sprigs, mint sprigs, or a combination
- Flaky sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat your grill to medium-high, direct heat. Cut the halloumi into 1/2-inch thick slices. Pat them dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet or plate, drizzle with a little olive oil, and rub gently to coat both sides of the slices. Grill until distinct grill marks form, flipping halfway through, about 6 to 8 minutes total.
Core and slice the tomatoes crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Arrange the tomato and grilled halloumi slices in an overlapping pattern on a serving platter. Drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil. Strip the leaves from the oregano sprigs and/or tear the mint leaves into small pieces. Sprinkle the herbs on top and garnish with a pinch of flaky sea salt and several grinds of black pepper.