Ingredients: cranberry-studded halloumi, orange and green bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, black bean, cranberry, bulgur, cumin, black pepper, salt.
Served with: whole wheat tortilla, sour cream, cilantro.
I wrote about halloumi before, here. An excerpt:
“You might not be familiar with halloumi, but you should be! It’s a salty, somewhat rubbery cheese from Cyprus, a bit like a super-firm block of mozzarella. What’s unique about halloumi is that it doesn’t melt, so you can pan-fry or grill it. This puts a delicious brown crust on the surface and takes away the rubberiness. In fact, the resulting texture is very similar to grilled chicken, so it makes a great meat substitute.”
What I did not mention previously is that halloumi usually comes folded over a bit of torn mint leaf. It’s a nice touch, and solidifies the cheese’s Cypriot/Greek identity. So, I was taken aback recently when I saw a package of halloumi featuring cranberry instead of mint. I gave it a try on the grill and was pleasantly surprised by how nicely the tart & sweet flavor of the fruit had permeated the salty cheese. The result was a nuanced yet exceptionally balanced product.
It would not be inappropriate to call this cheese inspirational, considering that’s literally how it affected me. For days, I woke up thinking about new and better ways to enjoy cranberry halloumi. One recurring idea was to construct a sweet & savory “Tex-Mex” burrito, with halloumi replacing grilled chicken strips, and dried cranberries mixed into the rice and/or beans. Does that even sound good? I had to find out one way or another, because I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.
To begin preparation, I fired up the grill-pan and blackened a jalapeño and a pair of bell peppers (orange & green). To remove the charred skin, I let the peppers steam inside a sealed plastic bag for a while after grilling, then let them cool. This process allowed the skin to slip off easily.
Next, I made a quick “rice” & black beans using bulgur (coarsley cracked and parboiled wheat). To this I added cumin, salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of dried cranberries. It was tasty, and reminded me of Moroccan couscous dishes, which often feature raisins or other dried fruit.
I divided the halloumi into thick slices, grilled them carefully, and began to assemble the burritos. For a finishing touch, I tossed in a little chopped cilantro and a dab of sour cream. The whole wheat tortillas I used seemed a little raw, so I sat the finished burritos on the grill to pick up some color and texture on their outsides.
I enjoyed my burrito, but I think a Top Chef judge would say that it “needed refinement.” The flavor basically worked, but it was missing something(s) despite having probably too many unique tastes. My proportions were also a bit off, which resulted in a fairly dry burrito. I will probably try this again sometime, perhaps with a sauce to moisten it up.