Slow Roasted Sweet Pepper and Baked Halloumi Salad with Oregano and Chilies

Slow roasted sweet peppers layered with slices of halloumi on a bright blue plate with decorative sprigs of halloumi cheese.

Salt is my kitchen constant. Sweet is fine enough, but nothing makes me excited to eat quite like the prospect of impending salt does. I don’t feel particularly worried about this obsession, I don’t eat very much pre-packaged food so most salt content is of my own doing. Like cheese curds, halloumi is delightfully fun to chew – the squeak brings a feeling of whimsy to such a well-respected ingredient. Often made with a mix of sheep and goat’s milk (Canadian domestic brands are often made with cow’s milk) and sometimes flecked with fresh mint, halloumi is a wonderfully adaptable protein to introduce into your recipe repertoire. For the purposes of this recipe and for overall ease I’ve opted to bake the halloumi here, but it is just as at home on the grill or in a hot skillet where it will hold onto its shape in quite an uncheese-like manner. I don’t often bother with removing the blistered skins from roasted sweet peppers out of sheer laziness, but I feel that in this case it really makes a difference when presenting and eating the salad. It’s just salty slabs of marinated cheese with the yielding sweet flesh of peppers, topped with a little additional balsamic vinegar and olive oil to bind it all together. This salad could serve 2 for lunch or 4 as part of a dinner, I would present it alongside a mixed green salad and maybe a small antipasti plate with charcuterie, olives, fresh figs, and ripe peaches. A bottle of well-chilled and fruit-forward Gewurztraminer wouldn’t be amiss, nor would a gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber peel wrapped round the inside of the glass.

Sliced Halloumi Marinating in Lemon Juice, Olive Oil, Bird's Eye Chilies, and Fresh Oregano

for the slow roasted sweet peppers:

4 sweet peppers

2 tsp. sherry vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Leave the peppers whole/with stems intact but pierce them in a few spots with a sharp knife. Roast for 1 1/2 hours, turning a few times to ensure even cooking. Remove from the oven and transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow the peppers to steam for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the charred skin from the peppers and tear them into sections that are about 1 inch across. Drizzle with sherry vinegar and olive oil, allow to sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before using in the salad.

for the baked halloumi with oregano and chilies:

1 block of halloumi, sliced lengthwise in 1 cm pieces

Juice and zest from 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. olive oil

A small handful of fresh oregano leaves, roughly torn

3-5 Bird’s Eye chilies, halved lengthwise

Plenty of freshly cracked pepper

Arrange the halloumi in a single layer on a glass baking dish. Whisk together the lemon juice and zest, olive oil, oregano, chilies, and black pepper. Pour over the halloumi and allow to marinate in the fridge for up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to bake the halloumi, preheat the oven to 400 degree. Once the oven is hot bake the cheese for 10-16 minutes or until browned, it should be soft but still retain its shape.

to assemble the salad:

Beginning with a piece of halloumi, layer the roasted sweet pepper strips and the cheese until the ingredients are all used up. This salad is perfect for playing individually, or layering it all up at once for an intimate salad for 2-3 people. Pour any leftover balsamic vinegar and olive oil on top and finish with sprigs of fresh oregano. Serve at room temperature.

I’m firmly entrenched in a delicate state of fake it til you make it, I’m wiping back tears at the most inopportune moments, feeling untethered and far away from everything and everyone. When I’m asleep I feel like I’m grasping at the darkness to make sure my eyes stay shut, when I’m awake I’m dreaming of the darkness. So I listen to music like Aurora’s amazingly present and self-assured album All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend to feel connected to the moment in a way that only loud music can.

Aurora – Conquerer

 

Terra Breads Inspired Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I have been eating a fairly insane amount of grilled cheese sandwiches lately. I was eating them regularly before Ian went away for a week, when he left I ate them for at least 80% of all meals (or pickles in a mug, hummus with a spoon out of the container, etc.) The thing is, it’s pretty difficult to make a terrible grilled cheese, they’re always at least moderately delicious and you can make them out of any end pieces of cheese you might have lying around in your fridge drawer. There are times, however, when you feel like making a grilled cheese that is luxuriously, meltingly, oozingly perfect and this is a fine example of such a grilled cheese specimen.  Terra Breads in Vancouver makes this quadruple cheese sandwich and serves it with a house made ketchup, since I don’t ever have the foresight to make homemade grilled cheese condiments I eat mine with super vinegary cornichons and Heinz ketchup. I think that this sandwich works best with airy white bread, the bread and cheese seem to become a single unified heavenly substance when exposed to some gentle heat and a pat of butter.

terra breads inspired grilled cheese sandwich:

(makes enough for one grilled cheese sandwich)

2 slices of soft white Italian or French bread

Butter (salted or unsalted, depending on how salty you like your sandwiches to be)

1 thick slice of raclette cheese (Terra Breads uses a local company named Little Qualicum’s raclette cheese but Swiss raclette can be used interchangeably)

1 slice of plain mild Havarti

1 slice of an aged cheddar, I used a 3 year old from Quebec because anything older than this will be hard to slice without it crumbling

About 2 Tbsp. shredded aged Asiago cheese

Any condiments you might like with a delicious grilled cheese sandwich

1. Begin by heating a skillet over medium heat. Butter each side of the bread before layering the 4 cheeses on top (the order is entirely up to you.) Either melt a small amount of butter in the skillet or use non-stick spray if this is beginning to sound like slight butter overload.

2. Place the sandwich directly onto the hot skillet and press down lightly with a spatula or pot lid. Allow the sandwich to cook for a few minutes or until golden brown before flipping over and cooking until the second side matches the first. Serve immediately, preferably to yourself and with a good book as an accompaniment.

I am fascinated by songs with a completely different beginning and end, especially when they begin rather melancholic and shift suddenly into songs that have one dancing about their kitchen while making grilled cheese sandwiches. I love this band so much, even when they’re sad they sound happy. The potentially hectic combination of world music, 80s synth and twee pop is actually quite brilliant and seamless as each song moves in and out of musical direction; simply put this whole album, with this song in particular, makes me feel overwhelmingly happy to be alive in the springtime.

The Ruby Suns – Morning Sun

French Toast Grilled Cheese

This French toast grilled cheese sandwich is the miraculous result of two entirely mundane ingredients; the whitest, most nutritionally devoid bread you can find and a block or ball of pizza mozzarella. An ideal serving situation: coming in from a long run in the rain, showering and getting into pyjamas, putting on some music, and making this most perfect of perfect comfort foods for dinner. Essentially this grilled cheese sandwich is savoury French toast stuffed with oozing mozzarella, do not even think of using bocconcini or top-quality cheese here, the blandness of the cheese is paramount to the end result of this recipe (the same goes for the bread, head straight to the Wonder Bread when purchasing this ingredient.) I first came across this recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites cookbook; I have altered the recipe only slightly as I feel strongly that this grilled cheese sandwich is nearly impossible to improve upon.  I suppose that you could embellish the oozing filling if you wanted too, Nigella’s recipe suggests the addition of chopped red chilis and I imagine a tomato and basil chutney wouldn’t be amiss either, but I love the purity of the mozzarella on its own. I like to use Grana Padano cheese in the four coating because of its slightly sweet taste, but you could also use Piave Vecchio or an aged Asiago if you can find it.

french toast grilled cheese:

(This makes 4 small sandwiches.)

8 pieces of white bread (preferably Wonder Bread or other similar type)

About half of a ball or block of pizza mozzarella, cut into thick slices and then strips

1/3 cup of milk

1/4 cup of flour

2 Tbsp. finely ground Grana Padano cheese

1 egg, whisked lightly with a fork

2 Tbsp. canola oil or light olive oil

1. Line up 3 shallow bowls or plates and fill them in order: milk, flour and cheese, and the egg.

2. Cut the crusts off of the bread and line up the mozzarella cheese strips on 4 slices of the bread, leaving about a half an inch of bread around the perimeter. Place the remaining pieces of bread on top, forming 4 small sandwiches.

3. Squish the overhanging bread together to seal the cheese inside, the bread probably won’t stick together completely but once all the sandwiches have been dredged in the milk, flour, and eggs they’ll become fully sealed.

4. In a large frying pan begin heating the oil over medium heat while you dredge the sandwiches. Working quickly dip the sandwiches on both sides into the milk, then the flour and cheese mixture, and finally the egg. Place the grilled cheese sandwiches in the hot oil and cook for a few moments each side or until the bread has browned evenly. Eat the French toast grilled cheese as is, being careful not to burn yourself when biting into the perfectly melted mozzarella cheese.

The word “lush” is how I would immediately describe Casino Versus Japan’s music, the complex layering creating a synaesthesia effect (at least if you listen to to it while wearing headphones.) I didn’t listen to headphones when making these sandwiches but I remain as enamoured as ever of Casino Versus Japan’s musical efforts.  The album Go Hawaii is one of my favourites because it’s both cheerful and creepy at the same time, it oscillates between camp and something dark.

Casino Versus Japan – Late for School