I was wondering the other day why, at the time of the year when local produce is at its finest, I often struggle to find recipes to write about. The truth is that we usually don’t do more for dinner than grill up a mess of vegetables, saute them or just eat them raw, and there aren’t many recipes to share from that strategy. Whatever is fresh, whatever is plentiful, sometimes tossed in a light vinaigrette but usually just with salt & pepper– that is what’s for dinner. Last week, we had tomato sandwiches for lunch four days in a row, and would have kept going if we hadn’t run out of tomatoes; the same was true the week before with sauteed zucchini. I’m not complaining, by any means, but I have been conscious that I’m not writing often, and missing the chance to share recipes with you.
And so I present one of the most flavorful meals I made all summer long, an extension of the same dinner philosophy but with a delicious, salty, squeaky addition: halloumi! This infamous, wonderful Greek grilling cheese browns and softens a little but holds its shape on the grill. (My husband calls it “a bouncy house for your teeth” and claims that everyone should eat some to keep their mouths happy.) The flavor is vaguely feta, a little fresh mozzarella, maybe closer to the cotija cheese you may know from Mexican cuisine. These kebabs, with halloumi, seasonal vegetables and figs, were inspired by a lunch with my sister at Lola. I couldn’t remember quite how the Lola kebabs were seasoned, but knew harissa was involved, so I threw together a marinade based on tangy, spicy harissa and chose vegetables I thought would match it well. (You can dial back the heat by using less harissa, though I wouldn’t recommend it.) Do feel free to substitute other vegetables according to what you have handy; onions would be nice, or cherry tomatoes, maybe different types of fruit. If you can’t find halloumi, I’m afraid I can’t think of another cheese that grills as well, but you could use cubed lamb, pork or even tofu.
So, don’t put away that grill quite yet– though kids are back to school and darkness is coming a bit earlier, there are still plenty of sunny days on which to enjoy bouncy cheese, delicate figs and bountiful produce with these spicy, sweet kebabs.
Halloumi Kebabs with Seasonal Vegetables & Figs (makes 4-6 skewers)
For kebabs, all vegetables should be cut into pieces large enough to easily skewer.
- 1 bell pepper, cut into squares
- 1-2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds
- 4 oz. halloumi, cut into 1″ cubes
- 8-10 figs, stems removed, halved if large or kept whole if small
- 5-8 cremini mushrooms, stems removed, halved if large or kept whole if small
- 1 T. harissa
- 1 T. red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. honey
- 2 T. olive or grapeseed oil
- salt & pepper to taste
2-8 hours before serving: Soak your skewers, if using wooden ones, in a shallow pan with a thin layer of water. Wash and prepare the vegetables and figs. Make the marinade: mix together the harissa, red wine vinegar, honey and oil in a bowl or gallon zip-top bag (my preferred vessel). Add the vegetables and stir or gently shake to coat with marinade. Allow to marinate for at least one hour and up to 8 hours. 30 mins. to an hour before grilling, add the halloumi to the marinade and stir to coat thoroughly.
Just before grilling: Prepare your grill for cooking. Remove the skewers from the water and thread the marinated cheese, vegetables and fruit onto them. Grill the kebabs, turning so that all sides are browned, until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. It’s hard to assign a time frame to the cooking process since all grills are so different. On our little hibachi, these take about 10-15 mins. and we like the zucchini on the crisp side. Baste with extra marinade while grilling, if you like. Remove promptly from the grill and serve immediately.