These days I go back and forth between eating super healthy and eating junk food. Sitting at home all day, stressing about the end of the world, it’s just an emotional eating disaster. But our bodies are at their best when we feed them nourishing, nutritious meals and while there’s no scientific proof that healthy eating improves your chances against COVID, healthier people typically fare better against illness than unhealthy ones.
So I made a salad this week to remind us that even in quarantine we still need to treat our bodies well. And this is no boring salad. This salad was so delicious that my fiancé, a sworn carnivore who often fails to finish vegetable-heavy dishes, cleaned his whole plate. Squeaky-salty halloumi cheese pairs with grilled eggplant smothered in mint-parsley salad dressing heaped on top of fresh vegetables for a salad that is fresh and satisfying.
I’ve eaten halloumi cheese before, surely, but never though much about it until my recent trip to Zambia (oh February…a time when we could travel…feels like years ago now). I had some great food at restaurants that served “Western” food, and often the vegetarian option included halloumi cheese and eggplant. I had this combo in wraps, salads, and burgers. It was delicious. I had to make it at home.
Now to be clear, halloumi cheese did not originate in Zambia and wouldn’t be considered part of their national cuisine. It’s a product of Cyprus, the Mediterranean island nation, and it’s exported around the world. I’m not sure how it grew to be so popular in Zambian restaurants, but I have a few theories. Zambia was a British colony, and the UK is the largest importer of halloumi cheese in the world. Maybe the British introduced halloumi? Another idea – the cheese also can keep for a long time without perishing, so perhaps it’s advantageous in a part of the world that has frequent power outages. Or maybe the Zambians just latched on to the fact that it’s really yummy?
Knowing nothing about Cyprus, I have to add that this recipe is really hard to classify. The UN considers it part of Asia, which makes sense given that it’s so close to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Culturally and historically, it tends to be closer to European countries like Greece. And I just spent most of this post talking about how I came to appreciate halloumi during my travels in Africa. I’ve decided to label it under all of the above, but isn’t it funny how complex and interconnected our world can be?
This recipe is so delicious and also a cinch to make. Really you only have to do three things. #1 – chop your veggies and cheese.
#2 – Make the salad dressing.
#3 – Grill the eggplant and halloumi. I strongly recommend grilling right before eating for the best experience
Have you made this recipe? Let me know how it went in the comments!
Grilled Eggplant & Halloumi Salad
4 servings. 25 minutes.
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, packed
- 1/4 cup mint leaves, packed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Eggplant & Halloumi Salad
- 1 eggplant, sliced into 1/3″ rounds
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 8.8 ounces (250 grams) of halloumi cheese, sliced into 1/3″ squares
- 8 cups mesclun salad mix
- 1 package grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cucumber, sliced
- 1 recipe mint-parsley dressing
- Blender or food processor
- Grill pan recommended
- Pastry brush (optional)
- Combine all salad dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and combined.
- Heat grill pan until hot. While heating, brush olive oil on both sides of each slice of eggplant. Grill on the pan until soft and slightly translucent, approximately 5 minutes on each side. Keep a close eye to avoid burning.
- Grill halloumi cheese for 1-2 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.
- Toss all ingredients together to make the salad.