We spent the weekend out of the city, at our friends’ Kate and Sam’s place in the Hudson Valley. We crunched on cicadas as we walked, played poolside backgammon, and feasted on the Montreal bagels Kate and Sam store in their freezer. (If you haven’t had one, they’re sweeter and smaller than New York City bagels, and they had some converts among the group.) On Sunday, we went to the Rhinebeck farmers’ market to see what produce the Hudson Valley had to offer.
Cicadas aside, the Hudson Valley is hardly a far-flung place. The climate is more or less the same as here and the produce grows at roughly the same pace. Still, I love branching out beyond the Grand Army Plaza farmers’ market to see what other markets’ stalls have to offer. The Rhinebeck one has cinnamon rolls and baguettes from the Tivoli Baking Company, piles of cherries, a falafel stand, and a beautiful organic vegetable stall that sold quart boxes of these adorable, sweet Pattypan squash, which I bought to bring home for Sunday dinner. It’s an off week for our CSA, so we had room in the fridge.
Since embarking on my goal to discover and devour Middle Eastern food, sponsored by Sargento, I’ve noticed a certain similarity between the way I like to eat in the summer and the way that Middle Eastern cuisine would have me eat all the time.
Here’s what I mean: in summer, my priority lies with eating as much of the season’s produce as possible. I care less about putting together a traditionally balanced meal than featuring zucchini, kale, garlic scapes, radishes, or scallions at their best. That sometimes becomes a mixed-up table of small dishes, often vegetarian.
Depending on how mixed up, the spread often reminds me of mezze, the Middle Eastern table of dips, grilled vegetables, lamb skewers, and bread. Cheese is not part of this spread traditionally, but in my weekend lunch and summer dinner rotations, nothing goes better beside bowls of hummus and baba ganoush than blocks of good cheddar or jack cheese. I sit beside the bowls and create a series of perfect bites, dolloping dips and cheese onto my bread just so.
In any case, there is one kind of cheese does appear on the Middle Eastern mezze table: halloumi. From the moment I started cooking Middle Eastern food this winter, I knew I wanted to grill the firm, salty cheese at home.
A trip to Sahadi’s, the Middle Eastern emporium in Brooklyn Heights equipped us with the means to satisfy the halloumi craving. All you do to grill halloumi is slice it and add it to a hot pan. Really, that’s it. I’m going to be making it all the time. At the end, instead of dabbling the crispy cooked cheese with lemon, an optional second ingredient, I mixed it up with a spicy oregano vinaigrette and a slew of seared squashes, making a Sunday night mezze dish all in one bowl.
This sponsored post is part of an ongoing collaboration with Sargento, called Flavor Journey. Throughout the year, with the support of Sargento, I’m exploring Middle Eastern cuisine–at home, in Brooklyn, at cooking classes, and wherever the flavors may take me. You can see the whole series here. Sponsored posts let me do some of my best work on this blog, and I only ever work with brands whose values and products mesh with the content I love to produce for you. Here’s my affiliate disclosure.
Grilled Halloumi & Pattypan Squash Salad
These are also sometimes called Sunburst Squash, an awesome name.
For the squash and cheese:
Aoubt 1/3 pound halloumi cheese, sliced 1/2-inch thick
6 medium Pattypan squash, trimmed and quartered
For the dressing:
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1 small clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 birdseye chili, seeds removed and sliced (or a pinch chili flakes)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Set a cast iron pan over medium-high heat and let it preheat for about 5 minutes. Drizzle in a little oil to film the surface. Add half the squash quarters, one cut side down. Cook for 5 minutes, adjusting the heat down if the pan gets smoky. Flip the squash to cook on their second cut side, and let them sear til brown, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a bowl, sprinkle generously with salt. Repeat with the remaining squash.
When the squash is done, cook the halloumi slices, in batches if necessary, until brown on each side, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cut each slice into four pieces.
While the squash and cheese cook, make the dressing: in a mini food processor, pulse the oregano, garlic, and salt until finely chopped. Add the chili, lemon juice, and olive oil, and pulse until you have a thick dressing. Scrape it into a medium mixing bowl.
Add the squash and cheese to the bowl with the dressing and toss to combine. Serve immediately.