My good friend Deb (she of the original Red Ginger team) very recently asked me for a vegetarian, gluten-free sandwich recipe. It got me thinking a bit, and although I’m not gluten-intolerant (in fact, I love gluten!) I’m not averse to omitting it on occasion. And although I eat meat (hell, I’m OMNIVOROUS after all!) I’m passionate about vegetables of all kinds and I actively promote the idea of eating a few meat-free meals a week. The way I approach it, a good omnivorous diet contains a healthy balance of veggies, seafood, fruits, meats, and whole grains. I encourage cooking as many of your meals as you can in your home kitchen, eating the highest quality products, using the least processed ingredients, and sourcing the freshest stuff you can find. And for me, moderation is key to a healthy diet, except for, perhaps, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which I have a particular weakness for. Sorry, I digress…
The star of today’s sandwich is haloumi (also spelled halloumi), a Cypriot (meaning from the island of Cyprus) cheese of goat and sheep’s milk that is low-fat and quite firm. It has a high melting point, meaning in practical terms that you can grill slices of the cheese without it collapsing and falling through the grates. It’s dense and (kinda) meaty, which makes for a great, filling ingredient in a vegetarian meal. When you char-grill it, the salty, simple cheese warms and softens on the inside, crisps on the outside, develops more complex flavors, and takes on a delicious mild smokiness.
I cut the haloumi in slabs about a half-inch thick and seasoned them generously with cracked black pepper; I didn’t add salt as the cheese is salty enough as it is. I also oiled the cheese pretty well with some good extra-virgin olive oil so it wouldn’t stick to the grill grate. I heated my trusty and well-seasoned Le Cruset grill pan (outside grill works fine too) and lightly oiled the grate as well.
When the pan was smokin’ hot I placed the cheese down on one side and cooked it for about five minutes until it developed a nice char. A side note: when you pry the cheese off the grate with a spatula you gotta take care; haloumi has a propensity to stick. I flipped the cheese slabs and grilled the other side for another four minutes or so.
While the cheese grilled on the second side I toasted some slices of Whole Grain Gluten-Free bread from French Meadow. I love this bread, especially toasted! It’s seedy with flax and millet and it uses quinoa and amaranth flour. Very nice stuff.
After the bread and cheese were done I slathered the bread with some Vegenaise (vegan mayo from the company Follow Your Heart), added some slices of perfectly ripe sweet tomatoes, a few cilantro leaves, some creamy avocado (perhaps the best reason to live in California), and some upland cress. I cut the sandwiches on the bias and served them with some of my favorite potato chips, these excellent Seaweed & Salt chips from Calbee.
This is the best kind of summer sandwich — healthy, hearty, and totally yummy!
Deb, I hope you dig it!
I also grilled some haloumi in an earlier post entitled: Get Your Hands On Some Haloumi!