Grilled Halloumi with Basil Cannellini Hummus

In Recipe by Sean25 Comments

Grilled Halloumi

With Basil Cannellini Hummus

I’ve never really liked coming up with titles for my meals. On the one hand, you want your title to really communicate what’s going on in the dish. On the other hand, you want it to be short and pithy (not to mention search engine friendly). And sometimes you just feel like you’re faking it a little bit – like right now. This is SUPPOSED to be grilled halloumi, and it is… in a sense. I started grilling it on a MUCH too hot barbecue, then freaked right out as my halloumi started sticking and (horror of horrors) melting into the barbecue. After some serious scraping and some even more serious cursing, I salvaged it, brought it inside, and finished it off in a frying pan. So in this case I suppose the name reflects my best intentions.

Regardless of whether your grill or fry halloumi, it’s delicious. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it’s a firm, brined sheep’s milk cheese that hails from Cyprus and has become rather popular throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. It has an exceptionally high melting point (which I somehow managed to overcome), making it ideal for grilling or frying. Halloumi makes a wonderful meze dish (a small-plate, akin to tapas or shared appetizers), especially alongside hummus and bread.

As for the hummus – well, I kind of felt like I was cheating on the title there too. I didn’t really picture this as ‘hummus’ to begin with, but the more I looked at the words “cannellini puree” the deeper my frown grew. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Of course this isn’t a conventional hummus; it doesn’t use chickpeas and it has no tahini. But diversity is the spice of life, right? Or… the spread of life…. In any case I adore cannellini (aka white kidney beans) and I really like the addition of the basil, especially alongside the savoury-salty cheese and the sharp-yet-rich acidity of the grilled lemons.

Regardless of my insecurities around nomenclature, this is a great dish to make.  It’s delicious of course, but it’s also one of those simple, eye-opening preparations.  You start out with simple, uncomplicated ingredients, and you end up with a perfectly sophisticated sharing plate.  And as you make it, you get to experience those transformative ‘ah-hah’ moments that are so delightful to have in the kitchen.  You know the type I mean – thoughts like wow, I’m actually just grilling/frying a piece of cheese and it’s working or man, why do I buy hummus when it’s so easy to make?  I love those moments because they change they way you think about food and cooking.  I still think about the first time I made pasta from scratch.  Watching the perfect little sheets come out of the pasta roller, all I could think was “That’s it? I did it? With so few ingredients, and now it’s just done and delicious and perfect?”  Honestly I think it’s those moments that really get you hooked on cooking.  Best of all, you get to eat your ah-hah moment – and it will taste better than you can imagine.

Recipe Notes

One quick note about the serving size – this is a great appetizer for a party, or part of a meze alongside other Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes. But it also makes a wonderful light lunch, breakfast, or even dinner. The leftovers keep quite well, so don’t be shy about making a big batch, even if you’re not serving it to 10 or 20 people. If you’re looking to reduce the serving size, I’d personally recommend making less cheese while keeping the hummus the same. You can always use extra hummus.

Halloumi

I’ve already covered the halloumi a little bit in the section above, but it’s worth mentioning a few notes that will help you succeed in making this a memorable dish.

If you don’t have a grill, or you don’t want to grill this, halloumi cooks very nicely in a pan too. As I mentioned above, the pictures show halloumi that was finished in a frying pan (mainly because I had some grill issues and I needed to get food on the table). Simply heat a little olive oil in a medium pan and add the halloumi. Cook until golden brown, then flip and repeat with the other side. The lemons can be cooked in a pan in a similar fashion.

Halloumi can be tricky to find at your average big-box grocery store, but you could try looking at Greek or Middle Eastern grocers as well. Greek saganaki cheese would work quite nicely in it’s place too. For an even simpler variation, you could use a good quality crumbled feta along with the hummus and grilled lemons.

Making the Hummus

I want to point out something important here before anyone starts experimenting or adapting – this hummus has been tweaked and adapted to match and balance the saltiness of the cheese and the acidity of the lemon. If you have leftovers or you want to eat it on its own, you’ll probably want to add a little extra salt and/or some fresh lemon juice. You may even want to add a little tahini (sesame paste) if you’re looking for a more ‘classic’ hummus taste. With that being said, I really do like the simplicity of this hummus and the way the basil shines through. It makes a mild but flavourful base for the bold flavours of the cheese and the lemon.

Cannellini beans are pretty easy to find at most grocery stores. If you have the time and the know-how, you prepare your own beans from dried ones. The flavour will probably be even better. If you can’t find cannellini, you could use navy beans, or even chickpeas. If you do use a different bean, you might find that you need more or less olive oil in order to get the mixture to the right consistency.

For another variation (and a classic halloumi pairing), replace the basil with fresh mint.

Serving

The grilled lemons are an absolute must here. If you’ve never grilled a lemon, get ready for a weird treat. The juice is amazing (and thicker than regular lemon juice), with an acidic yet somewhat savoury tanginess. Plus they look cool, so there’s that. When you do serve, you can either keep lemon slices handy and squeeze the juice over individual servings, or just squeeze a whole bunch of slices over all of the hummus and be done with it. Your choice will probably depend on how you’re serving this, how DIY you want it to be for your diners, and how fancy you want things to look.

Aside from the lemons, you can play with the presentation and serving accompaniments pretty easily here. I like to dust the hummus with some good sweet paprika and pour a little olive oil on top, but that’s totally optional. The fresh oregano leaves (and flowers) are a tasty and subtle addition, but I had access to that in my garden so it was easy. Substitute a little fresh mint, some basil, or even a little parsley. The flavours will all vary obviously, but the effect is similar. As for the foundation for your meal, I used a very nice baguette, but and good bread would work wonderfully. If you’re looking to skip out on the carbs, you could also use slices of cucumber, or even just dip sticks of halloumi into the hummus. Do your thing.


Nutrition Facts
Grilled Halloumi with Basil Cannellini Hummus
Amount Per Serving
Calories 357 Calories from Fat 234
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 26g 40%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 36mg 12%
Sodium 910mg 38%
Potassium 240mg 7%
Total Carbohydrates 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 1g
Protein 15g 30%
Vitamin A 6%
Vitamin C 10%
Calcium 3%
Iron 7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional Summary

NOTE: Because this can be an appetizer or a simple meal, the nutritional information will vary. The information shown is for a 1/10th portion of the total recipe, and includes bread (the square image on the white plate above gives you an approximate idea). Adjust accordingly.

GOOD NEWS:
Very low in carbohydrates and high in protein.

BAD NEWS:
Halloumi is delicious, but like most cheeses it’s salty and high in fat. This is reflected in the overall nutritional profile. If you’re concerned about either the salt content or the calorie count, you can use more hummus and less cheese on individual servings. I promise it’s still super-tasty.

Ingredient Pages

No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

Pantry Pages

No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

  • Vegetarian
  • Gluten free
  • 30-minutes

*Note: the hummus, cheese and lemons are gluten free. Obviously if you want to use bread, it will have to be gluten-free. See serving notes above.


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Grilled or fried halloumi cheese with basil and cannellini hummus and grilled lemons - Diversivore.com
Grilled Halloumi with Basil Cannellini Hummus
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Votes: 2
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings Prep Time
10-20 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
10-20 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Grilled or fried halloumi cheese with basil and cannellini hummus and grilled lemons - Diversivore.com
Grilled Halloumi with Basil Cannellini Hummus
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings Prep Time
10-20 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
10-20 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Ingredients
Halloumi, and Serving
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, then set aside.
  2. In a food processor or blender, combine the sauteed shallots and garlic with the cannellini beans, basil, dried oregano, and salt. Puree the mixture until it reaches a fairly thick, chunky consistency. Add the remaining olive oil a little at a time and continue to blend. Once the mixture is well-combined and even, check the taste and adjust the salt content a little if you like. Not that the cheese is fairly salty, so I prefer to use less salt in the hummus.
  3. Preheat and indoor or outdoor grill to medium heat. To ensure that the halloumi doesn't stick, you can brush a little extra oil on the surface. (See note below about pan-frying the halloumi instead).
  4. Cut the halloumi into large pieces, about 1 cm thick, and brush all over with olive oil.
  5. Cut the lemons into thick slices and brush with a little olive oil.
  6. Place the halloumi and the lemons on the preheated grill. Cook the halloumi long enough to leave grill marks and to give the surface a bit of a crispy golden appearance (if you pan-fry the halloumi it will be golden all over); about 2 minutes per side. Cook the lemons until darkened and golden, about 3-4 minutes per side.
  7. Place the bread on the grill to toast. It will go quickly, so keep an eye on it. Once one side is toasted, flip and toast the other side, then remove from heat.
  8. Sprinkle the hummus with a little paprika and an extra drizzle of oil. Cut the halloumi into bite-sized strips and serve with the hummus, grilled lemons, and (if you like) pita, baguette, or crackers. If you're looking for a gluten or carb-free alternative, you could serve it with cucumber slices.
Recipe Notes

If you don't have a grill, or you don't want to grill this, halloumi cooks very nicely in a pan too - in fact, the pictures show halloumi that was finished in a pan (mainly because I had some grill issues). Simply heat a little olive oil in a medium pan and add the halloumi. Cook until golden brown, then flip and repeat with the other side. The lemons can be cooked in a pan in a similar fashion.

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Comments

  1. Omg! I’ve searched last week for Halloumi everywhere, so hard to find, but as soon as I do, I’ll make your recipe! Looks tasty, and the grilled lemon… Mmmm. Can’t wait until I finally find that cheese!

    1. Author

      It can be tricky, that’s for sure. Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern grocers are a decent bet, but I found mind (inexplicably 50% off) at a semi-gourmet mainstream grocery store. I hope you can track some down! And thanks for the comment and the compliments.

  2. Love the colours and the combination of flavours in your recipes as always. I love Halloumi and can’t wait to try this recipe!! Another nice one Sean 🙂

  3. Reading your intro, I had visions of grilling the steak we splurged on last summer going up in flames, quickly pulling it off (while my husband dealt with the fire) and finishing it in the oven. I thought it was ruined, but it turned out to be quite good. Always good when something can be salvaged, right! I’ve never tried grilling cheese. Sounds super delish!

    1. Author

      I feel your pain! As much as I adore cooking, I didn’t own a barbecue until last summer (never had a place for it). So there’s still a bit of a learning curve. 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks Samantha! I was pretty happy with how everything came together. The flavours work so wonderfully in concert.

  4. Absolutely brilliant Sean. I love almost all of your creations, but this one I find particularly stunning. I love the grilled lemon idea, so original! Keep it up! 🙂

    1. Author

      Thank you so much Hilary! I’m glad you like the lemons. They’re one of those high-impact, low-input ingredients. My favourite kind!

  5. This looks incredible! I imagine it tastes incredible too with the grilled lemon and all the awesome flavours you have going on! Great grill marks too! I love making hummus/bean spreads too – they are perfect for little snacks/appetizers/part of a meal etc.

  6. Hi Sean. I had such clear pictures as I was reading your bbq predicament. It is a skill to grill halloumi or Saganaki. I have a question for you. We tried the halloumi for the first time and it was a bit rubbery and squeaky to chew, lol. Could this have just been the brand we bought or is that the texture. It was good but much prefer the Saganaki. I have a grilling pan that I put on the barbecue, it has a lot of holes on the bottom and grill the cheese on that which is on the hot barbecue less space for melted cheese to fall through. Now back to your dish. I love it, the diverse textures, the colors on the halloumi, and the cannelini hummus wonderful. I would definitely serve this plate for an appetizer. Great job Sean and great recovery on the Halloumi .Have a great weekend.
    loreto

    1. Author

      I hear you Loreto – it takes a fair bit of care and attention (which is why I’ve given as many tips as I can!). I think your experience with halloumi was pretty typical. It has a distinctive, chewy squeak – at least the brands I’ve bought. Personally I enjoy it, though it may be some sort of endemic Canadianism (if the curds on your poutine don’t squeak, they’re not fresh enough). I think if you prefer saganaki, you’d do well to use it here. I have a sense it might be a bit more gooey decadent feeling too. But that pan of yours sounds like a lovely invention… I might have to get my hands on one.

      Thanks for commenting, and thanks so much for the very kind words. Cheers!

  7. I’ve made hummus with cannellini beans once before, but you just reminded me how good it was! This dish–the hummus served along the grilled halloumi and lemon–seems absolutely irresistible. I can almost taste the combination of flavors and textures!

    1. Author

      I’m glad to have jogged your memory! I think the basil works especially well with cannellini (something I’m going to have to try with other dishes too). I’m really pleased that you enjoyed this one!

  8. Oh gosh, I’m actually laughing picturing you somehow overcoming that high melting point. Points for that amazing feat? This type of recipe is something one of my best friends would go crazy for. Stick cheese and hummus in front of her and the girl goes wild. Thanks for the delightful read and great recipe, Sean. 🙂

    1. Author

      I know, right? I couldn’t believe it. In the name of full-disclosure, I’m actually pretty new to grilling. I’ve been an indoor cook MUCH longer. Sometimes I forget just how hot that grill can get, but lesson learned. Maybe I can use it to my advantage and figure out some way to stir-fry in the barbecue. Haha. I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe though – hope you can try it out with your friend!

  9. Too funny – my friend from work texted me the other day with what she called a “foodie thought” – “if you haven’t tried this cheese – you really need to!”

    1. Author

      I hope you give it a try Karyl! It’s got a salty kick and distinctive texture, but that’s part of what makes it work so well alongside hummus and lemon. I’m certainly a fan. Thanks very much for the comments!

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