Kitchen Notes

Grilled Halloumi with Sweet Morita Sauce

by Thomas Kelly on Jun 23, 2015

Though it may not seem like it, the bones of this dish are based on the classic summer salad, caprese. Seared halloumi, a fresh sheep’s milk cheese, is subbed for mozzarella, zesty tomatillos replace tomatoes, and a sweet, spicy sauce of morita chilies brings the dish together.

Piloncillo, found in Latin markets, is a type of unrefined brown sugar, with deep notes of molasses and caramel; it balances out the smoky flavor of the moritas. You’ll probably have leftover sauce; use it with other fresh, salty cheeses like feta or goat cheese, or with grilled pork or lamb.

For the sauce:

  • 1 ½  ounces dried morita chilies
  • 4 ounces piloncillo, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

For the salad:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • 1 8 to 9 ounce pack halloumi, sliced ½-inch thick
  • 4 ripe tomatillos, sliced ½-inch thick
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Place the chilies in a heatproof bowl, then pour the boiling water over them and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add the piloncillo to a saucepan with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the chilies, and remove their seeds. Place the chilies and ½ the piloncillo syrup in a blender and puree. Add the cream, salt and sherry vinegar. Add the remaining syrup as needed to reach a saucy, salad dressing consistency. Season to taste with additional salt or vinegar.

Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add half the oil and swirl so that the pan is coated. When the skillet is hot, sear the slices of halloumi until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the slices to a baking sheet. Add the remaining canola oil and swirl to coat. Add the tomatillo slices and sear until they just begin to get gooey in the center, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to the baking sheet.

To assemble, arrange a layer of tomatillo slices, then top with a layer of halloumi slices. Drizzle with the morita sauce and garnish with the scallions. Serve warm.