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Appetizers, Vegetarian

Fried haloumi with pears and spiced dates

Fried haloumi with pears and spiced dates
Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

Sometimes when I make a grilled cheese sandwich, I deliberately load the bread with far more cheese than it can handle, knowing full well that as the sandwich cooks, the cheddar or Emmentaler will inevitably spill over the sides and ... Read more

Total time: 35 minutes | Serves 4 to 8
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 dates, cut in half and pits removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 pound haloumi, cut into 8 slices (about 1/3 -inch thick)
  • 1 pear, quartered, seeded and sliced crosswise into 8 pieces but not peeled)
  • 8 slices of bread cut from a country white or whole-wheat loaf
  • 3 tablespoons ouzo

Step 1Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2Cook the lemon zest, juice and brown sugar in a small saute pan, stirring, over medium heat until the brown sugar melts, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper and dates and cook until the dates soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, remove from heat and set aside.

Step 3Heat a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Arrange the haloumi slices in the pan, being careful not to overlap them. Brown the cheese, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the cheese to a heavy baking dish just large enough to hold the cheese in a single layer without overlapping. In the same nonstick pan, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat and add the pear slices in a single layer. Brown the pears on each side, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

Step 4Layer the pears over the haloumi in the baking dish. Spoon the date mixture over all and place the baking dish in the oven. Heat until the pears are warmed and the cheese is softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread and place it on a serving dish or platter.

Step 5Remove the baking dish to a countertop and pour the ouzo over the top. Flambe the mixture by igniting the ouzo with a long match (do this carefully as the flames will spread quickly and can reach several inches high). When the flames die out, after about 2 minutes, spoon the pears and cheese over the toast. Serve immediately.

Note: Adapted from "Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean" by Ana Sortun. Haloumi, a hard sheep's milk cheese from Cyprus, is available at most cheese shops and Middle Eastern groceries. Ouzo, a Greek, anise-flavored liqueur, is widely available at well-stocked supermarkets and liquor stores.

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