Talko Tuesday: Recipe swap!

Most people who know me and my News Views Family know I love to cook and cook a lot. So, for this Tuesday, I thought we could share some recipes and no, they don’t have to focus on tacos but can, if you want.

But here’s the caveat: All recipes must be from scratch—no cheating by using a seasoning packets or jarred sauces; you must use your own seasonings or sauces/marinades/dressing. Also, no recipe can call for a boxed cake mix; you must use your own recipe and make the cake from scratch. Get the idea? From scratch and from scratch only; no prepackaged stuff. I think an exception would be Teriyaki sauce because how many people make their own Teriyaki sauce? (Rhetorical question that does not need an answer; although, I’ve made my own but, yeah…big deal).

So, I’ll begin first with a simple (not really) salad. It’s almost summer and watermelon should be in abundance soon. I don’t know the name of this salad; it really doesn’t have one. My family refers to it as: “You know, Mom, that salad you make with watermelon and that grilled Greek cheese no one can pronounce except Grandma and her friends.” Yeah, that one:

Watermelon and Grilled Halloumi cheese Salad:

First, let me put a link on how to grill this particular cheese and an image of what it looks like after you grill it:

Hint: The biggest challenge to this recipe are a few ingredients: 1). the cheese; it’s not sold in typical, big box supermarkets. You can find it at Italian, Greek, Mid-Eastern, and sometimes Trader Joe’s. 2). Pomegranate molasses (same thing, see above). 3). Sumac--Mediterranean/Mid-Eastern markets.

Let’s go over the ingredients:

Red onion thinly sliced—cut the onion in quarters and follow ‘the veins’ and slice thinly.

Cucumbers (Persian, preferably). I remove the seeds and cut on a bias.

Sliced olives (optional, of course). My favorite: Pitted Castelvetrano Italian Olives. This isn’t the brand I use. I buy mine in the deli section of my local Natural Foods CoOp. They’re very buttery and delicious but, optional.

Watermelon

Sliced, grilled Halloumi cheese-It doesn’t melt nor make a mess.

Feta cheese (optional—not marinated but either plain or brined—Greek, preferably. I prefer plain, not brined—not into a lot of salt).

Arugula or Romaine lettuce

For the dressing:

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar ( I prefer Balsamic. You do not need an aged, as in very expensive Balsamic, just something for a dressing).

Garlic

Lemon juice from one lemon plus grate it and use the peel, so much flavor.

Fresh Italian parsley

Pomegranate mollases

Honey

Minced garlic (DO NOT USE marinated garlic in a jar, garlic granules, powder, etc…use whole cloves that you either finely mince or put through a garlic press).

Freshly ground black pepper

Sumac- previously soaked in a little water to bring out its flavor/essence. I add the water to my dressing.

Fresh or dried mint. If using dry, use less.

Bonus points: If you noticed there are no measurements because it’s all based on your taste…preference. Just note, you’re in charge. The only time I measure anything is when I bake because you have to unless you want a disaster. Also notice—no salt. You will get enough salt from the cheeses. The base of this salad dressing, like most, is olive oil. Everything else, you add to the olive oil…whisk together, taste and adjust to taste. If you want it sweeter, add more pomegranate molasses or honey. I love ‘pom mol’ and tend to make my dressing rich and thick but it has some tartness from the lemon and sumac. You’ll figure it out. It’s all about what you prefer.

So now what do you do?

Marinade the onions and cucumbers directly in the dressing. This can be done even the night before. I have a niece that when she comes over always asks if I have any marinated onions and cucumbers to put on some pita bread. I’ve taught her how to make this salad and she now makes it quite frequently. In the fall, we substitute the watermelon for ripe persimmons and sometimes add couscous to the mix because I love couscous.

Slice the watermelon into triangles and grill that cheese. The rest of it is very easy.

Get a platter and line it with arugula. If you can not find arugula, use chopped romaine. Layer the watermelon on your bed of greens and top each triangle with some grilled Halloumi cheese. Then, grab some of those marinated cucumbers and onions and spread on top. Top with sliced olives, if using them. Keep layering–wash, rinse repeat-

1). Arugula

2). Watermelon

3). Grilled cheese

4). Onions and cucumbers

5). Olives

When you’ve used up all the Halloumi cheese, you’re done. Pour the rest of the dressing/marinade on top and then top the on top with crumbled feta cheese. You can garnish with fresh mint and Italian parsley. Do not use that curly, parsley stuff. It won’t work. I have no clue what that stuff is. Oh, and if you have some pomegranate seeds (I have a bunch in my freezer), garnish with those on top as well.

I hope you enjoy. It truly is a very tasty, colorful salad that represents summer and the Mediterranean so well.

This is kind of what the finished product looks like. I take the rind off my melons all the time but…the closest to what I could find. I don’t think I have a picture. I know my sons do but neither are here right now to ask.

I hope you enjoy. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them. Please feel free to share a recipe or two that you think we should try.

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