Grilled Halloumi and Peaches with Honey-Thyme Syrup
A sweet slave to the sorrow of summer's end, seasonal peaches with halloumi are an elegant way to start an outdoor dinner party.
by Erin Henderson
This time-tested appetizer first appeared on The Wine Sisters' blog in September of 2012, one of our very first posts offering ideas for easy, elegant entertaining.
We cook and entertain weekly at home, and nearly daily as professionals. Rarely do we have recipes that last for years. Partially that's because food, like clothes and cars, fall in and out of fashion (just look at frittatas, sun-dried tomatoes, or salmon mousse if you don't believe us.)
But this simple combination works on so many levels it would be lunacy not to revisit it, with lustful eagerness, as summer's end nears.
It's simple – only four, readily-available, ingredients, and ready to serve in under 15 minutes. It's delicious, with the irresistable tang of sweet and salty. And it's gorgeous. Blushing orange peaches slashed with black stripes from the grill, set atop creamy white pillows of Halloumi singed to burnt umber. It's a showstopper of a centrepiece, and one that will end up on more than a few Instagram accounts.
Even though Ontario is now a wunderkind with peaches, growing at least seven different varieties, these sweet and fuzzy fruits not native to the province – nor even North America. They're an ancient fruit, likely native to China, where they still grow wild along the Pakinstani border. Archaeologists have found them in the tombs of Chinese nobility, dating back hundreds of years before the time of Christ. Peaches arrived here thanks to Spanish explorers in the 1500's who initially settled in Latin America.
As for Halloumi, it's perfect for grilling because it's rubbery, firm texture resists melting. It's a Cypriot cheese, made from sheep or goat's milk, or a blend of both, and is mild like mozzarella, squeaky like cheese curds, and is most similar to Indian paneer. The salty, neutral flavour of Halloumi means it's better when seared or grilled, as flavour improves when that delcious brown crust forms from the heat. In other words, perfect for this dish.
Grilled Peaches and Halloumi with Honey-Thyme Syrup
I estimate about one peach and two or three slices of Halloumi per person, but of course you can add or subtract according to your guests and where this dish comes in the meal. The serving suggestion below is just that, a suggestion.
A note about searing: we don't use oil, but it comes after a bit of practice, and even after all this time, we can occassionally get caught with food sticking to the grill. The sugar from the fruit, and gooey fat from the cheese are both prone to sticking, so the key is to get the surface quite hot and resist the temptation to flip to soon.
If you're nervous, you can try either lightly oiling the grill pan or wiping the fruit and cheese with a thin coat of oil to relieve your anxieties. But once you get hte hang of it, ditch the oil.
Serves: 4, as a starter
Chef level: moderate
- 4 ripe peaches, split in two and the pit removed
- 250 g log of Halloumi, sliced as wide as a standard pencil
- 5-10 fresh sprigs thyme
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup honey
How to Make It:
- Place a grill pan on your barbecue and preheat over medium heat for about 10 minutes to get the grill hot, but not searing
- Meanwhile, combine the water, honey, salt, and thyme sprigs over medium-low heat on the stove, stirring occasionally, allowing the honey and salt to dissolve. Then turn down to low to keep warm.
- Place the peaches on the hot grill, allowing to sear for two minutes to begin to pick up some grill marks.
- Place the Halloumi slices on the grill, searing undisturbed for about 2-3 minutes before flipping. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Once both the Halloumi and the peaches are cooked and soft with pretty grill marks, line a serving plate with the Halloumi and top with the peaches. Drizzle with the honey-thyme syrup and serve.
Somewhat surprsingly, this is a very wine-friendly dish.
I've had this with everything from Roero Arneis – a terrific white wine from Piedmont with medium body and silky/oily texture that's made for a fabulous pairing.
I've also paired a barely off-dry Riesling, which picked up the stone fruit flavours beautifully. For the same reasons you could go for a lightly oaked Chardonnay such as a Mâcon or something from Niagara.
And in the spirit of "what grows together, goes together," take a cue from the Italians who put cold slices of peach in their wine in the summer, as both a flavouring agent and a way to keep their wine cool in the relentless heat. Mostly this is done with red wine, but I think a lovely Pinot Grigio or Soave sounds more appealing.