Halloumi is a bit modest-looking, with a spongy, rubbery-white appearance that belies little of its grandiose Cypriot origins. Yet the Mediterranean island is famous for its diverse flora; simultaneously straddling vegetation zones of Europe, Africa, and Asia, it boasts some 1,800 flowering plants. And the island's ruminants dine daily on that floral salad, resulting in milk that's packed with flavor.
Traditionally made with sheep's milk, goat's milk, or a blend of the two, Halloumi originated on Cyprus centuries ago. Its unique texture is achieved via a second heating during the production process. The cheese is only pressed for a short time, resulting in a higher-than-usual pH (around 5.8), before it's dipped in hot whey, which kills the starter bacteria and prevents further development of acid (meaning that calcium phosphate flows out of the cheese). That ensures a strong, rigid protein network which doesn't melt when heated, making Halloumi a stellar cheese to grill or sear.
Halloumi is by definition mild and salty, but the most authentic versions will yield some added complexity: think whey, mint, milk, and barnyard.
This summery cheese is lovely served fresh alongside watermelon, but its non-melting texture makes it a stellar cooking cheese, too. We love it marinated with mushroom and drizzled with truffle honey; sautéed and served as a crostini; or wedged into a spicy eggplant sandwich.