What the halloumi?

Sorry it’s been so long. . .I’ve not had any foodie adventures lately. I did, however, luck out and find the wonderful Yorkshire Tea in Decaf last week at Central Market. Woo hoo! The box looks different than this one, but it’s Yorkshire for sure. Great stuff if you can find it. Also picked up four of those delicious turkey blueberry sausages they make fresh at Central Market every day. I don’t have them very often, but they have fresh blueberries and are a delicious diversion from what you’re used to.

Today I returned some fire roasted tomatoes to HEB when I discovered there was sugar in them. SUGAR!! Look, if I’m eatin’ cake, I KNOW there’s sugar in it, OK? It should be MY CHOICE to eat sugar or avoid it, darnit. Leave me alone when I’m eating. If I want a big gaseous cupcake, that’s MY business, so stay outta my tomatoes. HEB also had blackberries for 98 cents a carton, so I got two. YUM. After passing by the cooking station and having a delish late lunch, I also splurged on some pork and cranberry sausages HEB has just for the holidays. I think that’s for Christmas Eve. Christmas Day will likely be the Lemon Chicken I love so much.

Today I’ve got some pork chops in the crock pot with some flame-roasted peppers, onions, white wine, and I forget what else. A good standby, and I needed to thaw some of those pork chops out and cook them anyway. .

Last week I got a call from my friend Ann asking me to shorten a couple pairs of pants for her; they were too long, and she wanted to see how to do it herself. Didn’t take long, and now her pants are just the right length. I hope she remembers, because we ended up talking about food most of the time. While I was showing her a few things out of Nigella Express, I realized that I still had some halloumi cheese in the freezer, and hadn’t made this recipe in a long time. It was cold, and I was alone–what’s stopping me?

The next day I thawed out some sweet Italian sausages (dunno where to find Merguez sausages in Houston) and a packet of halloumi cheese with a “sell by date” of something like July 2010. Yeah. . .it’s been a while. But I thawed it out anyway and went for it.

I always keep a jar or two of the fire-roasted peppers in the pantry for stuff like this, so that was no big deal, but the sausages, well, I had to improvise with the Italian. I sliced the sausages in half width-wise, then in half lengthwise, so they were about the size of a big finger. The halloumi, as you see in the recipe, is sliced up in small slices. It’s a rather dry cheese, so under ordinary circumstances, you can bake or grill this cheese. It’s from Cyprus, and it tastes a bit like a dry feta. I like it. I don’t have it often, because it can be pricey. Hence the freezing–it was on sale or something, so I stuck it in the freezer.

That works with stuff like cheddar and Swiss. Other cheeses, not so much.

Because the water tends to separate it after freezing and thawing, the texture of many cheeses is altered. Some of the softer cheese can turn a bit grainy. But you know I’m not going to toss it, right?  The halloum did OK, fell apart a little when I cut it, and when I took it out of the oven, it was a bit over-done. This could also be due to the fact that a neighbor knocked on my door and asked for help. I turned off the oven but didn’t take it out. Big mistake. I think the drier cheese just got burned, because it was hard in a few spots. Darnit. But that didn’t stop me from eating it. 🙂

Freezing cheese is a good idea when you find them on sale (or don’t use all of it), like Manchego, the delicious Spanish sheep’s milk cheese. I could eat a whole pound of it by myself, but don’t. It’s absolutely my favorite cheese since I tried it several years ago when I made this delicious dish from Rachael Ray. If you’ve never had Manchego, go find some and try it. Some stores will even let you sample it. Manchego has an unmistakeable taste that will make you love it. I made that Chili Sweet Potato Hash for more than a year, every Sunday, for a week of breakfast. I only stopped when I went on the yeast-free diet and had to give up dairy; since then, I haven’t had it because I’ve just not gotten around to it. I used a pound of sausage and put two fried eggs on top so that I could take it to work and microwave it if need be. I haven’t made this in a long time, but. . .now I want to make it again soon. I’ve got some sweet potatoes in the fridge, and I’m sure there’s some Manchego, if I just look. . .heck, any white cheese would do. . . .

Freezing cheese can work for Manchego and other hard cheeses, like cheddar, Swiss, Gruyere, Asiago, Parmasean, Romano, and others. But when it comes to stuff like cottage cheese, cream cheese and ricotta, well, your results will be mixed. (Ditto sour cream.) I’ve had good luck with ricotta; I just drain the water off and stir it when it’s thawed and I’m ready to use it. (Who eats it raw, anyway?)  But cream cheese, well, if it’s opened, your results will be mixed. I don’t mess with cottage cheese, but since it’s quite watery, so proceed at your own risk. You should use the frozen cheese within four to six months, but. . .as with last week’s halloumi adventure, sometimes longer is OK, too. I just forget stuff is in there, you know?

You can use these thawed/altered items IN something else, like a casserole or something; but you might not be able to spread the cream cheese on a bagel like you used to.

Also, low-fat and fat-free cheeses don’t survive freezing very well. But. . .why would you want to keep that stuff around, anyway? Yuck. Don’t even wanna hear about “vegan cheese.”

In the future, I will have a cheese freezer, or at least a big enough freezer to keep a stock of cheese on hand so that I can just make whatever I want whenever I want it, and restock at will.

If you see cheese on sale and have the room, by all means, get some and freeze it. If cheese is something you use. (Of course, if you’re lactose intolerant, you might wanna skip that. Just sayin’.) Next time you’re in the mood for something calling for your favorite stinky cheese, it’ll be waiting for you.

Cheese freezes. It’s a good thing.

Happy Dining!

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