I'm baaaaaaacck! Life got in between the computer and me, but I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to step away and experience it all. My college boyfriend and I got engaged (!!!!!!!), we celebrated, we ventured to the New Jersey shore with friends, my older sister and cutest niece moved to Iowa, and my family traveled to the North Woods of Wisconsin for the 4th of July. As much as I crave routine and predictability and general "me time," these last several weeks threw all of that to the wind. My normal cooking routine went with it, as did those trips to the weekend farmers' markets that I look most forward to. I caught myself several times wishing that I could just escape, get away from all the movement. But then I would remember that it is a wonderful, unique opportunity to be surrounded by so many loving people, that life will once again pull us away into all of our own little spheres and I will be craving movement, excitement, and spontaneity as much as I have been craving calm, quiet, and routine. I have often recalled the words of one of my favorite yoga instructors. She reminds us that it is easy to foster inner calm and peace when you are able to control every element, when you physically remove yourself from the external chaos. The challenge lies in finding that internal peace amidst chaos, amidst change, amidst an environment you cannot control. Here's to summer, here's to embracing that chaos but finding even a snippet of inner calm, and here's to finally getting back into the kitchen.
Since I have been away for a while, I thought I would come back with a BING...I mean, a BANG! Well, a bing and a bang! Dark Bing cherries that is. And a bang because this dish is a total winner. Cherries have a fairly short season, so you have to get them while you can. As a kid, I used to have cherry pit spitting contests with my siblings, and as an adult, I resort to experimenting with cherries in the kitchen since launching cherry pits as far as you can is not nearly as fun when you are alone. This delightful dish mixes sweet, juicy cherries, with salty, chewy Halloumi. Halloumi, which traditionally comes from Cyprus, is one of those special squeaky cheeses, like the Indian paneer, that holds its shape when heated and does not melt. It is intensely salty, but the fruity vinaigrette, nutty bulgur, and bright herbs really help balance everything out.
This recipe is incredibly versatile. If you cannot find halloumi, you can substitute paneer or add some marinated tofu that has been crisped in the skillet. You can also just sprinkle it with a generous amount of salty (uncooked feta). If bulgur is not in your pantry, use another cooked grain you like such as quinoa or brown rice- aim for about 2 1/2 cups cooked grain total for the dish. Parsley can substitute for the cilantro and toasted hazelnuts or almonds for the toasted walnuts. Another idea? Toss in some cooked chickpeas.
Cherries are the real star here. Pureed into the vinaigrette and some left in bigger pieces, you can appreciate their mild sweet-tartness fully. Look for dark sweet cherries at your market or grocery store. I try to get organic as they are a fruit in which we eat the skin. Give them a good wash, and snack on a few while you are cooking. I really hope you enjoy this dish as much as we have.
Cherry and Herb Bulgur Salad with Golden Halloumi
1 cup uncooked bulgur wheat
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup dark cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, washed, dried and roughly chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted* and chopped
1 8-ounce package halloumi cheese, sliced into 8 slices
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dark cherries, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon honey
Cook the bulgur. Bring 1 and 1/4 cups water to boil over high heat. Add 1 cup of bulgur, cover with a lid, and reduce heat to very low. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes before removing the lid. Drain any excess liquid.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a blender or food processor, add the vinaigrette ingredients and process until smooth. It will be a beautiful pink color. Set aside.
Cook the halloumi. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a nonstick or cast iron skillet. Add the halloumi slices in a single layer and cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden. Remove from heat.
Assemble the salad. Toss the bulgur with the vinaigrette, reserving a tablespoon or so for drizzling atop the halloumi. Add the chopped cherries, herbs, and toasted walnuts. Mix to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remembering that the halloumi will pack a salty punch. Layer the halloumi on top, and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Enjoy! Serves 4.
* To toast the walnuts, roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes or until golden or toast on the stove-top for 8-10 minutes in a skillet over medium heat