Halloumi Cheese with Cucumber Salad

photography by Petrina Tinslay

Dear Recipe Testers,

I'm finally getting the chance to write the e-mail I intended to write two weeks ago. I went to the benefit for CASA launch party for Jewels and Jill's new cookbook The Family Chef. For me it was an enormous treat to eat someone else's food that was also SO DELICIOUS! Everything was so fresh, healthy and yet still no sacrifice in flavor or taste. It was wonderful. The appeal of this book is that both sister's are great cooks but have individual styles. So many recipes will have both of their versions as well as tips that are titled "Jill's Smart Idea" or "Jill says" or Jewels Says." It makes the cookbook a fun read and also gives you the feel that you are there with them in the kitchen having a private cooking class. The other thing I will do is quote from Jennifer Anniston's forward because she says it best when saying she used to eat Zone bars until she learned she could actually eat this food that was both good for you and delicious. It also goes along with my mantra for eat the real thing: real sugar, real butter, real honey, real olive oil, real cheese, real pasta, real, real, real, etc.

At the party one of the many fabulous things they made was this Halloumi Cheese with Cucumber and Lentil Salad. I couldn't eat enough of it. Halloumi is Greek cheese that is similar to Casseri that you use when making Saganaki. it is so simple to just pan sear it and put it in the salad. It is very salty (which I love!) and compliments the tomatoes and cucumbers perfectly. The food is also very straightforward and easy to make. They have recipes for their husbands favorite dishes in there as well as fun stuff to make for the kids.

So I'll quote from the forward and then give you the recipe:

"The culinarily challenged period of my life, which I like to refer to as 'B.J.: Before Jewels,' wasn't pretty, people!

At best it was prepackaged Zone meals, overcooked takeout and scrounging for the occasional piece of cheese. And I was making a decent living, so what was my excuse for low energy?

Until the secret of how important it is to nourish oneself is introduced into your life, you live in the dark and at the mercy of processed foods.

I used to think anything packaged as 'low-fat' was good for me; I was an avid consumer of artificial sugar and butter substitutes--I was living amongst all the impressionists.

Then "Saucy, Inspired and Graceful'--otherwise known as Jewels--walked into my kitchen and my heart and taught me how to nourish my body with real food--food that's truly and naturally life sustaining and delicious.

Jewels changed the way I see a kitchen from a place to store PowerBars (my once-upon-a-time alternative to all food groups!) to a sanctuary that has become the most important room in the house, filled with sights and smells that are themselves a feast.

The beauty of spreading the secret of Jewels and Jill is it can change lives, because there's literally nothign more important to our health, happiness and success than what we put into our bodies and the energy, clarity and stamina that come as a result.

It's taken me time to learn that they key to having a great physique isn't to deprive oneself of food, but to educate oneself about the many foods our bodies crave and need as nourishment. Jewels has taught me how to take this long list of foods our bodies love and prepare them in a way that we, too, can jove. B.J. (Before Jewels), I never went near a piece of fish. She was the only person who could get me to taste salmon. And now I beg her to make it and I can't eat salmon anywhere else because it never tastes like hers. She is a flavor artist with a passion for detail. And now Jewels' art form is accessible to everyone: a conscious, sensible approach to selecting and preparing guilt-free food that tastes divine!" -- Jennifer Anniston

Halloumi Cheese with Cucumber Lentil Salad

Serves 2-4

6 Persian Cucumbers, peeled in strips and cut into half-circles
4 ripe tomatoes (Japanese if you can find them, cut in big chunks
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon mint, chopped
1 cup cooked beluga or puy lentils (I prefer beluga) (note from Maili: Trader Joe's carries two kinds)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper (note from Maili: I'm pretty sure she uses only sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper)
1-2 glugs extra-virgin olive oil
1 7-ounce package halloumi cheese, sliced into 12 pieces

1. Place the first seven ingredients in a bowl and toss together.

2. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Do not oversalt because the cheese is salty enough.

3. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add a splash or two of oil.

4. Place the halloumi cheese in pan and saute for 1-2 minutes, just until golden.

5. Turn cheese over and brown for another minute.

6. Remove from pan and serve immediately, while cheese is still warm, with cucumber lentil salad.

Jill's Smart Idea: You can also use fresh cooked or canned beans (any kind) or quinoa in the place of lentils. The halloumi cheese is also wonderful with Jewel's version of Chickpea Salad (page 278.)
So that is my mini-cookbook review. I will again repeat that in addition to both Jewel's and Jill being incredibly talented in the cooking department, they are also extremely patient and kind. They are warmest people and their cooking is an extension of their lovely selves. Here is the link with more reviews on Amazon.

I think this will be the beginning of me highlighting some of my favorite cookbooks from Frank Stitt to Nigel Slater. Cookbooks are such a HUGE part of my life and I read them like novels. I own somewhere close to 1,500 cookbooks. As I said before, I'd love to get a PhD in cookbook/cooking history. I just can't get enough!! I'm happy to start this tradition with Jewels and Jill.



We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. Sir Winston Churchill


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