Field Notes

Grilled Halloumi with Sweet Morita Sauce

Though it may not seem like it, the bones of this dish are based on the classic summer salad, caprese. Seared halloumi, a fresh sheep’s milk cheese, is subbed for mozzarella, zesty tomatillos replace tomatoes, and a sweet, spicy sauce of morita chilies brings the dish together.

Piloncillo, found in Latin markets, is a type of unrefined brown sugar, with deep notes of molasses and caramel; it balances out the smoky flavor of the moritas. You’ll probably have leftover sauce; use it with other fresh, salty cheeses like feta or goat cheese, or with grilled pork or lamb.

For the sauce:

  • 1 ½  ounces dried morita chilies
  • 4 ounces piloncillo, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

For the salad:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • 1 8 to 9 ounce pack halloumi, sliced ½-inch thick
  • 4 ripe tomatillos, sliced ½-inch thick
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Place the chilies in a heatproof bowl, then pour the boiling water over them and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add the piloncillo to a saucepan with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the chilies, and remove their seeds. Place the chilies and ½ the piloncillo syrup in a blender and puree. Add the cream, salt and sherry vinegar. Add the remaining syrup as needed to reach a saucy, salad dressing consistency. Season to taste with additional salt or vinegar.

Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add half the oil and swirl so that the pan is coated. When the skillet is hot, sear the slices of halloumi until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the slices to a baking sheet. Add the remaining canola oil and swirl to coat. Add the tomatillo slices and sear until they just begin to get gooey in the center, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to the baking sheet.

To assemble, arrange a layer of tomatillo slices, then top with a layer of halloumi slices. Drizzle with the morita sauce and garnish with the scallions. Serve warm.