Summertime Cheeses to Please

By Abigail Crayne

The arrival of summer means less time spent in the kitchen as we seek quick and refreshing options without having to crank up the stove or oven. The grill beckons, and we see what we can easily put together straight out of the refrigerator. Sandwiches, salads and simply prepared seasonal produce become the stars, but that doesn’t mean cheese lovers should go without. There are many cheese options that pair perfectly with summertime fare, such as feta, mozzarella, goat cheese and ricotta salata, all of which complement the bounty of produce that the season has to offer. Blue cheese with a salad or burger provides creamy, savory satisfaction, and halloumi on the grill is an offbeat option that will become a favorite. And don’t forget the wine! Good bets for easy summer cheese pairings are Sauvignon Blanc, dry Rose and sparkling wine.

Watermelon, Ricotta Salata & Arugula Salad
Serves 6

Ricotta salata is firm, dry, salted sheep’s milk cheese. It is pure white; has no rind; and can be grated, shaved or crumbled.

2 pounds seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
6 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
4 ounces ricotta salata cheese, diced, shaved with a vegetable peeler or thinly sliced

Place cut watermelon in a strainer over a bowl and set aside to collect extra juice. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and extra watermelon juice. Slowly whisk in olive oil and continue whisking until dressing is emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

In a large bowl, combine fennel with arugula. Just before serving, toss the fennel and arugula with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat and season with salt and pepper. Toss the watermelon in a separate bowl with just enough vinaigrette to coat. Make a bed of arugula and fennel on a serving platter and top with the watermelon and ricotta salata. Serve immediately.
Recipe courtesy of Draeger's Cooking School.

Grilled Halloumi & Vegetable Kebabs
Serves 6

Halloumi cheese, from Cyprus, has a high melting point and can be cooked directly on a grill until brown without melting.

½ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 medium red or gold bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red onion, cut into ½-inch pieces
12 cherry tomatoes
2 medium zucchini, sliced into ½-inch rounds
8 ounces halloumi cheese, cut into 12 cubes
Additional vegetable oil for grilling

Place twelve 8-inch wooden skewers in a bowl of warm water. Soak for at least 15 minutes. Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to high heat. In a shallow baking dish, combine the vegetable oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and set aside. Thread each skewer with a piece each of bell pepper, onion, tomato, zucchini and halloumi, repeating the sequence to have two of each item per skewer. Place skewers in the dish with the marinade and turn to evenly coat. Marinate for 15 to 30 minutes. Oil the grilling surface as needed. Cook the kebabs over high heat for approximately 2 minutes per side, until the cheese is golden in color. Serve immediately.

© Copyright Draeger's Cooking School. All rights reserved.