Given the fact the I shop for groceries without any clear direction of what I am going to make with the ingredients, my fridge tends to accumulate a motley assortment of half used ingredients. Today was one of those days where it just felt wrong to go grocery shopping given how full the fridge was, and yet the random cluttering of food in its inner depths yielded no inspiration.
Broccoli rabe, cilantro, corn, potatoes and cucumbers all seemed like the makings of a good side dish, but nothing suitable for a proper supper. As my gaze floated up a shelf, the block of Halloumi I’d purchased last week caught my eye. It’s a cheese from Cyprus that has an odd squishy texture and the unique property of not melting when heated. This makes it perfect for frying and grilling, something you wouldn’t dream of doing with most cheeses, unless you were gunning for a big gloppy mess.
What’s your favourite way to clean out your fridge?
By the time I’d discovered the Halloumi, it was past 6:00pm and the natives were getting hungry. I knew I had to think of something quick, and I resigned myself to the likelihood that I’d be eating an unmemorable meal. A salad, with fried halloumi on top wouldn’t be so bad, but it lacked a starch. As I was rummaging through the pantry, I noticed a cellophane bag of rice noodles peaking out from the mess. A light bulb flicked on, and this Mediterranean meets Southeast Asian noodle salad was born.
I honestly didn’t expect this dish to amount to much more than a fridge cleaning meal. It was after all, thrown together out of random odds and ends in a mealtime panic. A few bites in though, and I realized something very special had been born out of my rush to put food on the table. I don’t tend to repeat dishes once I post about it, but this one is definitely going on the summertime repertoire. It’s light and refreshing yet satisfyingly filling, the crisp brown outer layer of the cheese blankets the salad with umami, and the mild bitterness of the verdant green brocolli rabe is an even-keeled counterpoint to the sweet, tangy, and spicy flavors in the salad.
Call it serendipity, or call it a fluke, but this haphazardly conceived dish, turned out to be a memorable summer delight.
Asian Noodle Salad with Fried Halloumi
1/2 bunch of broccoli rabe
1/2 sweet onion sliced thin
2 Persian cucumbers cubed
1 ripe tomato cubed
1 handful cilantro or mint chopped
1 chili minced (Thai, or Serrano)
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs + 1 tsp fish sauce
1 Tbs sugar
7 oz Bánh phở rice noodles (the kind used in phở and pad Thai)
6 oz Halloumi cheese sliced into 1/4″ thick slices
oil for frying
Rehydrate the rice noodles in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes.
Boil a large pot of well salted water. Add the broccoli rabe and boil until the stems are cooked but still retain some crunch (about 2 minutes). Drain and immediately plunge the broccoli rabe into an ice bath. This shocks the vegetable giving it a vibrant green colour. Squeeze out any excess water from the broccoli rabe and chop. Add to a bowl with the onions, cucumbers, tomato, cilantro and chili.
Make the dressing in a small bowl and set aside.
Boil the noodles until just tender then drain and plunge in a couple changes of cold water to chill. Add some ice cubes to the water and leave the noodles in the water while you fry the halloumi (otherwise they will start sticking).
Heat a cast iron skillet until very hot. Add a splash of oil. Dry each piece of Halloumi using a paper towel and put in the pan to fry until crisp and brown on one side. Flip, then brown the second side.
To plate, just add the dressing to the vegetables and toss to coat. Drain the noodles and put down a bed of them, then top with the salad along with some of the dressing that’s accumulated at the bottom of the bowl. Top with slices of fried Halloumi.