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This Dinner-Worthy Mediterranean Salad Goes Big on Flavor and Texture

By Aliza Abarbanel
May 18, 2021
Photo Credit: Julia Gartland for Food52

What’s the difference between a lunch salad and a dinner salad? To me, the answer is opulence. A dinner-worthy salad doesn’t just have to be hearty enough to tide me over until breakfast (or at least dessert). Ideally, it should also be laden with enough delicious mix-ins to feel worthy of my favorite meal of the day. Sohla El-Waylly’s Big Fat Halloumi Salad is all of these things and more. 

Inspired by a Middle Eastern mezze, her recipe for Food52 goes big on flavor and texture. Think: Chewy-sweet dates, golden cubes of salty halloumi, crispy chickpeas, tender roast eggplant, crunchy almonds — and I haven’t even gotten to the dressing. It enlists plenty of Aleppo pepper and sumac to zhuzh up the always classic combination of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. All of that is gently laid atop a huge bed of peppery arugula and bitter radicchio. Now you can see why this is the best salad I’ve made in months. 

Hungry for dinner already? Good, me too. Read on for my cook’s tips, and queue up my favorite warm-spring-day playlist (featuring Hiatus Kaiyote, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, and more good vibes) to set the mood while you slice and stir. 

halloumi salad

Photo Credit: Aliza Abarbanel

My Cook’s Notes (to Embrace or Ignore)

1. Get the spices right.

Gently spicy Aleppo pepper and fruity-tart sumac give Sohla’s dressing an essential burst of bright, fruity flavor. If they’re not on hand in your own spice cabinet, they’re worth investing in. Sohla sources her cured sumac by the pound from Burlap and Barrel, a certified Public Benefit Corporation that partners directly with smallholder farmers around the world to secure fair wages in return for the highest quality spices. Due to the ongoing Syrian Civil War, Aleppo pepper is not available for export, but these Turkish Silk Chili Flakes are botanically identical (and very delicious).

2. Play around with ingredients.

Sohla’s recipe calls for a substantial but carefully calibrated list of ingredients. The results are delicious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go freestyle—especially if you have produce that needs to be used up ASAP.  It all comes down to contrasting flavors and textures, so keep that guidance in mind before experimenting. Try to hit at least one ingredient from each category: Hot, cold, salty, sweet, fatty, and fresh. Swap dates for dried apricots, mozzarella for halloumi, and use up any lettuce you have on hand. Personally, I plan on swapping in all my favorite summer produce—heirloom tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and roasted summer squash—as soon as it hits the farmers market.

3. Go big on servingware.

Yes, you could serve this whole salad mixed up in one big bowl. But eating off a large plate or platter allows you to assemble your perfect bite. Spear a hunk of rich halloumi alongside a tart orange slice. Get a sweet date and earthy eggplant in one bite! Mix and match until you’ve found the best combination, then let me know what it is. 

4. Don’t dawdle before serving.

Usually I like to recommend meals that can be easily transported, because it’s springtime and the world is our picnic. But in this case, eat as soon as this salad is prepared! The roasted halloumi, eggplant, and chickpeas won’t stay warm forever. 

5. Double up on the dressing.

This goes for basically any dressing or sauce. In my experience, you’ll never regret having extra to use tomorrow, plus it takes one thing off your prep plate. Make a double batch to drizzle over seared asparagus, dress greens for a sandwich, season a grain bowl…..or go ahead and make this whole salad again. It’ll all be delicious. 

Get the recipe: Sohla El-Waylly’s My Big Fat Halloumi Salad from Food52 


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