Grilled Marinated Vegetable and Halloumi Brochettes
Did you see what I did there in the title? Huh, huh? Did ya? These are not kebabs or skewers. God forbid that I would give you yet another recipe for kebabs when it’s only the 9th of June. There’s a whole SUMMER ahead for me to glut this website full of skewered meats and vegetables. Oh no, my friend. These are brochettes. And what’s the difference between a kebab and a brochette? Well, generally brochettes tend to be a little bit smaller and they’re more suitable for party food or appetizers. Also…okay, that’s the only difference. A brochette is still food stuck on a skewer, which means that okay, fine, Im giving you yet another recipe for kebabs. I knew you’d see right through this little ruse of mine.
If you’re still a bit wary of Halloumi, don’t be. Halloumi is one of my favorite Greek cheeses (yes, even more than feta…but don’t spread that around) due to the firm and slightly chewy texture, briny but still slightly sweet flavor, and the phenomenal versatility of the beast. You can slice Halloumi up for sandwiches, cube it in salads, fry it, grate it and stuff it in irresistible garlicky pull-aparts, and even grill it in flat sheets or on a kebab. I mean, on a brochette. The cheese will soften and melt, but it doesn’t break down into a gooey mess like mozzarella would. Halloumi has pride, and integrity. It keeps on trucking, even when the heat’s turned up.
Now what’s your feeling on vegetables? No, not “do you like them?” Of COURSE you like vegetables! Say it with me, nice and slow. “YES, WE LIKE VEGETABLES.” That’s better. It doesn’t hurt to eat a vegetarian meal once in a while (MIKE). I love vegetables as well, and I’m usually a friend to most of the fruits and vegetables that pass my way (except for Durian – foe! foe! foe!!!!!) but I suppose that I’m a fair weather friend. I like them when they’re all fresh and young, bursting with the vigors of health and youth. As soon as they turn that point between fresh and flaccid, the love is gone. All that to say that when these brochettes are cooked the halloumi will be soft and charred, but the veggies should still have a bit of an al dente edge.
Oh, and one last thing while I’ve got you here! I still get really excited about the prospect of grilling on a BBQ, because for so many years I was a sullen apartment dweller. High in my concrete tower I would gaze longingly outside at the park, but municipal laws had long ago sealed my world off from even the bravest Hibachi that wanted to win my heart. Sad, I know, but I made due with (sorrowful) grill pans and the broil setting of my oven. On the plus side, I learned a lot about what can and cannot be cooked successfully in an oven. These nuggets of joy are in the ‘can’ column. Sure, there’s a discernible lack of grill marks and you miss that smoky charred flavor, but on the pros list we have:
- skewers that don’t get cremated
- the marinade flavor is more pronounced
- The vegetables stay bright and vibrant from the blast of high heat without the singe
You can fan those hunger fires however you like, and these little brochettes will see you through.
Grilled Marinated Vegetable and Halloumi Brochettes
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer or small plate
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 lemon (2 tsp zest, juice of whole)
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1.5 tsp hot red pepper flakes
- 500 g halloumi (about 1 lb)
- 1 pint cherry tomato
- 1 sweet red pepper
- 2 baby eggplant
- 2 small zucchini
- salt and pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle or dip
- Pita bread
- Olives *
* You totally get extra bonus points if you skewer the olives and grill them up for a minute or two alongside the kebabs.
Slice the top off of the eggplants and cut them into 1″ cubes. Sprinkle the eggplant lightly with salt and leave them to sit in a colander for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
Salting eggplant tenderizes the porous, tough flesh and eliminates a bit of bitterness from the juices and seeds. However, baby eggplant – like Asian eggplant – don’t usually suffer from either one of those afflictions. The main reason that I salt the eggplant is both to season it (eggplant likes salt more than the other vegetables on the skewer) and to make the texture just a little bit denser so it won’t soak up all the marinade in the bowl, leaving the poor zucchini all high and dry.
Finely mince or press the garlic and put this in a fairly large mixing bowl. Zest 2 tsp from the lovely yellow rind of your lemon and squeeze the juice of the whole lemon into the bowl. Add the hot red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Pour in the 1/4 cup of olive oil and give it a whisk.
Seed the peppers and cut them into chunks about 1″ large. Cut the zucchini in half and slice them across into 1″ half moons, and -you guessed it!- cut the Halloumi into 1″ cubes. The Halloumi is totally the best part of these brochettes, but you don’t want to cut the chunks too small
because you’re a cheapass in an effort to spread them out. Everything should be roughly the same size. The cherry tomatoes can just stay put, we like ’em juicy.
Toss the vegetables (including the eggplant) and cheese in the marinade and season it to taste with salt and pepper. Remember that Halloumi can be awfully salty depending on where you get it from, so use a gentle hand at first and add more salt after nibbling on a pepper. Leave the bowl to sit at room temperature for at least an hour, but if you tuck it in the fridge it can stay until well through the next day…in principle. Even as it marinates, I would probably have eaten half the bowl before dawn has a chance to break. Just wait until YOU smell that garlicky lemony goodness, and tell me if you don’t feel the same.
If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them for at least 30 minutes before threading on the vegetables. Not that it matters, mind you. Bamboo skewers are going to burn one way or another, but somehow this step always makes me feel better. It’s as though now there’s not just a possibility that they won’t char to the dickens, but the probability that they won’t do it as fast. Sometimes these inner charades just help the days go by.
Begin threading on 5-6 chunks of vegetable and at least 2 pieces of Halloumi per skewer. If there are any vegetables left over at the end, well, someone will appreciate a skewer of just veggies I’m sure. Not me, mind you – vegetable lover or not. I’d rather go for a skewer of just Halloumi. However, there’s always at least one crazy healthy person in the room.
Grill the brochettes over medium heat for 2-4 minutes per side until you see visible grill marks and the vegetables have had a chance to soften and ‘mostly’ cook.
You can just pile the kebabs up informally on a platter with some pita wedges and a small dish of extra virgin olive oil on the side. People can grab and roll and dip away to their heart’s content. When I think of easy, simple Mediterranean entertaining, this is the kind of meze style dish that I like best.
Glorious and slightly molten grilled Halloumi is a thing of beauty. .
Briny black kalmata olives are a natural part of the landscape for this meze, and I’ve been in love with skewered grilled olives ever since I saw this picture from that damnably handsome couple Amy and Jonny. The BBQ gets your olives all hot and bothered in the juiciest possible way, and that slight char tempers the concentrated salty brine. Just. So. Good.