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Recipe: Fried haloumi with pears and spiced dates


Total time: 35 minutes

Servings: 4 to 8

Note: Adapted from "Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean" by Ana Sortun. Haloumi, a hard sheep's milk cheese from Cyprus, is available at Whole Foods Markets and Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery in Santa Monica, as well as most cheese shops and Middle Eastern groceries. Ouzo, a Greek, anise-flavored liqueur, is widely available at well-stocked supermarkets and liquor stores.

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 dates, cut in half and pits removed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

3/4 pound haloumi, cut into 8 slices (about 1/3 -inch thick)

1 pear, quartered, seeded and sliced crosswise into 8 pieces but not peeled)

8 slices of bread cut from a country white or whole-wheat loaf

3 tablespoons ouzo

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook the lemon zest, juice and brown sugar in a small saute pan, stirring, over medium heat until the brown sugar melts, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper and dates and cook until the dates soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, remove from heat and set aside.

3. Heat a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Arrange the haloumi slices in the pan, being careful not to overlap them. Brown the cheese, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the cheese to a heavy baking dish just large enough to hold the cheese in a single layer without overlapping. In the same nonstick pan, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat and add the pear slices in a single layer. Brown the pears on each side, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

4. Layer the pears over the haloumi in the baking dish. Spoon the date mixture over all and place the baking dish in the oven. Heat until the pears are warmed and the cheese is softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread and place it on a serving dish or platter.

5. Remove the baking dish to a countertop and pour the ouzo over the top. Flambé the mixture by igniting the ouzo with a long match (do this carefully as the flames will spread quickly and can reach several inches high). When the flames die out, after about 2 minutes, spoon the pears and cheese over the toast. Serve immediately.

Each of 8 servings: 403 calories; 13 grams protein; 45 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 19 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 45 mg. cholesterol; 662 mg. sodium.

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