Tomato and Halloumi Bake

Has anyone else felt incredibly uninspired lately? Or is it just me? As you may have noticed, I’ve been MIA for a few months, but don’t worry…I haven’t been creating delicious culinary treats behind your back. Okay, maybe just one or two. Most of my motivation came from cooking for and sharing meals with my friends and family, but now that covid has put that on hold, my kitchen motivation has been…lackluster. Most nights I’m happy with a salad or some cheese and crackers or even just popcorn and a glass of wine. Everything else just seems daunting now. I tried to muster up some inspiration by buying Ina Garten’s newest cookbook – Modern Comfort Food (she is the culinary QUEEN!). It’s an amazing book, you should check it out if you haven’t already. You just know her food is going to be delicious, and so far, nothing I’ve made from it has disappointed.

But I’ll get to point! This dish is inspired from Shakshouka, which is a North African/Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a rich tomato sauce, and traditionally served with pita or bread. It’s pretty delicious. That’s to be expected because you can’t go wrong with tomato sauce and bread. Now, I’m not super comfortable in my egg cooking skills so I’ve swapped out the eggs in this dish with my second favourite cheese (the first being Burrata…duh!). I took the same idea for the rich tomato sauce, but then added thick slices of the cheese, and got it all toasty and brown under the broiler. Delicious!

This dish is a keeper because it’s to the table in under 30 minutes. Which is great since most of the time I go from “I’m hungry” to “if I don’t eat right now, things are going to get ugly” in about that time. I took a little inspo from my girl, Ina, who has taught me that a pinch of saffron really does help tomato based dishes taste better, but that’s totally optional as I know saffron isn’t readily available for everyone. You can totally also add more veggies if you like to make it a bit heartier – zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower – you could even add beans if you like! I kept it simple with onion, garlic and bell pepper, which I thought really let the cheese shine. I also drained the tomatoes, which prevented the sauce from becoming watery.

Let’s talk about the Halloumi. If you haven’t had it, you are missing out. It’s a cheese from Cyprus that has a high melting point so it’s become a really popular sub for meat. Not to mention that it’s salty, squeaky and it gets a beautiful brown and crispy crust on it when cooked, but stays moist and soft on the inside. So it’s basically perfection. I personally love it grilled or pan fried along with tzatziki and pita. In this dish though, it soaks up the flavours from the sauce and it stays soft underneath, but then gets a crispy, brown top on it that is to die for when it’s broiled. If you’re vegan I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to sub the Halloumi for pressed tofu!

Because this dish is basically just cheese and tomato sauce, it’s a great light dinner for two or a nice lunch! Also – IT’S ONE PAN. I served it right from the pan, and not only because I was eating it alone, but that’s the traditional way to serve Shakshouka – right from the pot family style so everyone can dig in and scoop up the deliciousness with pita or bread. You could serve it with an herby couscous or a side salad but I served it with baguette, fresh parsley, and a glass of wine. I wouldn’t recommend freezing leftovers, I’m not sure how well Halloumi would freeze, I fear it would become soggy. You won’t have any though anyways!

This a really perfect light and cozy winter dish, it has everything that comfort food should have (including cheese!), it’s:

  • Rich, smoky, herby and comforting;
  • Comes together in less than 30 minutes;
  • One pot;
  • Light but still cozy;
  • Easy to sub the Halloumi for pressed tofu for a vegan version;
  • Versatile – you can switch up the herbs, spices and the veggies;
  • Made from ingredients you likely have in your fridge (minus the Halloumi, maybe);
  • Perfect for people who love an excuse to eat more bread (me!);
  • Great combination of smooth, creamy and crunchy;
  • Quick, easy and totally delicious!

Tomato and Halloumi Bake

  • 1-2 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 250 grams (1 pacakge) Halloumi, sliced into 3/4 to 1/2 inch slices
  • 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp. each of thyme, basil and rosemary
  • 1 tsp.. smoked paprika
  • 3-4 strands of saffron (optional)
  • 3 tbsp. red wine (optional. You can sub with a bit of the juice from the drained tomatoes, but c’mon, live a little!)
  • Red chili flakes, to taste (I like it spicy!)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Parsley, for garnish
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Start by heating up oil in a 10 inch cast iron pan, or other oven proof pan over medium heat. Preheat oven to 400 fht.

Add the diced onion and bell pepper and saute until soft and transluscent, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two until fragrant.

Add the herbs, saffron (optional), paprika, chili pepper flakes and salt & pepper. Add the wine and scrape up the goodies from the bottom of the pan.

Add the drained crushed tomatoes. Cook until boiling and thick. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Arrange the slices of Halloumi into the sauce.

Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes, until the Halloumi begins to soften and get warm.

Turn on the broiler, and broil until the Halloumi is brown and crispy on top to your liking. Watch it carefully so you don’t burn it!

Sprinkle with fresh parsley, and serve family style directly from the pan with slices of fresh bread or pita.

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