Grilled halloumi and fig salad tastes best when made with a truly aged balsamic vinegar. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

Grilled halloumi and fig salad tastes best when made with a truly aged balsamic vinegar. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

Grilled cheese, without a sandwich in sight? Yes, it’s delicious

Good balsamic vinegar brings this summery salad of figs and halloumi together.

If I were given clues such as fruity, salty, savory, grilled and summery, my immediate guess would be that those were descriptors of barbecue sauce. Salad would be furthest from my mind — that is, until I tasted this one.

All those flavors come to life here, sumptuously. Sweet fresh figs and salty halloumi cheese are grilled until they have yielded to the heat and are pleasantly charred. They are married near a mound of peppery arugula and crisp fennel tossed with olive oil and salt. A sprinkle of toasted walnuts adds a savory crunch, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar ties all the elements together and adorns the plate.

How do you know whether you have a truly aged vinegar? It tends to be on the more expensive side (at least $20 a bottle), with a syrupy texture and a sweet-tart flavor that is not very acidic. If you don’t have one, it’s worth picking up, because it lasts indefinitely and is delicious drizzled on fruit and cheese, in general.

But you can also simmer a thinner, more acidic balsamic vinegar with a little honey until the mixture approximates the consistency of maple syrup; then, let it come to room temperature, to achieve a something close to the real deal.

The sweet-tart, deeply flavorful balsamic is a defining element of this salad, which, come to think of it, would be an ideal side dish for just about any barbecue sauce-slathered grilled protein.

Grilled halloumi salad with figs and balsamic

This is a unique and flavorful summer salad that would be an ideal accompaniment for just about any barbecue sauce-slathered grilled protein.

You can cook the fruit and cheese on an outdoor grill as well. The balsamic vinegar you use here should be an aged, thick, sweet-tart one.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise

2 ¼-inch thick slabs halloumi cheese (3 ounces total), patted dry

3 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar (see headnote)

2 packed cups baby arugula

1 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel (from 1 medium bulb)

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup walnut pieces, toasted (see note)

Freshly ground black pepper

Use a tablespoon of the oil to brush both sides of the figs and the slabs of cheese, then use 1 teaspoon of the balsamic vinegar to brush all the figs.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Add the cheese and figs; cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side until the fruit is caramelized and tender and the cheese is warmed and grill marks have formed.

Transfer the cheese to a cutting board; cut each slab into 4 triangular pieces, so you have 8 pieces total.

Toss the arugula and fennel in a medium bowl with the remaining tablespoon of oil and the salt.

To serve, divide the greens among individual salad plates. Top each with 2 fig halves, 2 cheese triangles and some walnuts. Drizzle each salad with a ½ teaspoon of the remaining balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle each lightly with pepper.

Note: Toast the walnuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan as needed to prevent scorching. Cool completely before using.

Makes 4 servings. Nutrition per serving: 230 calories, 7 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 270 milligrams sodium, 3 gram dietary fiber, 10 grams sugar, 15 milligrams cholesterol.

Talk to us

More in Life

Shawn McQuiller of Kool & The Gang performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Kool & The Gang and Average White Band are coming soon to a casino near you. Queensryche also is due in Arlington.

Preston Brust, left, and Chris Lucas of LOCASH perform during CMA Fest 2022 on Thursday, June 8, 2022, at the Chevy Riverfront Stage in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The country music duo Locash drops by the Angel of the Winds Casino on Saturday. And there’s the Summer Meltdown festival at its new home near Snohomish all weekend.

‘Poco Orange’ Red Hot Poker. (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Warmer weather means brighter, hotter colors in the garden

Here are seven plants that will bring a blazing pop of color to your outdoor spaces.

An easy one-mile loop near the visitor center at Seaquest State Park explores the edge of Silver Lake.
(Scott Hewitt/The Columbian)
Discover seven hidden gems not far from the super slab

Weekend trips: Next time you’re making the I-5 slog toward Oregon, check out some of these parks and preserves just off the freeway corridor.

Caption: Now’s a great time to stock up on free Covid tests available to Washington State residents at:
COVID-19’s behind her except for a nagging cough

But things might have been much different — in a bad way — without testing and vaccines.

The blended-families challenge requires patience, maturity

Don’t expect miracles — it can be rough going for some time. Get professional help if you need it.

Her Turo rental was repossessed with valuable items inside

When Michelle Marshall’s Turo rental gets repossessed, the car-sharing company offers her a partial refund. But what about her son’s expensive epilepsy medication? Is Turo responsible for that?

Lee Oskar and his dog Tex inside his art studio in his home on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Harmonica whiz Lee Oskar is also a pro with a paintbrush

Oskar’s music and art studios are in his Everett home. The former member of the 1970s band War is now 74, and still rocks “Low Rider.”

The 2022 WM Recycle Corps interns are part of WM’s recycling education and outreach team.
WM Recycle Corps interns return after two-year COVID slowdown

The collegiate interns are back in the community to help improve recycling habits and reduce waste.

Caption: At Flight Room in Lynnwood, aerial fitness poses like “vampire” use every muscle in your body.
Fitness takes flight at new aerial studio in Lynnwood

Jennifer Bardsley finds benefits and “silk kisses” from doing aerial yoga at Lynnwood studio.

Photo Caption: This carved shelf brought $2,500 at New Haven Auctions. Decorations and symbols associated with the Odd Fellows add to its appeal.
Odd Fellows iconography adds to this carved shelf’s value

Fun fact: The Odd Fellows is believed to have originated in medieval trade guilds, with “odd fellow” meaning someone who did odd jobs for a living.

The Limelight Prime Panicle Hydrangea. (Proven Winners)
3 new “pee gee” hydrangeas for gardeners to salivate over

These new shrubs boast better flower color and, in some cases, more compact forms that fit better in smaller gardens.