• John M

Roasted Red Pepper & Halloumi Wraps -- Easy taste of Greece, found in Spain

I’ll get to the food in a few minutes, I promise. But first I want to share with you a bit of what’s going on behind the scenes here at mezze & tapas. Things are kind of crazy here at mezze & tapas World Headquarters. We are in the process of selling our house, and it is so disruptive to our lives. After several months of side projects to get the house ‘ready’ we finally went on the market this past week, and it has changed everything.

First off, we have a cat -- the Official mezze & tapas mascot -- and she is completely freaking out with this process. We’ve had her a relatively short time, only 3 months, so she is still adjusting to our routines. She came to us as a 4 years old rescue cat, so she has had to adapt to life here to begin with.

We got Our Mascot through a local animal shelter, who had been ‘fostering’ her for about a month. Prior to that, we were told that she was owned by someone who lost their home to a fire, and were no longer able to take care of the cat. So she has had a lot of turmoil in her life the last several months, and we’re not helping. I know things will settle down in the long run and it will be fine, but right now Our Mascot doesn’t understand that.

And did I mention that she is deaf? We knew this when we got her, but we’d never had a deaf cat before (we had one that went blind in old age). We didn’t realize how complicated having a deaf cat was when we decided to get her. We have learned through experience and reading that deaf cats are naturally more anxious than ‘hearing’ cats. They also are very much in need of routine and stability to ease their anxiety. Life has been anything

but routine here lately.

We also can’t let her go outside because absent a key sense, the risks are much greater for her. So every time our realtor has shown the house, we need to pack the cat up and take her with us. We can’t risk letting an unsuspecting potential buyer leave a door open as they check out the back yard, and have the cat slip out. It probably wouldn’t happen, but we can’t be certain, so we take her with us.

Disruptive change to her routine, travel in her carrier, and general chaos from selling a house all contribute to her freaking out. And if you’ve ever had a cat, you know that when they are really not happy it can have an adverse effect on EVERYONE. You don’t need to know all of this, but I need to share it with someone, so thank you for listening.

Beside the cat drama, there are other impacts on our day to day lives that having a house for sale has imposed upon us. For me, the most trying is the need to keep everything pristine -- always. I’m not saying I’m messy (The Elegant Baker might though), but the need to have everything look just like the photos of the house the realtor put on line can be taxing. The “can I show the house at 2:30” texts are welcome to us as sellers (we want to sell), but as people with a life, they are stressful.

As a result of all this ‘selling’ stuff, we’ve had to limit our cooking and baking at home. Can't have a bread proofing if suddenly in the middle of it the realtor calls asking for a ‘last minute’ showing. You need to find a hiding spot for it, and leave it well past its proofing time. So -- the Elegant Baker has suspended operations indefinitely, much to my disappointment

I also have had to scale back my cooking. No more hours long sessions playing in (and dirtying) the kitchen. No more staging photo shoots of food for the blog posts. No more cooking of foods that would leave an unfamiliar (to most) aroma in the house, or worse yet an off putting one (fish, fried foods, etc).

So I have had to resort to new tactics to keep feeding my habit. I’ve been taking many more quick, simple photos of food and posting them over at my Instagram feed (you are following me, right?). I’ve posted some quick salads and sides there along with quick hit recipes. You should check it out.

I’ve also had to change up the strategy when it comes to both our dinner and blog postings. We’ve been doing much more take out than we usually do (and by usually, I mean almost never. We have take out maybe once every 2 - 3 months. Really). I’ve find myself making quick things with more store bought ingredients. Quick salads, wraps or pita pockets have become our main recent diet.

That’s not to say that I’ve abandoned the guiding principles behind the Mediterranean food we enjoy so much. In fact, if any food lends itself to adapting to quick salad and wraps, it’s Mediterranean! That’s where today’s wrap comes in. Here’s the story.

When we were in Spain last fall, we found ourselves a just outside the Parc de la Ciutadella around lunch time. We ended up having lunch at a sidewalk cafe called Itaka Taverneta. It was a nice little place where it turned out our waitress was an American ex=pat. The menu was a mix of ‘international’ small plates, and one that we choose was a ”Greek” wrap with halloumi cheese. Super simple, and super tasty. I knew I’d be making this when I got home.

This wrap has now made its way into our “regular” meal rotation, and it offers the perfect antidote to our current no mess situation while not compromising taste. While I typically make the hummus, tzatziki, and pesto from scratch, you can make this dish using store bought varieties of all of them the keep it quick,

That’s what I’ve done here for simplicity's sake, but also to show that you can build a Mediterranean dish with store bought ingredients.

If you’ve never had halloumi cheese, you owe to yourself to give it a try. It is the original ‘grilled cheese’! It has a much higher melting point than most any other cheese, so it lends itself nicely to grilling or pan frying. You end up with a nice, crisp outside and a smooth creamy inside. You can have it uncooked too, and it has a distinctive ‘squeaky’ sound while eating it that way. I can find it at all of our local grocery stores, although I prefer the one from a local Halal market the best.

Most of the halloumi I’ve found in US markets is produced in Cyprus. Typically made from either a blend of goat and sheep milk you can also find it in a sheep milk only variety (which I need, because I’m allergic to goat dairy). Heat a pan to medium high heat, cut the cheese into thick slices, brush both sides with a bit of olive oil, and grill in the pan for about 3 - 4 minutes per sided. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside!

Another nice thing about this dish is how easy it lends itself to variations. We have tried it with different flavored hummus (I’m partial to roasted red pepper hummus). We have added meat -- sliced turkey or grilled chicken are nice compliments. Other good additions have been falafel, tabbouleh, or grilled veggies. The key for us has always been to keep the halloumi/tzatziki/hummus trio as the underlying base, and the rest is up to your imagination. Enjoy!!


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