My New Favorite Thing – Fried Halloumi Cheese

My husband loves what he calls “French dinners.” It’s really tapas from leftovers. A little bit of this and a little bit of that with a nice bottle of wine. Now I have something new to serve which elevates leftovers to another level. Fried Halloumi cheese.

halloumi cheese prep

I saw this cheese in the health food store a couple of weeks ago. It said it was the “authentic grilling cheese of Cyprus.” It was made from goat and sheep milk which are dairy sources I can eat, so I bought some.

When I came home I looked it up on the internet. Turns out that fried Halloumi cheese and olives are a staple breakfast dish in the middle east. The cheese is cut into cubes and fried in olive oil to which a few red pepper flakes have been added. The cheese gets a lovely brown crust.

halloumi cheese and mala

Laura was coming over for dinner since her husband was flying. She helped put our French/Middle Eastern/Spanish tapas dinner on the coffee table. Steamed shrimp with fresh herbs. Salami. A salad made from three different kinds of cherry tomatoes from my garden with pea shoots (local farmer’s market) dressed with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar with honey. Green grapes and local figs. And, of course, the fried Halloumi Cheese with olives. And wine. What a treat. Note: unless we are eating in the dining room, Laura prefers to sit on the floor.

halloumi cheese Laura and Roger

When the evening was over I thought how easy this dinner had been. Of course with Laura I never angst about whether the house is clean, but I was talking to myself about getting better about inviting people for simple dinners that don’t take all day. The all day affairs always leave my wondering what was I thinking when I issued those invitations. I predict more French dinners in my future.

An Unforgettable Paris Vacation

My husband, Roger, and I have been to Paris several times. We’ve seen all the tourist sights and now love wandering the neighborhoods. One of our favorite things to do is take a cooking class. On this visit we’d booked a Market Class with Cook’n With Class. You meet the chef and your small group then visits the cheese shop, the fishmonger, the butcher, and the green grocer. All the while the chef is thinking about what he will have us cook and purchases ingredients. The final stop is the bread shop. Then we all head back for a cooking lesson and a late lunch with multiple courses. Yum!

We’d rented an apartment through Haven in Paris. The one we usually rent was not available but this time our charmer was just around the corner from Place des Vosges.

Place de Vosges 2

The apartment was small but beautifully appointed and it had the all important elevator to our floor – just big enough for one person and a loaf of crusty French bread. Lots of cafes and shops nearby, and a subway stop by the Bastille memorial. We arrived on a Tuesday morning. We had rented the apartment for an extra night so we could go right to bed for a couple of hours. That seems to works best for us. After our nap we wandered, had a glass of wine and people watched, wandered some more, had an early dinner and went to bed.

The next morning we headed for the subway. We were going to the Museum of Romance. In the subway we saw a couple who seemed confused. They were speaking English so we stopped to see if we could help. They were from New Zealand and had never been in a subway – ever! They were going in the same direction so we suggested they come with us and we could get on the same train.

The subway roared into the station. It was about 10 in the morning and the cars were crowded. I got on, the woman from New Zealand got on and froze. My husband, Roger, tried to get on after her and the subway doors slammed on his left leg. We pulled the door open and he managed to get his leg inside. Roger knew it was broken. The New Zealand husband was left on the platform as the train headed for the next stop. Somehow my husband managed to get off and several wonderful French people ran to get help. The emergency medical people arrived in about twenty minutes and put 6’3″ Roger on a portable chair and carried him up several flights of stairs to a waiting ambulance.

At the nearest hospital his leg was x-rayed, confirming what he already knew – the femur was broken. Emergency surgery was needed. There was no bed at the American Hospital so an ambulance took him to Begin, a French Military Hospital where he had surgery that night. A long rectangular metal plate was attached to the broken femur with twelve screws.

No fabulous french food on this vacation. This was typical of the hospital food. I’m not even sure what this is but it looks like potatoes and some sort of vegetable in a sauce with two hard boiled eggs on top. The green round things were canned plums – hard as rocks. Roger didn’t have much of an appetite so that was probably a good thing.

french hospital food

We consoled ourselves with the fact that the French medical system is excellent and my husband received excellent care. His job for the next week was to get strong enough for the trip home (he had to be able to take a few steps with a walker). My job was to figure out how the heck I was going to make all the necessary arrangements.

I contacted the Haven in Paris folks and told them I needed help. They referred me to a concierge service – Paris-Complete. I don’t know what I would have done without them. They rearranged our flights, helped me get medical equipment for the trip home (including a urinal with a lid – there was no way Roger was going to be able to get to the bathroom on the plane), and made a hotel reservation for the two nights we had to stay in Paris after my husband’s discharge from the hospital and our flight home. Ali from Paris-Complete even came to the hospital to help me figure out how to pay the bill….13K on our MasterCard!

From the hospital we were taken by ambulance to the Sheraton at Charles De Gaulle airport. It opens directly into the terminal. Paris-Complete arranged for a team to meet us at our hotel room with a wheel chair and expedite our check in. They took us all the way onto the plane and didn’t leave until my husband was seated in Business class where his leg could be extended. I was back in Economy, but the staff knew the situation and I checked on Roger often. Once we were in the air I could breathe again. We were on our way home.

I had arranged for an ambulance to meet us at Dulles and they were right where they were supposed to be. Roger was put on a gurney and was soon on his way to Memorial Hospital in Easton. Our car was parked in the long term lot but what I had written down didn’t match where the car was, so I had to get help to find the car. Roger remembered exactly where it was, but he was in an ambulance. No help there. Could things get worse? Of course. I somehow managed to get on the toll road coming out of the airport so my Garmin took me into the District of Columbia in rush hour. I knew it would eventually get me to Route 50 and on the way home, but there was a lot of expletive deleted language going on during the process.

Laura met the ambulance at the hospital. When I finally got there they still were checking Roger. I was then allowed to take him home. Laura came with me. Roger had crutches from a previous foot surgery and another friend had retrieved them from the attic and put them in the front hall. I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get him into the house, but my heroic husband managed to get up those three steps into our one level house. We got him into bed and then began the adventure of recovery with the help of in home nursing and physical therapy.

That romantic trip to Paris didn’t turn out quite the way we’d planned, but the accident could have happened someplace where the medical care wouldn’t have been so good. I might not have found such wonderful people to help me make arrangements and I might not have had a high enough credit limit on our credit card to get him out of the hospital or to pay for new flights home. There are probably a lot of morals to this story, but my favorite two are: Shit Happens, and No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. We will go back to Paris for that romantic vacation, but it’s going to be awhile.