It squeaks when you eat it, doesn't melt and is indigenous to Cyprus. So how did a small Idaho cheese maker come to make an award-winning version of this very weird cheese?
"They experimented with it at a cheese-making training we went to in Wisconsin. It was awful," said Stacie Ballard of Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese.
The folks at Ballard spent two years trying to perfect the stuff. Judging by the cheese's popularity, it worked.
Traditional halloumi is made from sheep and goat milk and is cooked to about 180 degrees (Ballard's version is made with cow's milk). Its higher melting point means it can be fried or grilled, leading to some creative dishes.
Cubed and fried halloumi is a chewy, slightly salty addition to tossed salad. One chef serves the cooked Cypriot cheese in place of mozzarella in a caprese salad. Ballard has seen it grilled and skewered with fruit or served veggie burger-style on a bun with barbecue sauce. For an easy snack or appetizer, slice halloumi a quarter-inch thick and lemons as thin as possible and fry or grill both.
Berryhill and Co. and Bittercreek Ale House serve Ballard's version, called Golden Greek, as do restaurants in Jackson, Wyo., Sun Valley, Coeur d'Alene and Moscow. Golden Greek won a first-place award at the American Cheese Society meeting in 2007.
"It's been a fun cheese. People get really attached to it," said Ballard.
Find local or imported versions of the "fun cheese" at Boise Co-op or at Thana's Little World Market at 4101 W. Overland Road.