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Halloumi Crostini with Red Peppers & Olives

halloumicheesecropped Halloumi Crostini with Red Peppers & Olives

Where do I start?

I’ve been away for almost two weeks due to a family emergency and I had nothing planned or even the right mind frame to pull old posts or inventory to share during that time.

So much has happened in that time that I really am at a loss on where to begin cooking and blogging again. Not sure I’ve been in this odd mental space before. For now, I thought I’d quickly say hi and circle back on the birthday party I did end up having.

In my last post, I mentioned wanting to host an intimate soirée but wasn’t convinced either way. Birthdays are a big deal in our family and we go big when celebrating. This year was a bit different. I didn’t go home and no one came down to see me…. so I quickly resigned to spending a quiet evening at home and I did just that. It really couldn’t have been much better.

After pondering having friends over for dinner during the weekend, I convinced myself that cooking and entertaining a certain few usual suspects would be pacify my feelings of missing the standard engagements. Plus, I knew one friend in particular would bring me a most luscious chocolate cake. The same exact one he brought me last year.

I’m admittedly way over the top when it comes to hosting friends, even if it’s just a simple visit. I can be quite picky about my décor, the theme, colors (down to the napkins) and even background music. Mami taught me that. Good or bad, it just is what it is. In this case however, it just meant I was already foreseeing the massive amount of cleaning I’d have to do if I wanted to do something so elaborate.

That single action—-having to clean a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes quickly redlined my invite list down to 10 from 30. And so as it would go, I prepared a 4 course dinner. Elaborate and a bit swanky, but only for 10.

I’d recently purchased what seems to be the entire serve ware collection for the Missoni for Target line which I was eager to display. Appetizer plates, serving bowls, salad plates, espresso mugs, martini shakers, platters, glasses — the whole bit. All colorful, all vexing, zigzag patterned!

That was the most fun part, really.  Most of the food I cooked wasn’t anything new to my guests. But serving it in a fashionable way with my new designer goodies was just going to make everything taste better. If you think I’m crazy for thinking dinner ware could make food sexier and tastier, think again! A would be $200 platter for $20?? Yeah, that’s sexy and delicious!

So the menu… quickly….the appetizer was the highlight of the evening since I’d not made it before. I was introduced to this spicy yet intricately flavored crostini with halloumi cheese a week or so prior at the Travel & Adventure show in Atlanta. The local chef presenting the dish (whom I helped prep and serve) and the rep from Cyprus Tourism gave me a lot of the excess ingredients. What do to! Nothing but to make it  for myself and share something new and exotic with my friends.

halloumicheese Halloumi Crostini with Red Peppers & Olives

Crositini with cheese can be just any crostini with cheese, right? If you know me, you know there has to be a twist to just about anything. This wasn’t just any pan tostadito con queso. This combo was inspired by Cyprus cuisine, one I’ve never touched. Not a single ingredient stood out but the cheese was the one ingredient that was picked by meddling fingers from the stovetop grill as I cooked it. Its texture is much like mozzarella. The one downside to cooking halloumi is how quickly it hardens after the slightest bit of air hits it. It can be eaten fresh, but grilled or lightly fried in olive oil tastes amazing and expands is properties.

Though the Cyprus Tourism rep at the event whispered that the recipe wasn’t 100% authentic, she admitted loving it. And so did I. A bit too spicy for my palate, but truly a perfect blend of heat, texture and colors.

I’ll tell you it’s the perfect appetizer to impress your guests, especially those with high spice index tolerance.

Besides that, I made garbanzos con pata y panza (chick peas with tripe and cow’s feet) served over basmati rice, this salad, and tostones with an vibrant orange and garlic mojo smothering them. Cocktails were POM Lite martini’s made with blue agave tequila thanks to my friends at Sauza. Dinner could not end without the aforementioned cake, which was finally finished last night—10 days later!

POMtini Halloumi Crostini with Red Peppers & Olives

bdaycake Halloumi Crostini with Red Peppers & Olives

From the sounds of it, dinner was a mesh of lovely global flavors that worked well and made everyone cheerfully toast to another year. Somehow, the international influences transported my friends to parts of the world they’d not been before. Even the tripe was a huge hit—you know how some people can be about eating different foods — a bit over the top picky!


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follow on pinterest button Halloumi Crostini with Red Peppers & Olives
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  •  8 slices Halloumi cheese, 1/2″ thick
  •  2 large peppers, cored, de-seeded and cut into 3/4” strips
  •  2 garlic cloves, crushed
  •  2 tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained
  •  16 black olives, pitted
  •  1 tbsp. each of chopped fresh mint, and chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the dressing

  •  2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  •  6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 small red chili, de-seeded and chopped


Heat oil in a large pan and stir fry the peppers on medium heat until fully cooked. Add garlic, capers, olives and herbs and cook for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to bowl and set aside.

Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Set aside. On a stovetop grill pan, grill the Halloumi slices until brown on both sides, turning once.

When ready to serve, place 6 toasted slices of baguette or crusty bread on a plate, place one piece of cheese on crostini. Top each crostini with even amount of pepper mixture.  Drizzle the dressing over Halloumi and red peppers. Serve immediately.

By Bren
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    Maelys Galvez says:

    Hey cuz! Glad you got to celebrate your birthday in the midst of all the circumstances. Wish you all the best in this new year and many more to come….including God’s blessings which (in my opinion) are the most important ones! All these recipes sound delish and I must try them out….specially the chocolate cake @ the end…..favorite part!!! lol It’s great to see you back doing what u do!!! ;o)

    Rosa says:

    Wonderful crostini! I really love that topping. And that cake, mmmhhhh….



    A happy, happy birthday dinner indeed. Halloumi and grapes or halloumi and dates are two favorite combinations. It’s so salty that the sweet addition really makes it pop. Love the dressing you made! Spicy and earthy with a little tang!

    Sounds like your birthday celebration was a success! Nice.

    Give yourself some time to recover from all that you are dealing with.

    chefb says:

    Maelys: Thanks for the support! I actually did the dinner party before I even found out anything about him… so, it kinda of worked out. We had a great time and the cake was amazing. That it’s from Publix means nada! So good. And take a stab at the crostini! Buenisimo!

    Rosa: Topping was great. Can be eaten alone! The sauce is good, too. I should have taken a picture of all the elements as stand alone, but everyone was so hungry!

    Duo Dishes: Hmmm. never had halloumi with dates, but the combo of the salty with sweet sounds like it def. works. thanks for the suggestion. It was a great b-day, all things considered.

    Justice Jonesie: It was! I had a great intimate time. Not too many, not too few…. And, I cooked just the right amount of food! Few, few left overs, which I gladly gave away! Thanks for your kind thoughts. ;)

    Happy Birthday!!! Those crostini and cake look just divine… queso frito is delicious any day in my book!!!

    Sorry for your loss. The dinner sounds amazing. Glad you could enjoy it.

    Jon says:

    that cake looks stupid good! wow. chocolate heaven for sure. sounds like your b-day dinner party was nice. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it… next year! and that tripe in chick peas? I’m curious now.

    Ericka says:

    Fabulous recipe and your photographs have an amazing mood. Hope you had a wonderful birthday.

    chefb says:

    Karma Free Cooking: Queso frito always works, right! Especially when it’s a tad bit salty, like this one! The cake, well, what can I say! Publix kills it every time!

    Bella VidaLetty: Thank you so much. Really appreciated.

    Jon: It was super stupid good! LOL. You missed it last year and this year, too! Next year for sure. You’d love the tripe. I just know it.

    Ericka: Gracias, amiga. I’m so tickled you can see smile through the pain. I felt kind of selfish writing this post. But abuelo wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Debbie says:

    Lovely appetizer. Its great web you can introduce your friends to new tastes. And happy belated birthday. That cake looks divine!

    Chris says:

    This looks delicious. I have never had Halloumi cheese, but love anything with capers. We will have to talk about this little soiree you had when I see you…hmmmm.. ;)

    Simone says:

    It was so tasty and yummy. I have found a new cheese to love. I’ll will give this recipe a try for New Years Eve. Where can I find the cheese? in a gourmet store? Thank you chica!!!!

    Dave P. says:

    Okay, B… seriously… forgive me for not calling you on your birthday, but you know I love heat and want to try this when you’re home. Besos y camarones are always good, but this change is welcome. And the cake… Giant nor Safeway put out cakes like that! Glad you had a nice time. besos.

    David says:

    I loved the post, the foods, the pics! but … was this a stab at me (us)? “and no one came down to see me…” It sounds like that :( and we’re sorry.
    But let’s focus on the positive and happy, I certainly can use some crostini, but I rather have garbanzos con pata y panza!! Oh, yes… yum!!

    chefb says:

    Debbie: Thanks! I’m glad they all loved it! No leftovers! Well, there was cake!

    Chris: Uhm, you were so invited…. so yeah, let’s talk about it! Halloumi is great, but a bit salty.

    Simone: Whole Foods sells it!

    Dave P: yeah, yeah, yeah….

    David: No dig at all… there are plenty others that I could have been referring to, but yeah, it was you! ;) Had a great time either way. You may not like this app… to spicy. I could make the dressing a bit lighter?

    A late happy birthday wish. You really take food to the next level. What a gorgeous way to celebrate your birthday! I love how you play with food bust keep focus on making the main ingredients shine. I wish you all the best and lots of good karma for all you are dealing with.

    Jonathan says:

    This is a good football game snack!! Sit on the couch and eat these bad boys back to back to back to back to back until your heart is content.. then eat some more.

    Rohan says:

    Great pictures of the crostini and the cake. They don’t do the actual food justice since they tasted so good. Didn’t want to be a glutton that night since other folks wanted to have a sample of the food also. :)

    Sujeiry says:

    Oh my God, Mujer, you do your birthday bigger than I do! I love that you put so much effort into that special day because it is special. I also love how much detail you put in hosting. It should be an experience! So happy you enjoyed your day, dinner party and Missoni set. Wishing you love and strength in this tough time with your loss.

    Monica says:

    The serve ware IS crazy! Love it. And the cake. Mama mia, I’d be afraid to eat it. But I would have gobbled up your crostini! I know it has been rough. So glad you got to enjoy just a little with friends. Wishing you the best year ever…

    vianney says:

    Sorry for your loss Bren, I know you will bounce back. Give yourself some time. I love Halloumi!! Great flavors, cocktails and cake..ahh perfection!!

    chefb says:

    Julie: ay, thanks so much. I don’t take credit for the recipe, though I did alter it. It was great and love that I can now add it to my repertoire. I just that my picture wasn’t as good as I would have like it to be. I could have captured more of the cheese on the grill… but these folks were hungry! lol

    Jonathan: Sure is! I think you’d love. IH, too… she likes heat, right?

    Rohan: Oh, wait! And, what about the honey wine!!?! Sooo good!

    Sujeiry: no es por nada, pero este año lo celebre quite quiet… no leiste que corte la lista de 30 a 10! jaja. We had a great time, though. The company and food was perfect. Thanks for the well wishes. It’ll all get better.

    Monica: Girl, crazy isn’t even the word! I’m going to have to show the entire collection! It’s so ridiculous! I want bananas getting it all! :) I have little words for that cake. It’s getting ready to become a staple for my birthdays!

    Vianney: Gracias, amiga. I sure will. I have to! :) And, glad you know about Halloumi. I had some late last night. So good, but it’s tricky since it’s so salty.

    Looks amazing…this could easily be my dinner any day of the week, with a nice bottle of wine, a good book – I’d be one happy gal!

    Bren, the first thing I thought when your page loaded was “That is Beautiful!”

    And ay, it looks delicious…I am coming down to Atlanta one day soon! Just to have you cook for me.

    Merari says:

    Love the post, love the pics….never tried this cheese so looking forward to it! On my way to the cheese shop later today…..I’m here making garbanzos with your grandmother now..:)

    Chica, your grandfather’s light shines so brightly in you: your photographs which pulse with life, your recipes created equally with passion and skill, and your writing which is real, warm, and vulnerable. ¡Bendición!

    I don’t know what I love most about this post: the crostini, that stunning chocolate cake, or your beautiful dinnerware and photography!

    Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday! :)

    I LOVE halloumi, use to eat it all the time with my Cypriot friends when I studied in England. Thanks so much for posting this, you just reminded me of an ingredient I love and I will run to try this recipe :) mmmm! Can’t wait.

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