Saganaki With Walnut Vinaigrette (Greek Pan-Fried Cheese) Recipe

Saganaki With Walnut Vinaigrette (Greek Pan-Fried Cheese) Recipe

[Photographs and video: Vicky Wasik]

Saganaki is a traditional Greek dish of fried cheese that some Athenian restaurants flambé tableside, using a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to put out the flames. Here, that classic gets a makeover with crunchy walnuts, floral honey, and fresh parsley. Serve it alongside crusty bread or crackers for a spectacular appetizer that'll have your guests cheering, "Opa!"

Why It Works

  • A cast iron skillet evenly browns the cheese.
  • Crunchy walnuts and sticky honey complement the salty cheese.
  • Yield:Serves 4 as an appetizer
  • Active time: 15 minutes
  • Total time:15 minutes

Ingredients

  • For the Walnut Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts (about 1 ounce; 30g)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (1/2 ounce; 15g)
  • 2 tablespoons honey (1 ounce; 30g)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 1/4 of a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • For the Cheese:
  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil, such as safflower or canola
  • One 5- to 6-ounce slab halloumi or kasseri cheese (140 to 170g; about a 1-inch-thick slice)
  • To Flambé (optional):
  • 1/4 cup ouzo, tsipouro with anise, or arak (2 ounces; 55g); optional
  • To Serve:
  • Crusty bread or crackers, for serving

Directions

  1. 1.

    For the Walnut Vinaigrette: In a small saucepan, toast walnuts in olive oil over medium heat until nuts are golden brown and aromatic, about 4 minutes. Stir in honey and simmer until foamy, about 1 minute. Finish with lemon juice and parsley and set aside.

  2. 2.

    For the Cheese: In a small cast iron skillet, heat neutral oil over high heat until smoking, about 3 minutes. Add cheese and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes, then flip, using a slotted offset spatula, to fry the other side. Remove from heat, leaving cheese in the pan.

  3. 3.

    To Flambé (optional): Pour alcohol into a small pot and warm over medium heat until steaming, about 1 minute. Turn off heat and, using a stick lighter (see note), carefully light the fumes from the alcohol. Immediately pour the flaming alcohol over the cheese. (Use caution, as the fat in the pan will ignite in a glorious display.) Pour walnut vinaigrette on top to put out the flames. Serve right away alongside crusty bread or crackers.

  4. 4.

    To Serve Without Flambéing: Pour walnut vinaigrette directly over fried cheese. Serve right away alongside crusty bread or crackers.