The Chef: Meherwan Irani
His Restaurants: Chai Pani, in Asheville, N.C., and Decatur, Ga.; Botiwalla, in Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta; Buxton Hall Barbecue and Buxton Chicken Palace, both in Asheville; Nani’s Rotisserie Chicken, in Asheville and, soon, Atlanta.
What He’s Known For: Fresh takes on Indian street food. A growing collection of restaurants ranging from inventive Indian cooking to Eastern-Carolina-style BBQ.
THINK OF THIS DISH as a souvenir of a sunny holiday. “I invented it after I came back from Greece,” said chef Meherwan Irani. His final Slow Food Fast recipe features grilled cherry tomatoes, halloumi cheese and bread spiced with chaat masala. “People were over and I needed something quick,” Mr. Irani recalled. “I was trying to get rid of extra tomatoes. And I’m scrappy.”
The sliced cheese grills until it’s caramelized on the outside and softened within. It provides a salty counterpoint to the tomatoes, dressed with tart pomegranate molasses, olive oil and fresh cilantro and parsley. “It just works,” said the chef. “I like the flavor of charred tomatoes and how juicy they get.”
The grilled bread comes in handy for mopping up all those juices, and its dusting of spice adds yet more layers of flavor. “Chaat masala is a seasoning with a little green mango for tartness, a little black salt for funkiness and three or four other spices,” Mr. Irani said. For a simple recipe that’s super fast to pull together, there’s a lot going on.
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The sliced cheese grills until it’s caramelized on the outside and softened within. It provides a salty counterpoint to the tomatoes, dressed with tart pomegranate molasses, olive oil and fresh cilantro and parsley.
- 1 cup ripe cherry tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ pound halloumi cheese, sliced into ½-inch-thick pieces
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or aged balsamic vinegar, plus more as needed
- ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ½ crusty baguette, halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons melted ghee or butter
- Pinch chaat masala or roasted cumin powder
- Preheat a grill to medium-high. Toss whole tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Grill tomatoes until blistered all over, about 2 minutes. Brush tomatoes with more oil if they stick to the grate.
- Toss halloumi with 1 tablespoon olive oil and set cheese on grill. Once lightly browned on one side, after about 1 minute, turn cheese and cook until the reverse side is browned and inside is warmed through, about 1 minute more.
- Transfer grilled tomatoes to a bowl and toss with remaining olive oil and pomegranate molasses. Season lightly with kosher salt, keeping in mind that the cheese is salty, and pepper. Toss in chopped cilantro and parsley.
- Brush cut sides of bread with melted ghee and grill on both sides until lightly toasted, 1-2 minutes. Off heat, sprinkle chaat masala on cut sides of bread.
- To serve, arrange grilled halloumi on individual plates or a serving platter. Spoon dressed tomatoes over cheese and serve with grilled, spiced bread.
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—Kitty Greenwald is a chef, food writer and the co-author of ‘Slow Fires’ (Clarkson Potter)
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