Harry Potter / Lentil Salad with Fried Halloumi

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This week’s recipe: Lentil Salad with Fried Halloumi

Happy 20th birthday to the Harry Potter series! Like many of my friends, I grew up with Harry and Co. The first book was published in the US six months before I turned 10, and the last book was published a month after I graduated high school, so my own coming of age tracked neatly with the Hogwarts class of ’98. Over that decade, the stakes of the plot grew from “oh no, who’s going to win the House Cup?” to “oh no, the Death Eaters have taken over the Ministry, invaded Hogwarts, and are murdering people left and right.”

I’ll never experience a phenomenon like that again in my lifetime. Since the books were always released on Friday nights (i.e. Shabbat), I never lined up at a bookstore, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t chafing to get my hands on a copy whenever a new one came out. At camp, they didn’t deliver mail on Shabbat, so we would wait desperately for Saturday night when we could tear open our packages and hopefully read fast enough that nothing got spoiled. When the last book came out, my sisters and I all received our packages at the same time, and we all ran to the couch and started devouring our separate books.  It’s been so much fun watching my nephew dive into the series. We spend hours playing a Harry Potter-themed 20 Questions-type game, and he spent all of his savings at a visit to Harry Potter World last year.

I love Harry Potter for the plot, the characters, and the world-building, but most of all, I love it for the emotions it evoked in me. I’ll never forget the feeling of having the rug completely pulled out from under me when Harry, in his search for the Sorcerer’s Stone, passed all the obstacles, got to the last chamber, and found not Snape but Quirrell. I gasped at the reveal that Sirius was actually a good guy, and at the callous, arbitrary nature of Cedric’s death. I cried so hard when I thought that Harry had died at the end of the seventh book (though I quickly stopped when I realized that there were still about 75 pages left in the book and therefore he couldn’t possibly be dead). And of course, like nerdy, bookish, frizzy-haired girls the world over, I identified with Hermione more strongly than with any other character in children’s literature. Harry Potter is rip-roaring good storytelling, though it’s dismissed by some as just a children’s adventure story. But when the world is falling apart, it’s comforting to remember that love, friendship, and loyalty can triumph over greed, bigotry, and lust for power.

Still, the books are far from perfect, and I have some questions that, as far as I know, remain unanswered 20 years later:

-Does anyone else find the notion that Harry survived because his mother loved/sacrificed for him kind of offensive? Voldemort was leading an army of Death Eaters for over a decade, during which time they killed mercilessly and indiscriminately, and we are supposed to believe that Harry’s mom was the only one who loved and died for her child? Seems unlikely.

-What is up with Slytherin? Who thinks it is smart to put all of the evil kids in one house? How many times do Dark wizards have to come out of Slytherin before someone realizes the pattern and tries to do something about it?

-There are a lot of areas where Muggle technology is superior to Wizard technology. Why are they still using quills and parchment instead of computers, owls instead of email or telephones, and candles instead of electric lights?

-Where do young wizards and witches go to school before Hogwarts? How do they learn to read and write and all that?

-I’m concerned about Hogwarts’ financial solvency. I accept the theory that Harry’s Hogwarts class was so tiny because few witches and wizards wanted to have children during the First Wizarding War, but the teacher-to-student ratio at Hogwarts is out of control. How much is tuition, to support all those professors and staff, not to mention maintenance on the castle? Wizarding economics in general confuse me. For instance, how would a Muggle-born like Hermione pay tuition? Did her parents have to trade in a certain number of pounds for galleons and knuts, and if so, what is the exchange rate?

-Dumbledore surely knew that the Invisibility Cloak he gave to Harry in the first book was one of the Deathly Hallows. Did he seriously think it was wise to give 1/3 of the tools necessary to become Master of Death to an 11 year old?

-In the fourth book, why did Barty Crouch Jr. (disguised as Moody) go through the whole rigmarole of helping Harry win the Triwizard Tournament so that he could touch the Portkey and get transported to the graveyard? There were plenty of times when he was alone with Harry; couldn’t he have turned, say, a book into a Portkey and said, “Hey, Harry, grab that book for me,” thus avoiding much risk and effort? Also, in the movies, at least, taking Polyjuice Potion doesn’t alter your voice, so it’s pretty amazing that Barty Crouch Jr. was able to perfectly ape Moody’s voice for an entire year. There are a lot of plot holes in this one, is what I’m saying.

-Harry seems remarkably well-adjusted considering that his parents were murdered, he grew up with an emotionally abusive family that forced him to live in a broom closet, and he and his friends spent their teens as essentially child soldiers. Does the wizarding world have therapy?

-Why didn’t Voldemort just shoot Harry? You know what can’t be stopped by the power of love? A bullet.

-Did the Hogwarts professors ever sit around and talk about how calm and normal life at school used to be before this freaking Harry Potter kid showed up?

Don’t mean to rain on Harry Potter’s parade on this wonderful day. Thank you, JK Rowling, for the wonderful gift you’ve given us, which will continue to enchant children and adults for generations to come.

So anyway, here’s a lentil salad. For those of you who don’t know (i.e. me, a week ago), fried halloumi is magic. It is so freaking good. It’s all the glory of fried cheese, but without any of the greasy messiness. And the rest of this dish is so healthy that you won’t feel guilty about it either. This is a visually beautiful dish that screams “summer.” Seriously, it will grab you by your lapels and scream, “SUMMER, MOTHERFUCKER!” Better eat it all up before it embarrasses you in public!

Lentil Salad with Fried Halloumi

Adapted from The Almond Eater

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup uncooked lentils (I used  green)
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 package halloumi (approx. 8 oz), sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz. grape tomatoes
  • ¾ cup red onion, diced
  • ¼ tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: microgreens for garnish
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine lentils and water in a saucepan and cook according to the instructions on the package.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350° and place tomatoes, along with 1 tbsp olive oil, on a baking sheet and into the oven. Roast tomatoes for approximately 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are softer.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet and add sliced halloumi. Fry halloumi until both sides are golden brown; set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, add 1 tbsp olive oil, red onion, zucchini, and tarragon and cook until onions and zucchini are soft.
  5. Assemble the bowl: lentils first, and then add the halloumi, roasted tomatoes, zucchini and onion.
  6. Top with microgreens, salt and pepper and enjoy!
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