I'm hovering over my barbecue eagerly waiting for grill marks - not on my steak, but on my cheese. A couple of minutes on each side is all it takes, and as I flip the glistening slices with my tongs I'm rewarded with crisp, caramelized rows of crunchy crust. I toss them onto a plate and consider them served - backyard-style.
Grilling with cheese is as much about texture as about flavour. Which is why cheeses like Guernsey Girl and halloumi become irresistible when heated - it's their chewy pliability contrasted with the hot, crusty exterior and the squeak of audible satisfaction released between your teeth.
Guernsey Girl, an Ontario cheese made by Upper Canada Cheese Company, was inspired by halloumi, a salty, Cypriot staple that's ideal for grilling. But Guernsey Girl is based more closely on Scandinavian bread cheese, whose name comes from the bread-like crust that develops when it's heated. Upper Canada owner Vivian Szebeny says she likes to cube it and add it to savoury kabobs. She also suggests skewering it with grilled fruit for dessert. Turns out the buttery cheese (made from the high-fat milk of the Guernsey cow) is a great match for caramelized grilled pineapple.
Like Guernsey girl, halloumi (widely available in many grocery stores) holds its shape even in intense heat. Traditionally made with sheep's milk, today halloumi is made with a mix of goat's and even cow's milk. Its high melting point results from a cheese-making step in which the young cheese is removed from its mould and gently poached in whey, giving it a firm, springy texture.
Try cutting the grilled halloumi into bite-sized squares, then securing a briny caper berry or a smoky slice of grilled zucchini on top. For a traditional pairing, serve it with sweet, fresh watermelon.
Moving from grilled to full-melt, try throwing your cheese on a Barbeclette. This barbecue tool was brought my way by Tania Hrebicek, co-owner of Everything Cheese in Edmonton. Made by the Dutch company Boska, the Barbeclette is a larger version of one of the trays that come with a traditional raclette set - but designed for the barbecue. Its wooden handle is long enough to keep your hand away from the heat and it folds down for easy packing in case you want to take it camping.
It's great for melting cheese for hamburgers - no more goop dripping into the grill - and because you can add the cheese at the last minute (even at the patio table) you're guaranteed bubbly, gooey goodness. The same technique works well with grilled veggies. Smother them with melted Roquefort in seconds.
Sibling to the Barbeclette is the Partyclette. Same idea, but it comes on a stand with room for a set of tea lights underneath to do the melting. Essentially a portable raclette, this would work for a picnic basket or just on the front porch partnered with a glass of wine.
If you're a die-hard fan of baked brie, Gourmet Village sells the stainless steel Brie Baker, which can sit directly on the grill. The heat from the barbecue gently browns the upper rind so you can easily peel it back to reveal a molten interior.
No matter how you decide to melt your cheese this summer, be adventurous in your choices.
Melting cheese tends to mellow out its flavour, so give stronger types a try. Mountain cheeses such as Appenzeller, Emmenthal and Comté have a fresh, fruity quality that cuts through their rich gooeyness when melted. Flavoured cheeses such as Applewood Smoked Cheddar or Natural Pastures' Wasabi Verdelait can add depth and zing to your burgers and dogs.
And if you just can't decide on one, offer your guests a "grilled" cheese board. Crisp up some pitas on the grill and melt a different kind of cheese on each for an informal tasting. Also known as the barbecue version of nachos.
Sue Riedl blogs about cheese and other edibles at cheeseandtoast.com .