If you grill it, it is no dream

On Independence Day, grills across the country will sizzle with steaks, hot dogs, kebabs, and chicken.

gril bbq independence da (photo credit: )
gril bbq independence da
(photo credit: )
Every good Jewish home has a place reserved to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Mine is on the balcony, where the scent of sizzling flesh wafts up from the barbecue. That's where you'll find me on Independence Day, offering thanks the way God intended: with marinated meats and a nice, steady gas flame. Don't get me wrong, I'll hold a few veggies over the burners, too. But the way I figure it, independence means nothing if it means I can't enjoy food that had parents. Although I wouldn't go so far as to say that I "suck the marrow out of life" quite as Thoreau did, I do make a habit of savoring the taste of once-living creatures. That is exactly what millions of other Israelis will be doing this Independence Day. Grills across the country will be loaded down with beef steaks, hot dogs, lamb kebabs, chicken livers and - I kid you not - in some instances, the crown jewels of turkeys and bulls. I'm all for the kebabs, but you can forget the other stuff. It's a strict rule at my house that no testicles touch the barbeque. No, call me a breast man. Chicken breasts, that is. Oh, sure, a whole bird cut into pieces goes great on the grill - especially after soaking overnight in a Jamaican jerk sauce and roasting slowly over indirect heat - and drumsticks are a popular choice, too. But you really can't go wrong with a bunch of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. They're plentiful, versatile and rapturously satisfying when prepared right. What more could you want in a lunch? Now, the secret here is moisture, and there are two ways to get wet: pre-cooking marinades and on-the-fire sauces. Marinades infuse the food with flavor and keep the meat really moist. Sauces let the meatiness come through, while adding a layer of flavor. It's a subtle difference worth exploring. I suggest trying both methods, starting with the recipes below. To make a sauce that best suits your taste buds, though, requires some tinkering with the recipe. Add another element, or take one away. Turn up the heat with some more spice. Or tone it down and enjoy a few simple, but distinct flavors. Remember, this is about independence, so dare to experiment until you find the combination you like best. You are limited only by your imagination. And, as Herzl said, "If you grill it, it is no dream!" Just one note on nutrition: Barbecue doesn't have to be about fatty meats, nor does celebrating a holiday in Israel have to include a kilo of humous. Take comfort in the fact that chicken breasts are high in protein and low in fat. Together with the vegetables, some rice and a fresh salad, this actually makes for a pretty healthy meal. It'll still cost you some extra time on the treadmill, but, hey - no one ever said freedom was free. B'te'avon! For both recipes (which I have taken or adapted from the wonderful book Mastering Barbecue), use chicken breasts that are whole, not flattened for schnitzels. Preparation is very simple - just divide the breasts down the middle. (I trim away the little bit of cartilage from the center of the breast.) You might as well separate the "tenders" from the edges, as they're likely to tear from the breasts during cooking, but definitely don't discard them! MARINATED CHICKEN FOR THE GRILL 4 tsp. Dijon-style mustard 7 Tbsp. wine vinegar 4 tsp. minced garlic 4 tsp. honey 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme 1 tsp. course salt 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 4 Tbsp. olive oil This recipe makes for succulent and juicy chicken, with a surprisingly sophisticated combination of flavors, which you and your guests will clamor for! Combine ingredients, mix well and pour over chicken. (It should be enough to cover eight standard-sized chicken breast halves.) Refrigerate chicken the night before you barbecue, turning the pieces occasionally. When you're ready to cook, you can discard the marinade, or you can let it thicken on the stove and use it as a sauce. Grill the chicken pieces over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes per side. BBQ CHICKEN BREASTS 2 Tbsp. olive oil 1⁄2 cup finely chopped onion 1-2 cloves garlic, minced 3⁄4 cup ketchup 1⁄2 cup vinegar 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce 1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper sauce 1⁄2 tsp. course salt 2 tsp. dark brown sugar 1 tsp. dry mustard 1⁄2 tsp. black pepper Now this sauce, with its nice balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy, will have you licking your lips! Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic until tender. Stir in the ketchup and the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil. Turn down the flame and let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. (Again, it should be enough to cover eight standard-sized chicken breast halves.) As in the first recipe, cook the chicken breasts over a medium-high flame for about 8 minutes per side. With a basting brush, "mop" the sauce onto the side facing up first, then mop on some more to the other side once you flip the breasts. Make sure to set aside some of the sauce beforehand to serve at the table. GRILLED VEGETABLES Cut zucchini on the diagonal to create a larger surface area, so the slices don't fall through the grill. Brush lightly with oil and sprinkle with crushed garlic and/or your favorite spices. Leave on the fire just long enough to give each side those trademark grilling stripes. For good measure, quarter some yellow and red peppers and throw them on the barbecue, too. A light char on the skin lets you know these healthful snacks' natural sweetness is ready to enjoy.