Come to the Table: Grill time, come rain or shine

Be prepared for a succa feast, whether wearing sunscreen or a wool hat, with these weather-adaptable recipes.

Chicken skewers (photo credit: Gayle Squires)
Chicken skewers
(photo credit: Gayle Squires)
Succot is the Jewish holiday that makes us more keenly aware of the weather than any other.  We sit outside in structures so temporary that they have a mere three walls (sometimes four) to shield us from wind, and tree branches, through which you must be able to see the night stars, to shelter us from rain.And the only thing predictable about the weather during this transition from summer to fall is its unpredictability.
How do you plan outdoor meals, especially if you are observant and must buy all your ingredients before the one or two days of the High Holy Day, when you’re not sure if you’ll be wearing sunblock or a wool hat in the succa? In the face of uncertainty, I offer up grilling as a solution, with an indoor backup plan. 
(Gayle Squires)
(Gayle Squires)
Grilling is a foolproof strategy for Succot and other October meals. Marinate some meat overnight and be ready for whatever the next day brings. Warm and sunny? Fire up the outdoor grill. Cold and rainy? Heat up a grill pan inside. Bring whatever you’re grilling to room temperature and have a feast.
If you’re cooking a thick piece of meat, get those grill marks and a nice sear, and then move to a cooler part of the grill or to a moderate temperature oven to finish cooking the inside without burning the outside. Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes to distribute the juices and slice right before serving. Got the grill (pan) on and want to keep cooking? Slice up some fruit or a few pieces of pound cake, brush with olive oil or butter, and let the grill give them a cross-hatch char.
(Gayle Squires)
(Gayle Squires)
This year, I’m ready. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will get in the way of my dinner. I have my grill and my grill pan on standby. Skirt steak diablo
I adapted this recipe from one I learned in a course on dry heat cooking. It’s a great, basic way to grill beef and you can dress it up with any sauce you’d like instead of the salsa, or eat the steak unadorned alongside some grilled vegetables.
Serves 6-8
(Gayle Squires)
(Gayle Squires)
For diablo salsa:- 1/2 medium red onion- 1 kg ripe tomatoes- 2 fresh jalapeno chiles- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro (rough chopped)- 1 teaspoon garlic paste (from 2-3 cloves)- 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice and zest (3-4 limes)- salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil to taste
For steak:- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar- 2 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped- 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt- 1 kg skirt or flank or hanger steak- diablo salsa (or use a large jar of good pre-made salsa)
Prep. Take meat out of the fridge, and pat dry. Allow to come to room temperature while you’re making the salsa. Finely chop the oregano.
Make diablo salsa. There’s a lot of chopping and fine dicing here!  Chop the onion very finely and then soak in cold water for a few minutes (this softens the raw onion taste). Quarter and seed the tomatoes. Then cut them into a quarter-inch dice. Wearing rubber gloves, seed and finely chop the jalapeno peppers. Wash and rough chop the cilantro, removing tough stems. Combine onions (discard water), tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro in a big bowl. Zest and juice limes over the bowl and mix. Add salt, pepper, and oil to taste.
Click for more JPost High Holy Day features
Click for more JPost High Holy Day features
Marinate. In a large bowl, mix together oil, vinegar, oregano, sugar, salt, half the salsa, and the meat. Marinate meat for 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to six hours in the fridge. If it’s been in the fridge, make sure to bring the meat to room temperature before grilling.
Grill. Light your grill or turn your stove to medium and heat up a cast iron grill pan. When the grill (pan) is hot, remove the meat from the marinade and grill for 3-4 minutes per side — this will be nice and rare (add 1-2 minutes more if you want medium rare/medium). If the meat sticks to the grill/pan, then it’s not ready to be flipped. When you can take the meat of the grill/pan easily, it’s ready to flip.
Rest. Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes to let the juices distribute. Once you slice it, it will get cold really quickly, so wait until you’re ready to serve before slicing.
Slice. Slice the meat against the grain, holding the knife at a 45˚ angle with the cutting board.
Eat. Arrange meat on your platter and serve alongside or topped with diablo salsa.Middle Eastern chicken skewers
This recipe is adapted from Chef Michael Solomonov’s lamb skewers in Food & Wine Magazine — I just replaced the lamb with chicken. You don’t need the extra sauce, but if you have time, just boil down the marinade and serve it alongside the skewers The chicken is really moist, so it doesn’t need extra sauce, but the marinade is so good, it’s a pity to waste. Boil it down (since it’s been mingling with raw chicken) and dip pita in it or pour it over couscous.Serves 6-8
(Gayle Squires)
(Gayle Squires)
- 1 medium onion, quartered- 1 garlic clove, peeled- 4 (or more) sprigs of flat leaf parsley- 1-2 lemons (for 1/2 teaspoon zest and 3 tablespoons of juice)- 1 teaspoon ras al hanout spice mixture or allspice- 1 teaspoon kosher salt-  Pinch of saffron threads- 1 kilo of boneless skinless chicken breasts (or boneless chicken thighs or a mix)- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
Purée. In a blender or food processor, puree onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and zest, ras al hanout (or allspice), salt, and saffron.
Cut. Cut the chicken into cubes, approximately 1-inch on each side.Marinate. Fill a large plastic bag with the chicken and then pour the purée over it. Shake everything around until the chicken is well coated. Zip the bag, pressing out any air. Refrigerate overnight (or at least six hours). Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to allow the chicken to come to room temperature.
Grill. Light your grill or turn your stove to medium and heat up a cast iron grill pan. Remove chicken chunks from the bag and thread them onto skewers (about 4-5 per skewer). Reserve the marinade. Brush the chicken skewers with oil and grill over high heat until all sides are lightly charred, about 8 -10 minutes. Turn the meat occasionally – you’ll know it’s ready to be turned when it easily releases from the pan. If it sticks, don’t touch it. Poke a knife into a piece of chicken to make sure it’s cooked all the way through and not pink inside.
Boil. Pour the remaining marinade into a pan and bring to a boil. Serve with the skewers or on rice or couscous.Gayle Squires publishes recipes and photographs on the blog, Kosher Camembert. Her cooking and baking is inspired by international travel .