The grilling is easy

Great ideas for Yom Ha'azmaut

Grilling 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Grilling 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
It’s not surprising that many Independence Day celebrations center around the grill. With the pleasant weather, it’s the perfect time to enjoy being outdoors and to keep the cooking simple.
I asked my friend Paula Block, a chef who blogs at, what made the grilled chicken breasts at her birthday party so moist and flavorful. To me they tasted like they were seasoned in the Israeli style. In fact, Block marinated the chicken overnight in mojo criollo, a Cuban marinade made of olive oil and citrus juice and flavored with cumin, garlic and fresh coriander (see recipe).
If you’re buying boneless chicken in advance and freezing it, the writers of The Bais Yaakov Cookbook (edited by Batsheva Weinstein) recommend freezing the pieces raw in the marinade of your choice and note that the flavor will be more intense. Their basic marinade is composed of equal parts red wine vinegar and olive oil and is flavored with Dijon-style mustard and green onions. For balsamic marinade, they use equal parts olive oil, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, and flavor the marinade with garlic and shallots.
For those who like their grilled meat or chicken with a sauce, Carole Sobell, author of New Jewish Cuisine, has an easy two-in-one recipe. She makes a spicy satay-style marinade/sauce from chopped chili peppers, garlic, lemongrass, fresh coriander, basil, lime leaves, peanuts, sesame oil and coconut milk.
Half the mixture is for marinating chicken breast strips and brushing over them as they grill, and the rest is cooked and used as a dipping sauce for the grilled chicken.
When grilling larger cuts of meat like leg of lamb, Block recommends marinating them for one to three days. She marinates the lamb with plenty of sliced garlic, olive oil, sliced Meyer lemons (a mild variety), oregano, herbes de Provence, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Her technique to make marinating easy is to place the lamb and the marinade ingredients in a large plastic bag, massage the meat until well coated with the ingredients and refrigerate it, turning the bag over twice a day.
If you want to marinate fish before grilling it, Micol Negrin, author of The Italian Grill, prefers a Sicilian marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and oregano. With this or any marinade that contains lemon juice or other acidic ingredients, Negrin advises to “limit the marinating time to 30 minutes: lemon juice breaks down fish, making it unpleasantly soft after extended marinating.”
SOME COOKS marinate vegetables before grilling them; others simply flavor them with olive oil, seasonings and herbs. Sobell marinates eggplant and zucchini slices for two hours in a mixture of olive oil, sprigs of thyme and rosemary and crushed garlic cloves.
When making a thick barbecue sauce with tomato-based foods like ketchup or with a substantial amount of sugar, it’s best to use the sauce as an accompaniment and not as a marinade. If you put the sauce on the food before barbecuing, it could burn. Esther Deutsch, author of the recently published kosher cookbook Chic Made Simple, makes peanut butter barbecue sauce flavored with ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic and red pepper flakes. She serves it as a dipping sauce for grilled boneless chicken thighs.
As an accompaniment for grilled food, Negrin serves Mom and Dad’s Chili Sauce, a tomato-based sauce made with medium-hot chili peppers and flavored with garlic, fennel seeds and olive oil (see recipe). It’s useful to have an all-purpose sauce, and this one, writes Negrin, can be served with “anything and everything grilled, as well as salads, breads, even pasta.”
I bet it will be good even with felafel, our family’s favorite for Yom Ha’atzmaut. ■
The writer is the author of Faye Levy’s International Chicken Cookbook.
This recipe is from chef Paula Block. It gives chicken a delicious flavor. The Cuban way is to use the juice of sour oranges, but you can use lemon and orange juices as a substitute. You can keep the marinade up to 1 week.
Makes 1 cup, enough for about 2 kg. (4 1⁄2 lbs.) of chicken
10 to 12 garlic cloves or about 1 head, grated or finely minced 1 cup cilantro (fresh coriander), washed, dried and chopped fine 2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste 3⁄4 cup juice of sour oranges, or 1⁄2 cup lemon juice mixed with 1⁄4 cup orange juice 1⁄4 cup olive oil 1⁄4 cup dry or medium sherry
Combine garlic, cilantro, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper in food processor. Pulse until chopped to a pesto-like consistency.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and add juice, olive oil and sherry. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Shake well before using.
If you like a separate sauce, double the marinade ingredients and set aside half in a separate container before combining the remaining marinade with the chicken pieces. When the chicken is nearly done, bring the marinade that you set aside to a boil in a small saucepan and serve it as a sauce for the chicken. Hot cooked rice or pasta and a green vegetable make good accompaniments.
Makes 4 or 5 servings
1⁄3 cup strained fresh orange juice 3 Tbsp. soy sauce 3 Tbsp. dry white wine 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil 1 Tbsp. honey 1 Tbsp. finely grated orange zest 1 Tbsp. grated peeled gingerroot Pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste 700 gr. (11⁄2 lbs.) boneless, skinless chicken thighs Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a shallow dish, mix orange juice, soy sauce, wine, oil, honey, grated orange zest, gingerroot and cayenne pepper. Set aside 3 Tbsp. marinade in a small container, and reserve to brush on chicken while grilling it. Add chicken to the shallow dish and turn pieces over to coat them. Cover chicken and refrigerate 1 or 2 hours or up to overnight, turning chicken once or twice.
Preheat grill or broiler, with rack about 15 cm. (6 in.) from the heat source. Remove chicken from marinade and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill chicken above glowing coals, or broil it, brushing twice with reserved marinade, 4 minutes per side or until color inside is no longer pink; check by cutting into a thick piece. Serve hot.
This recipe is from The Italian Grill. Author Micol Negrin writes, “My dad is wild for this homemade sauce and eats it nearly every day... My mom, an excellent cook with a particular talent for sauces, found just the right balance of spicy, sweet and acid... Adding tomatoes sweetens the chilies’ bite, while a bit of vinegar makes the sauce vivacious and bright. The fennel seeds are my dad’s contribution. As the seeds sit in the sauce, they soften – so even if they seem a bit crunchy on the first day, they will mellow over time. If you are not too fond of fennel seeds, decrease the amount used, as this recipe calls for a lot.”
Negrin notes that you can refrigerate the sauce for up to 1 week and adds, “I always pour a bit of raw olive oil over the sauce in the jar so it is protected from contact with the air.”
You can also freeze the sauce for up to 1 month.
Makes 3 cups
12 long, medium-hot red chili peppers, chopped coarsely 10 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely 10 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced 21⁄4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar 3 Tbsp. fennel seeds, coarsely crushed in a mortar
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to cover the sauce in the refrigerator
Place the chili peppers, garlic, tomatoes, salt, vinegar and 2 Tbsp. of the fennel seeds in a blender. (A food processor is fine as well, but will yield a coarser consistency.) Process until smooth.
Transfer to a 1-liter (1-quart) pot, bring to a boil, and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring once in a while; the sauce should thicken somewhat. Cool to room temperature and stir in the remaining tablespoon of fennel seeds and the olive oil. Adjust the seasoning if needed: The sauce should be quite spicy and a bit salty, but not overwhelmingly so.
Transfer to clean jars, seal and refrigerate.