Yom Ha’atzmaut: The Flavors of Freedom
I wonder what there is about celebrating a national independence day that makes us all want to cook outside! In Israel, grilled and barbecued meats and poultry are as popular for Yom Ha’atzmaut as they are for American Fourth of July menus. It must be that the pleasure of cooking outdoors, enjoying the warmth of summer and the fresh air brings with it a feeling of freedom from day-to-day routines. And for many women who usually do all the cooking at home, it often means liberation from cooking as well, as men are generally happy to take over the task of outdoor grilling!
Grilled food has other advantages that make it popular during the warm months of the year. Obviously cooking outside doesn't heat up the kitchen. Many meats come out lower in calories when barbecued because the fat drips off the meat as it grills.
Nothing could be more basic than grilling; it was probably the first cooking technique discovered by man. Yet the food turns out festive. It seems that the mere fact of having been cooked in the open air on a grill gives meat, chicken and vegetables special flair. Indeed, grilling has remained the "in" cooking technique not only in the Mideast, but in America and in most of the western world.
Of course, nobody wants to be studiously following recipes and measuring ingredients when grilling out in the park, as Israelis often do for Yom Ha’atzmaut! So prepare the marinades and sauces ahead, and consider these instructions mainly as inspiration. Most of all have fun and savor freedom!
Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home (Morrow), 1,000 Jewish Recipes (Wiley) and Jewish Cooking For Dummies (Wiley).
STEAK WITH RED WINE AND HERB SAUCE
For many people, there's nothing as tempting as a large steak grilled on an open fire. You can prepare the sauce the day before the picnic and reheat it in a small saucepan on the grill.
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 carrot, diced
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon potato starch or cornstarch
1 cup dry red wine
1 shallot or white part of 1 green onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 good quality steak (about 1 1/2 lb.), about 1 1/2 inches thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped chives or green onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Pinch of sugar (optional)
In a heavy, medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot and sauté, stirring often, until well browned. Do not let mixture burn. Add broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring. Simmer uncovered over very low heat for about 20 minutes.
Strain into another saucepan, pressing on vegetables. Skim fat from surface. Simmer sauce over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup.
In a small bowl whisk cold water and potato starch to form a smooth paste. Gradually pour into simmering sauce, whisking constantly. Bring back to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer 1 or 2 minutes if necessary, until thickened.
In a medium saucepan, bring wine to a boil with shallot and thyme. Boil, stirring occasionally, until wine is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Strain wine into pan of sauce. Bring to a boil, whisking. Simmer sauce until thick enough to coat a spoon.
Prepare grill with rack about 4 inches from heat source.
Brush steak with oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put on hot grill. Grill until browned on both sides and done to taste, about 6 minutes per side; medium-rare meat resists slightly when pressed, medium-done meat resists slightly more, and meat that is well done is springy to the touch.
Reheat sauce. Stir in chives and parsley. Taste, and add salt, pepper and sugar if needed.
To serve, cut steak in thin slices. Pour a little sauce over each portion. Serve remaining sauce separately.
Makes 4 servings.
MARINATED GRILLED VEAL CHOPS WITH GARLIC AND BASIL
Veal is generally marinated before it is grilled so it will not be dry. At serving time these chops are moistened with a flavorful spread as well. Grilled mushrooms, peppers or zucchini make fine accompaniments.
4 veal chops, about 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus a little extra for brushing
1 tablespoon strained, fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried leaf basil
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Put veal chops in a shallow dish in which they fit snugly in 1 layer. Mix olive oil, lemon juice and dried basil and pour over veal. Turn veal so both sides are well coated. Refrigerate 4 to 8 hours or overnight.
Beat softened margarine with garlic and fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours so flavors blend. Before serving, bring to room temperature.
Heat grill with rack 6 inches from heat. Lightly oil grill. Remove veal chops from marinade and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Put veal on hot grill rack and grill, brushing occasionally with olive oil, about 7 minutes per side or until cooked to desired doneness; check by piercing with a knife--meat should be slightly pink or white.
Transfer to platter and top each chop with a spoonful of garlic-basil spread.
Makes 4 servings.
The fresh citrus marinade accented with soy sauce and ginger makes for tasty chicken. If you like, you can use the reheated marinade as a sauce for rice or pasta spirals to accompany the chicken.
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup strained fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
white part of 2 medium green onions, minced
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts, skin removed
Green onions, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 large orange, cut in segments
Citrus Marinade: In a shallow dish mix soy sauce, orange juice, lemon juice, oil, honey, grated orange and lemon zests, green onion, ginger, cloves and hot pepper sauce.
Add chicken pieces to marinade and turn them over to coat them. Rub marinade thoroughly into chicken. Cover chicken and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.
Preheat grill with rack about 6 inches from heat source.
Remove chicken from marinade and transfer marinade to a small saucepan. Bring marinade to a boil and remove from heat.
Put chicken on hot grill. Grill chicken, brushing occasionally with marinade, about 5 minutes per side or until tender when pierced in thickest part with a thin knife and color inside is no longer pink. Serve hot, with green onions and orange segments.
Makes 6 servings.
GRILLED PEPPER AND TOMATO SALAD
When you are barbecuing, it is convenient to put a few peppers and tomatoes on the grill to prepare this easy salad, a specialty of Morocco.
4 ripe fairly small tomatoes
2 green bell peppers, or 1 green and 1 red
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Put tomatoes and peppers on hot grill. Grill, turning them often. Leave tomatoes in for 4 or 5 minutes or until their skin begins to wrinkle. Leave peppers in about 15 minutes or until their skin turns blistery all over and is black in spots.
Core tomatoes and peel them, with aid of a small knife. Put peppers in a bag, close bag and leave for 10 minutes. Peel peppers and remove their cores and seeds.
Combine garlic with lemon juice, oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Quarter tomatoes. Cut peppers in wide strips lengthwise. Arrange them on a serving plate. Pour sauce over them. Leave for 1 hour for flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.
Makes 4 servings.
GRILLED CORN WITH HERB OIL
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped chives or green onion
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ears of corn, husked
Mix 5 tablespoons of the oil with lemon juice, chives and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat grill. Brush corn with remaining oil. Grill, turning often, about 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and dotted with brown. Serve with herb oil.
Makes 8 servings.
BLUE AND WHITE COOKIES
A friend told me that when she was in elementary school, the children received round blue and white cookies (a variation of the popular New York Black and Whites) on Yom Ha’atzmaut. After they enjoyed the cookies, they went outside and danced to Israeli music. At my school (the Hebrew Academy of Washington, D.C.), we didn’t get these treats, maybe because we were too far from New York!
Here is a recipe for blue and whites made from delicious French butter cookies dotted with chopped dried blueberries or mini-chocolate chips. Obviously, to serve them at a kosher meat meal, you will make them with nondairy margarine.
1 /2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine, cold
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
grated zest 1 orange
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons dried blueberries, chopped, or mini chocolate chips
1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice (optional)
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
A few drops blue food coloring
Make cookie dough in a food processor: Cut butter in small cubes. Combine egg, egg yolk, sugar, salt, grated zest, dried blueberries and butter in food processor. Mix using 10 on/off turns; then process 5 seconds. Small pieces of butter will remain. Add flour and dried blueberries and process about 2 seconds; scrape down with rubber spatula and process a few seconds or until dough begins to form sticky crumbs but does not form a ball. If crumbs are dry, add juice. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, press into a ball, then flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough 4 hours or overnight.
Lightly butter 2 baking sheets. Roll out half the dough on a cool, lightly floured surface until 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2- or 3-inch cutter, cut dough in circles and transfer then to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Press trimmings gently together and chill them. Roll them out and cut more circles. Refrigerate cookies for 30 minutes or chill them in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F. Bake cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cookies brown very lightly. Cool on a rack.
To make the frosting: With a wooden spoon, stir the powdered sugar, hot water and vanilla together in a bowl until smooth. If frosting is too thick to pour, stir in more hot water, a teaspoon at a time. Divide in 2 portions. Leave 1 portion white. Stir blue food coloring, drop by drop, into the second portion.
Turn the cookies flat side up. Spread white frosting evenly over half of each cookie. Spread blue frosting over the other half. If the frosting becomes too thick as you work, gradually stir in a little more hot water to keep it spreadable. Refrigerate the cookies until the frosting is firm.
Makes about 20 cookies.