How to BBQ, Israeli Style: Three Classic Recipes

Chicken wings in lemon juice and olive oil; Beef chuck kebabs in date molasses and pomegranate syrup; And vegetarian goodness skewers of beets, eggplant, tomatoes and more.

Vered Guttman
Vered Guttman
An Independence Day BBQ in Tel Aviv's Charles Chlore Park, 2014.
An Independence Day BBQ in Tel Aviv's Charles Chlore Park, 2014.Credit: Moti Milrod
Vered Guttman
Vered Guttman

Even a serious BBQ nation like the United States can learn something from Israel. The nation’s expensive meat has forced Israelis throughout the years to get creative when it comes to marinades and sauces, since when you cannot rely on expensive cuts, you need to make the most of the cheapest cuts. You’ll rarely find a ribeye steak at a Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) celebration, but there are be plenty of well-seasoned ground beef kebabs, boneless skinless chicken thighs on skewers, kosher dogs and chicken wings.

Below are some Israeli inspired BBQ classics: chicken wings in lemon juice and olive oil that are unbelievably sweet-sour delicious and sticky; Beef chuck kebabs in date molasses and pomegranate syrup; And vegetarian goodness skewers of beets, eggplant, tomatoes and more.

Lemon and olive oil chicken wings

A popular chicken wings recipe, and for a good reason. This simple marinade of lemon juice, olive oil and minced garlic yields perfectly sticky, nicely lemony wings.

Sumac is available at Middle Eastern and some health supermarkets.

Enjoying kebabs at the Kinneret.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

Serves 4

2 lb. chicken wings, preferably Buffalo style cut (wing cut into sections)
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon sumac (optional)

1. Put chicken wings in a ziplock bag (or any thick bag). Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, garlic clove and crushed pepper (if using) until incorporated and pour over wings. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
2. Prepare grill for medium heat. Remove wings from marinade and grill until done (time will depend on wings’ size), turning occasionally. Check doneness slicing one wing and making sure there’s no pink meat and juices run clear. Remove from grill, sprinkle with sumac and serve.

Beef kebabs in date and pomegranate molasses

Date molasses (known in Israel as silan or date honey) is available at Middle Eastern markets and some Kosher/Israeli markets.
Pomegranate molasses (or syrup, but make sure it is not a sweetened syrup) is available at Middle Eastern markets and some health supermarkets.

Yields about 15 kebabs (serve 6)

For the kebab:
2 lb. ground beef chuck
1¼ cups pine nuts, finely ground in a food processor
3 tablespoons date molasses (see note above)
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the glaze:
½ cup date molasses
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients of the kebab, kneading with your hands. Form about 15 4 inch long, flat kebabs and arrange on a tray. Put in the fridge, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes. (you can leave it in the fridge overnight, in that case cover with plastic wrap).
2. In the meantime, process glaze ingredients in a blender until smooth. Keep in a covered dish at room temperature until ready to use.
3. Prepare grill to medium heat. Place kebabs 1 inch apart and grill on both sides until barely pink in the center. About two minutes before removing from grill, brush top side of kebab with glaze. Grill for 2 more minutes and remove from grill. Let rest for 5 minutes, covered loosely with foil, then serve.

Beet, tomato and eggplant skewers with lemon-olive oil dressing

Full of flavor vegetarian skewers that can serve as a side dish for any meat you make.

Roasted baby beets are available at most health and chain supermarkets.

Serves 6
12 fingerling or baby golden potatoes
1 eggplant.
12 Small Roma or cherry tomatoes (any tomatoes up to 2 inch round)
6 shallots, peeled and halved
½ cup Olive oil
Kosher salt
12 store-bought roasted beets

For the dressing:
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 fresh rosemary leaves, crushes
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes, put in a tray, cover with foil and roast in oven for about 25 minutes, until fork tender. Remove from oven, set aside.
2. In the meantime, peel eggplant and cut to 1 inch cubes. Put in a colander over a large bowl, sprinkle generously with kosher salt, and let stand for 30 minutes. Wash and dry with paper towel.
3. Soak 12 wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes.
4. To make the dressing, put all ingredients in a tight-lid container and shake well until incorporated. Set aside.
5. Prepare grill to medium heat. Put potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and shallots in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Mix with your hands, making sure all ingredients are coated with oil.
6. Thread one potato, tomato, eggplant piece, beet, another eggplant piece and half a shallot on each skewer in this order. Grill for 10-15 minutes, covered and turn occasionally, until eggplant is tender and tomatoes are nicely charred.
7. Carefully transfer to a serving, drizzle with dressing and serve.

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