Like many of us, Israelis head for the hills on any given holiday or long weekend to go camping.
The forests and deserts are dotted with tents, RVs and campsites of all sorts, while clouds of smoke emanate from a barbecue grill. Israelis love to cook in the woods, whether camping for a week or just an afternoon picnic.
It is a national pastime that spares no one, perhaps because an open fire represents the assimilation of Middle Eastern cuisine with that of Europe. (There's even an Israeli film called "The Barbeque People.")
Israeli grilled meat — beef and lamb — is mainly known in the form of shwarma (cooked on an oblong, vertical spit and then shaved) or kebabs, ground meat laced with fragrant spices.
And then there's shashlik, small pieces of marinated meat threaded on skewers.
These camping cookout delights can be accompanied by quick-to-fix portable salads.
3/4 lbs. ground beef
3/4 lbs. ground lamb
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients.
Take generous spoonfuls of the mixture and form them into sausage shapes. Thread onto flat skewers, and grill until they sizzle and begin to brown. Turn and cook other side.
Serve with pita and salad.
3 lbs. lamb, cut from leg
2 small onions, finely minced
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 shallots, minced
2 Tbsps. parsley, freshly chopped
21/2 cups pomegranate juice, unsweetened
4 Tbsps. corn or olive oil
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Trim away all fat from meat. Cut into 2-inch chunks.
Place in small bowl, together with the onion, garlic, shallot, parsley, cayenne pepper and pomegranate juice.
Cover; refrigerate overnight.
Remove meat from marinade and pat dry. Skewer the meat, using four substantial skewers. Brush with oil. Grill over high heat, turning often until done.
Some prefer it slightly pink (12 minutes). Well-done will take about 20 minutes.
Remove from skewers, and serve with pita bread and salad.
1 cup bulgur (cracked wheat)
4 Tbsps. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsps. chopped mint
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, diced
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 2 lemons
salt and pepper
Soak the bulgur in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain in a fine sieve, squeezing out any excess moisture.
In a large salad bowl, combine the bulgur with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
1 large eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Roast the eggplant in a 375° oven until it collapses. Let cool.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in large skillet.
Sauté the onion, pepper and garlic for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin and pepper flakes, and cook another minute until fragrant. Let cool.
Place all of the ingredients in food processor with the remaining oil and lemon juice. Process until you have a chunky mixture.
Taste for salt and pepper.
Stir in the parsley by hand. Refrigerate, tightly sealed until ready to eat.
Makes about 3 cups.
Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. E-mail her at: [email protected].