Cooking Jewish – Fun & Casual

Celebrate Dad’s Special Day

“Legend has it that the observance of Father’s Day came about through the efforts of a devoted daughter,” wrote Sheila Lukins in “Celebrate!” (Workman, $19.95), my go-to resource when I’m thinking…let’s party! “Sonora Louise Dodd’s father, William Jackson Smart, was a civil war veteran and widower who single-handedly raised his six children. When Sonora Louise heard a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909, she thought Dads deserved their own day as well.” In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge recommended the celebration of Father’s Day, but it wasn’t until 1972, during the Nixon administration, that it was signed into law as an official national holiday. The third Sunday in June is perfect grilling weather, and aromas of backyard barbecues waft over fences and through open windows as we celebrate Dad’s special day.
    “Lukins, who died in 2009, was most famous as the co-author, with Julee Rosso, of “The Silver Palate” cookbooks and “The New Basics Cookbook,” which introduced Mediterranean and Eastern European cuisine to the American public. Together, their books sold more than seven million copies and helped change the way Americans cook by offering easy ways to prepare restaurant quality food, featuring interesting flavor combinations, using accessible ingredients and minimum skill. “I believe the most memorable celebrations take place at home,” she wrote. “In mine, all celebrations begin in the kitchen, and part of the fun is deciding what to prepare, creating a menu with appeal, start to finish.
    “Father’s Day should be fun and casual and, if possible, outdoors,” Lukins advised. “Have tongs, forks, a cutting board and mitts at hand near the grill.” And when it comes to grilling, Steven Raichlen wrote the book—over 30 books, really, including the international best sellers “How to Grill,” “Barbecue Bible,” and “Planet Barbecue.” Translated into 17 languages, Raichlen’s books have won five James Beard Awards and three IACP-Julia Child Awards and have sold more than 4 million copies. Dubbed the “Gladiator of Grilling” by Oprah, Raichlen also is famous for hosting the PBS shows “Primal Grill” and “Barbecue University.”
    “If something tastes good baked, fried, sautéed, steamed or even raw, it probably tastes even better grilled,” he says. “We are probably the only Jewish family in Miami to barbecue its brisket instead of braising it in the oven with dried fruits. We rub it with cumin, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper and smoke it for six hours. It’s amazing barbecue, the way G-d meant for you to eat it!”
    Raichlen credits his mom, who was in charge of the grill when he was growing up, with lighting his passion for grilling. “Her approach to grilling was robust if not terrifying,” he recalled. “She’d light the grill in a Vesuvian whomp with gasoline—do not try this at home—and char slabs of steak until coal black on the outside and just shy of still mooing inside. She called this Pittsburgh rare. Barbecue is not part of the Ashkenazi tradition. I don’t ever remember watching my grandfather grill, for example. None of the great cooks of that generation knew anything from fire cooking, but in Israel it’s very much a part of their culture. The Middle East is one of the real hotbeds of grilling expertise.”
    By Dad’s Day summer beckons with luscious, plump strawberries. Why not celebrate the season—and Dad!—with Strawberry Shortcake. “There are many legends about where the strawberry shortcake originated,” noted Lukins. “My favorite credits the native Americans, who called the strawberry ‘the heart-seed berry,’ and who made a kind of bread of crushed strawberries mixed with cornmeal. The colonists knew a good thing when they saw it and adapted this original American treat.”

Saffron-Lemon Shish Kebabs

Don’t trim away too much fat—it will help keep kebabs moist while they grill.

For the lamb and marinade:

1 1⁄2 pounds boneless leg or shoulder of lamb, rinsed dried, cut into 1-inch cubes

1⁄2 teaspoon saffron threads

1 tablespoon warm water

1⁄4 cup lemon juice

2 strips lemon zest (1⁄2 by 1 inch each)

1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for seasoning the kebabs

1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning the kebabs

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 bay leaves

For the vegetables:

1 large onion

1 large red bell pepper

1 large green bell pepper

For the basting mixture:

1⁄4 teaspoon saffron threads

1 tablespoon warm water

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Black pepper

1.  Marinade: With your fingers, crumble saffron into a large non-reactive mixing bowl. Add water and let stand for 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and zest, 1 teaspoon salt, 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper, onion, and garlic; stir until salt dissolves. Add oil, bay leaves, and lamb cubes and toss to mix. Marinate lamb, covered, in refrigerator 4 hours to overnight—the longer you marinate, the richer the flavor. Stir every few hours to ensure even marinating.
2. Vegetables: Cut onion into 8 chunks. Break each chunk into individual layers. Core and cut bell peppers into 1-inch cubes.
3. Set up grill for direct grilling; preheat to high.
4. Basting mixture: Crumble saffron into small bowl. Add water and let stand 5 minutes. Place oil and lemon juice in small nonreactive saucepan. Add saffron water; cook over medium-low heat about 3 minutes. Season with pepper to taste.
5. Thread 1/4 of lamb chunks onto each of 4 skewers, placing pieces of onion and bell pepper between them. Place kebabs on hot grate and grill until cooked to taste, 2 to 3 minutes per side (8 to 12 minutes in all) for medium-rare. Generously season kebabs with salt and pepper as they grill; baste with the saffron-oil mixture.
6. Transfer kebabs to a platter. Never try to eat lamb and vegetables directly off skewer, or you might burn your lips. Rather, slide them off skewer onto your plate.

Source: Adapted from ”How to Grill” (Workman, $19.95) by Steven Raichlen

Luscious Strawberry Shortcake

If you like, bake biscuits a day ahead. Let them cool completely and then store in a covered container.

For the biscuits:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, plus extra for brushing

For the strawberries and topping:

2 pints ripe strawberries, very gently rinsed and patted dry

5 tablespoons sugar

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a baking sheet.
  2. Prepare biscuits: Combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, rub butter into dry ingredients until you have a crumbly, coarse meal with some pieces of butter still visible. Add 1 cup cream in a slow, steady stream while continuing to blend (you may not need all the cream). Dough should be moistened but still have a few loose crumbs.
  3. On a lightly floured board, press dough out to form a 1 1/2-inch-thick round. Using a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter, cut out six rounds and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until biscuits are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool.
  4. Hull strawberries and cut into quarters. Place them in a bowl and toss with 4 tablespoons of the sugar. If desired, transfer half the berries to another bowl and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Then return mashed berries to the bowl with the unmashed ones and stir. Set aside.
  5. Combine cream, vanilla, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, whip cream on low speed until mixture is foamy, about 3 minutes. Then mix on high speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  6. To assemble shortcake: Split each biscuit in half with a fork, as you would an English muffin. Place bottoms of biscuits on dessert plates. Top each biscuit with some of the whipped cream and 2 generous tablespoons of the strawberry mixture (including the juices). Cover with top half of biscuit. Dollop generously with remaining whipped cream, then divide remaining strawberries among biscuits. Serve immediately.

Source: “Celebrate!” by Sheila Lukins

Jlife Food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at


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