As we get into the beginning of May and summer is just within reach, the season for barbequing in the US is quickly getting closer. In the US, big holidays such as Memorial and Independence Day involve big BBQs with family and friends, and I was a little surprised to find that even halfway around the world in a different culture, Israelis share this tradition.
Unlike the U.S., however, Israeli Memorial and Independence Day are one day apart. Memorial Day is an incredibly serious holiday, with the sounding of a siren at 11am during which the entire country stops what it is doing to stand for a moment of silence. For a whole minute, it was amazing to hear only the sound of the siren and see traffic stop and people get out of their vehicles in the middle of the street to observe the moment of silence. The whole day was rather somber, but as soon as the sun set and marked the beginning of Yom Ha’atzmaut – Independence Day – the festivities started right up with fireworks and concerts galore!
It seems that literally everyone in Israel has a BBQ on Independence Day. At 10am, the tell-tale smell of charcoal grills already permeated the air wherever I went in the city. My Israeli roommate planned a traditional BBQ, which is pretty much just like an American BBQ, except I have never seen so much food! I don’t know what I was expecting – after all, Israel is the Jewish country where the women will feed you until you literally have to roll away. Our BBQ had all the traditional Israeli BBQ staples: spicy chicken wings, beef kebabs, vegetable kebabs, corn, fruit, and of course the star of the show, pargiyot. Named for the cut of the meat, pargiyot are boneless chicken thighs, the “best cut there is” according to many Israelis. You can cook pargiyot however you want, but Ruthy and I made ours with a Middle Eastern spiced yogurt marinade. They were delicious! Wherever you are in the world, cooking up some pargiyot this BBQ season is a must try!
Sarah McAnaw is a junior at American University where she studies International Studies and Biology. After cooking (and eating!) her way through a semester in Florence, Italy last fall, she’s spending the spring in Haifa, Israel studying the Arab-Israeli conflict and learning to cook authentic Middle Eastern food from her Israeli roommates.
Pargiyot in Spiced Yogurt Marinade
Serves a crowd
Note: Boneless thighs may be a bit difficult to find pre-packaged, but you can always ask your butcher to debone some chicken thighs for you. My Israeli roommates and I are also huge fans of cinnamon and cumin, so we put in a little more than most people do. Feel free to adjust the measurements to your taste!
3 pounds pargiyot
2 cups or 2 individual cartons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon grated ginger (powdered ginger is fine)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice and zest of one medium lemon
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
The day before your BBQ, clean the pargiyot thoroughly and pat dry; place in a large baking dish or Tupperware container.
In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt with all of the seasonings and mix well. Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss to make sure all of the chicken is evenly coated. Cover and put in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
Grill over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through – it should be firm to the touch and the juices run clear.