Moran Kilzi, certified nutritionist, Nutrition Coordinator at Leket Israel
Every Israeli is familiar with the long lines at the butcher in the days leading up to Yom Ha’atzmaut. Every year, families and friends gather, light up the grill and start to barbeque: wings, hotdogs, kabobs and more. But every year, every Yom Ha’atzmaut, it’s the exact same thing. Is there a different, or even a better option? A Yom Ha’atzmaut complete with family, friends, good music, barbeque and lots of tasty food, but without all the meat. Sounds interesting? Here are some delicious and nutritious ideas to create your own vegetarian Israeli Independence Day feast.
Fanning the Grill
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), processed meats such as kabobs and hamburgers have negative effects on your health. There are many tasty and healthier alternatives that work just as well on the grill.
So What Can I Grill Instead?
- Vegetable Skewers: Spear zucchini, cherry tomatoes, small champignon mushrooms, bell peppers or any other veggie of your choice, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper on a skewer and grill.
- Roasted Eggplant: Roast a whole eggplant on the grill until it becomes soft, halve it with a knife then add a generous splash of olive oil, raw tahini and chopped garlic.
- Vegetarian Kabobs: Switch out ground meat for plant-based alternative, add parsley, chopped garlic and other spices to taste. Mix well, form into kabobs, spear on skewers and grill.
- Tofu and Veggie Skewers: Chop tofu and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini or onions into bite-sized pieces and marinate in soy sauce for a few hours. Spear tofu and veggies on skewers and grill.
- Portobello Mushroom Burger: Remove mushroom stems. Mix olive oil, teriyaki sauce, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Brush mixture onto mushrooms and grill a few minutes on each side. Serve in a hamburger bun with your favorite veggies and condiments.
What Else Is Needed?
Besides the main course on the grill, what tasty, meat-free side dishes can be added?
The most nutritious alternatives to meat are legumes (peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans, etc.) which make excellent and filling side dishes. Legumes contain important nutrients like iron and protein, unlike other carbohydrates, and unlike meat, are low in fat and rich in satiating fiber. Legumes have such wide-ranging health benefits that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) designated 2016 as the “International Year of Pulses” (an alternate name for legumes).
Salad and Side Dish Ideas with Legumes
- Hummus spread with tahini
- Black lentil and herb salad (recipe below)
- Mejadra (rice with lentils)
- Cooked beans in tomato sauce
A Meat-Free Yom Ha’atzmaut Saves Money!
A vegetarian Yom Ha’atzmaut has many nutritional, ecological and even financial advantages! Leaving meat off your shopping list and only buying staples like vegetables, fruit and legumes is certain to reduce your bill at the grocery store.
Black Lentil and Herb Salad Recipe
1 cup black lentils
½ cup parsley, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
For the sauce:
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook lentils in a pot with plenty of boiling water for around 20 minutes until they become soft. Drain. Mix lentils with chopped parsley and scallions in a bowl.
Mix sauce ingredients. Add a splash of olive oil to the lentil mixture, then the sauce. Mix well and serve. Enjoy!