Father’s Day Grilling

A Sephardic barbecue is different from the all-American version with hot dogs and hamburgers.
June 12, 2024
Photo by Sephardic Spice Girls

This year the 14th of Sivan, which marks the one-year anniversary of my father’s passing, begins on the eve of June 16. It feels so right that the eve of Father’s Day just happens to be my father’s hazkara (yahrzeit, for you Yiddish speakers).

My father was a quiet man who managed to cast a giant shadow. Years of working as a bricklayer endowed him with a muscular physique, but his restraint and quiet stoicism were even more impressive. He was strong in every meaning of the word.

His strength lay in his quiet discipline. His commitment to Torah, mitzvot, Jewish values and Zionism. His love for my mother, who he adored and admired. His devotion to me and my brothers. His sheer joy and enjoyment of his grandchildren. 

His superpower was his ability to listen. Then depending on the situation, to offer moral perspective, business advice or encouragement. What my brothers and I loved the most were the unexpected brilliant, insightful, humorous quips. 

My father was a private man who never sought acclaim. I have spent this year of mourning contemplating his many qualities and achievements. The good memories really are a source of comfort. 

Fittingly for a Sephardic Spice Girl, much of the way that I have commemorated my father has been through serving food to others. 

For his shloshim (30 days after passing), with help from my friends, we hosted 300 people for a home-cooked meal of his favorite foods—Kubbah Bamia (okra stew), Kubbah Shwandar (beet stew), grilled kebabs, rice and dates, served every which way. 

For Yom Kippur (his birthday), I hosted my extended family for the pre-fast meal. And because this year is a leap year, we marked the end of the 12-month mourning period on the 14th of Iyar. I cooked a huge meal of fish and chicken, an okra stew, rice and salads. My cousin Daniella Clifford Wolf (@eventsbyella2) is a sought-after party planner extraordinaire and she rescued me after a long day of solo cooking. She transformed the table into a beautiful, luscious tableau of fruits, vegetables, flowers and greenery. 

My father always stressed how important it is to look after oneself, because we don’t live for ourselves, we live for the ones who love us. This Father’s Day and every day, I will do my best to honor his legacy in every way that I can. 


A Sephardic barbecue is different from the all-American version with hot dogs and hamburgers. Whenever my husband Neil wants to have a barbecue, the menu always includes some combination of chicken, steak, spiced ground beef kabobs and merguez (spicy Moroccan sausage).

For many years, I did not approach the grill because that was a “man’s job.” Every Father’s Day, my boys would take Neil for a round of golf and inevitably, dinner would be delayed. I got tired of waiting and figured out how to work the grill. Now, I no longer fear the grill and happily get the job done. Very efficiently, I might add. 

I love to grill a whole fish and lots of veggies for a quick, healthy weeknight dinner. But pargiyot, boneless chicken thighs, have become one of my favorite things to grill. So easy and flavorful, thighs adapt well to any spice rub or marinade. I just toss them into a ziploc bag, add my seasoning and allow them to marinate awhile. Za’atar and lemon juice is probably our most go-to flavor profile. But we also enjoy great options like shwarma seasoning, Jerusalem Grill spice blend, a teriyaki sauce marinade or just a simple sweet, mesquite barbecue sauce. I grill the pargiyot at a medium heat, until the chicken has a nice golden crust. 

Festive family barbecues at our house are not complete without grilled merguez, a lamb or beef sausage that is spiced with harissa or cumin and chili pepper. This spicy staple of the Maghreb kitchen is a perfect foil for fresh baguette or pita. 

While meats and chicken anchor the feast, we love to pile on the sides and condiments. A lemony coleslaw, Israeli salad and potato salad. Fries or rice. Lots of pickles, harissa and tehina.

Nowadays Father’s Day is a bit different because our kids are all grown up. There are no more handmade cards and school art projects. But one thing is golden — there will for sure be a (Sephardic style) barbecue!


Nowadays Father’s Day is a bit different because our kids are all grown up. But one thing is golden —there will for sure be a (Sephardic style) barbecue!

Spicy Grilled Chicken

4-6 chicken thighs, deboned and skinless
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, juiced
1/4 cup za’atar
Kosher salt, to taste (omit if spice mix has added salt)

Place the chicken thighs in a Ziploc bag with the olive oil, lemon juice and spices. Rub the bag until thighs are completely coated.

Allow to marinate for 10 minutes.

Grill for about 6-8 minutes per side, until chicken is completely cooked.

Oven method 

Broil the chicken under high heat for about 5 or more minutes per side, until completely cooked. 

Lemony Slaw Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 large lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp honey
Salt and fresh ground black pepper 

In a small bowl, whisk all the dressing ingredients together. 

Place vegetables in a serving bowl. 

Just before serving, pour dressing over the salad.

Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Emquies Sheff have been friends since high school. The Sephardic Spice Girls project has grown from their collaboration on events for the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Follow them
on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food. Website sephardicspicegirls.com/full-recipes.

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