a clay-red plate with two skewers of beef cubes and one skewer of colorful small tomatoes
Grandma Lillian’s Anticuchos (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Recipes for Av: Tofu skewers for mourning, smoky beef kebabs for love

We observe two Jewish holidays in the month of Av, which begins on July 22 this year on the Gregorian calendar.

The Three Weeks, which is a period of mourning ending with Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting and contemplation, runs from sunset July 9 to sunset July 30. The custom is to not eat meat beginning nine days before the fast day of Tisha B’Av — so the tofu kebabs with a miso marinade would be great anytime a vegetarian entrée is needed.

The other holiday is Tu B’Av, a day for love and matchmaking that some call Israel’s Valentine’s Day. While there aren’t many Tu B’Av food traditions, I thought Lafayette resident Rebecca Calahan Klein’s recipe for anticuchos (spicy and smoky beef kebabs) might be a good way to mark the holiday from sunset Aug. 4 to sunset Aug. 5. Rebecca adapted the recipe from one that her grandmother learned in Peru, and I substituted chipotles for Peruvian chili paste.

Tofu-Miso Kebabs

Serves 3 to 4

  • Miso marinade (see below)
  • 14 to 16 oz. package firm tofu
  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium onions
  • 16 medium mushrooms, stems removed
  • Oil for grill

Make the marinade. Rinse and drain tofu. Place tofu in kitchen towel between two plates. Place heavy can on top for 20 minutes. Have ready 8 long skewers. If using bamboo, soak 30 minutes in water.

Cut zucchini into 16 slices, each a ½-inch wide. Place in dish with 2 Tbs. water. Microwave on high 1 to 2 minutes until beginning to soften. Drain.

Cut onions into 16  ½-inch chunks. (If chunks separate, reassemble when skewering.) Place in dish with 2 Tbs. water. Microwave on high 2 to 3 minutes until beginning to soften. Drain.

Pat tofu dry. Cut into 16 equal pieces.

Thread zucchini on skewer, followed by onion, tofu and mushroom; add another cycle of that. Then repeat on remaining skewers. Brush kebabs on all sides with marinade. Let sit 20 minutes. Oil grill, stove-top grill pan or indoor electric grill. Heat to medium-high. Brush kebabs with marinade. Grill until bottom tofu has char marks and is slightly brown. Repeat on all sides, brushing with marinade, until kebabs are grilled.

Miso marinade: Stir together until smooth ½ cup white, blond or yellow miso paste, 2 tsp. Asian sesame oil, ¼ cup unsweetened rice vinegar, ¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup water, 2 Tbs. agave syrup, and ½ tsp. (or to taste) hot sauce.

white plate with three skewers of tofu and zucchini chunks
Tofu-Miso Kebabs (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Grandma Lillian’s Anticuchos

Serves 4 to 5 as a main course

  • 2 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 to 4 chipotle chili peppers canned in adobo sauce (see note)
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup plus ¼  cup vegetable oil, plus extra for grill
  • 1 Tbs. plus ⅛ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. plus ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. smoked or regular paprika
  • ⅛ tsp. crumbled dried oregano leaves
  • ⅛ tsp. garlic powder

Put beef in a large bowl. Place chipotles (2 for milder, 4 for spicier) in blender with 2 Tbs. water. Purée, adding water if needed, to make a thick paste. Blend in crushed garlic, vinegar, ½ cup oil, 1 Tbs. cumin, 1 Tbs. salt and black pepper. Pour over beef. Stir well. Cover. Marinate in refrigerator for 7 to 8 hours or overnight to tenderize, occasionally turning in marinade.

Have ready 8 long skewers. If using bamboo, soak 30 minutes in water. Thread 6 beef cubes on each skewer. Combine remaining oil, cumin and salt with paprika, oregano and garlic powder for basting liquid. Oil outdoor grill, indoor electric grill or stove-top grill pan. Heat to high and grill beef skewers, turning and basting occasionally until meat is browned and firm but not hard. Cut into a cube to test, aiming for medium rare to medium.

Note: Store remaining chipotles chilled airtight for up to several weeks. Use to flavor stews and other dishes.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].