A Cooler Cookout

Chef Mike Solomonov gathered his chef friends and their kids for an epic Israeli-inspired Father's Day cookout—no burgers or dogs in sight.
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group of kids with dad sitting on blankets on the ground eating

Mike with his sons, David and Lucas, and buds Danny and Leo.

Chef Mike Solomonov garners rave reviews (and James Beard Awards) for the vibrant, spice-laden Israeli cuisine at his flagship Philadelphia restaurant, Zahav. But at home, he’s just a dad dealing with two kids who want to eat only brown food. “They’re very conservative about what they like,” Mike says of seven-year-old David and four-year-old Lucas. Still, the Israeli-born chef loves to coax the boys into exploring the melting-pot cooking of their heritage—and encourages other parents to do the same. “All those bright, fresh, crisp, hyperacidic, hyperspiced flavors shouldn’t be limited to a restaurant meal or an Instagram post,” Mike says. “They can happen for real in your house, with your family, in your kitchen.”

dad holding baby wearing floral print outfit outside

Chef Tom Henneman chills out with his daughter Sasha.

Today he’s taking his spice lessons outside for a Father’s Day cookout with his chef buddies and their kids at Philly’s Fairmount Park. While the kids zip around on bikes and play tag, Mike fires up the grill for Sirloin Shishlik, a crowd-favorite beef kebab from his latest cookbook, Israeli Soul. You’d think the Technicolor green of the herby marinade would freak out fussy eaters, but the kebabs are a big hit with Mike’s kids because they get to season the meat themselves and build the skewers with him. “Letting the kids do productive things and create with their hands worked for me,” he says of his tactic to inspire more adventurous eating. “They feel like they’ve accomplished something.” Their curiosity even extends to spice blends like baharat—a Middle Eastern mix made of cumin, coriander, black pepper, allspice, and cloves. At today’s cookout, Mike adds a little baharat to brown butter–drizzled chickpeas and tomatoes for a superdelicious side. Everybody digs in.

man grilling shish kebabs

Kebabs sizzle on the grill.

The boys need less convincing when it comes to drinks and desserts. Taking a cue from pushcart vendors in Israel, Mike makes pomegranate-mint syrup so the kids can mix up their own sodas. Then there are the fruity ice pops that remind Mike of the ones he and the boys devoured at the beach during family trips to Israel. “The bonus is that they learn about where they come from and who they are,” Mike says. “It’s frickin’ awesome.”

family sitting at wooden picnic table eating

Lunch is served.

group of kids with dads playing on grass outside

The group—Mike, Tom, chef Steven Cook, and their kids—runs around Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

Chickpeas with Baharat, Tomatoes & Brown Butter

Chickpeas with Baharat, Tomatoes & Brown Butter Recipe

Chickpeas and tomatoes with brown butter.

Recipe: Try Mike Solomonov's Chickpeas with Baharat, Tomatoes & Brown Butter

Dill Tabbouleh

Dill Tabbouleh Salad Recipe

Mike subs dill for parsley in a fresh take on tabbouleh salad.

Recipe: Try Mike Solomonov's Dill Tabbouleh

Sirloin Shishlik

Sirloin Shishlik Recipe

The star of the cookout, Mike’s kebabs.

Recipe: Try Mike Solomonov's Sirloin Shishlik

DIY Pomegranate-Mint Sodas

DIY Pomegranate-Mint Sodas Recipe

For a sweet(ish) treat to end the day, David gets serious about his pomegranate-soda method.

Recipe: Try Mike Solomonov's DIY Pomegranate-Mint Sodas

Watermelon Pops

Watermelon Pops Recipe

Leo cools off with a watermelon pop.

Recipe: Try Mike Solomonov's Watermelon Pops

two girls laying on blankets outside

Steven’s daughters, Eva and Sally, lounge after a fun day outside.

group of kids sitting on tree stump

Who wants an ice pop? Everyone!

"Popsicles in the summer evoke beaches, boardwalk kiosks in Israel, and 102 degrees at the playground." says Mike. "And ice pops dripping all over the kids immediately."