I am not a Muslim. So when I was thinking about Iftar, I’m afraid I had some misconceptions.
Iftar is an evening meal that breaks the daily fast during the month of Ramadan. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, is a time of prayer and reflection and abstinence from sin and bodily pleasures. The holy month begins with the first observation of the crescent moon around April 2 and ends around May 2.
Those Muslims who are able are obliged to refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset every day throughout the month. Pre-dawn food, called suhur, is meant to provide energy to survive the day. Dinner, iftar, is supposed to soothe the day’s hunger.
I assumed that a certain group of dishes would be served on the iftar, at least for cultural reasons, if not specifically religious. This is why assuming is generally a bad idea. It turns out that for iftar you can serve basically anything you like.
And when I think about it now, it makes sense. Ramadan lasts 29 or 30 days depending on the year. No one wants to eat the same few prescribed foods for so long. You can serve cheeseburgers as an iftar or a bucket of fried chicken.
Nevertheless, many families serve food from their cultural background to at least some meals during Ramadan. It’s the food they grew up with. It’s a comfortable meal. It tastes like home.
Most Muslim families in the United States come from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. For iftar dishes, I focused on recipes from these regions.
I started with the famous baba ghanoush, a smoky eggplant that is popular throughout the Middle East – and in recent years around the world. It tastes more complex than hummus in almost the same way: with pieces of pita, like a dip to vegetables or, frankly, licked from the finger you just dipped into it.
Do not be shy. Everyone does it. The finger adds flavor.
Eggplant is, of course, the primary ingredient of baba ghanoush, but what makes it so silky and addictive are the other ingredients that are mixed into it: yogurt, but not too much, garlic, tahini and lemon juice.
I stayed in the Middle East for my next meal iftar, mujadarrah, which is lentils and rice with fried onions.
This is the most reassuring food. Although it consists of only four simple ingredients plus salt and pepper, the way they combine is stunning.
Ordinary lentils and rice, although perfectly acceptable for food, are a bit boring. But fried onions bring unexpected depth of flavor along with irresistible sweetness that comes from long, slow caramelization.
The fourth and final ingredient in mujadarrah is yogurt (browned onions are made from onions and olive oil, but I count it as the only ingredient). The creamy spiciness of yogurt intersects with umami-heavy undertones of other ingredients. It is a masterful move that brings cohesion to the dish.
I headed to Southeast Asia for my next meal, iftar, the potato chips that come to us from a food blogger from Pakistan.
These wonderful little packages are a quick way to prepare samosas, those stuffed fried appetizers that should not be missed in any restaurant serving food from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The filling is a well-known potato filling, which you will find in samosas; it makes aloo paratha bread so good. Ordinary mashed potatoes are heavily spiced with coriander, rasca, turmeric and a spicy mixture of spices called chaat masala (I bought it at an international grocery store; if you don’t want to go into trouble, you can do without it).
We also mix onion, garlic, mint, peas, lemon juice and coriander into the mixture. No ingredient stands out; it is a unique combination of all flavors mixed together that provides a distinctive feature.
What makes these chops stand out is the packaging. Instead of the dough, which you prepare yourself, mix and let rest for an hour, this old dish uses ordinary old sandwich bread. All you have to do is roll it flat, place the filling in the middle and fold it into a triangle. Soak in an egg, strain in breadcrumbs and fry in hot oil.
I kept the main course at the end, a sticky Malaysian chicken with pineapple salad. Once again, the warm and soothing tastes deny how easy it is to prepare.
This dish has two parts – three if you count chicken, but it’s just chicken.
The first part is the chicken glaze. It is a mixture of honey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger, with sesame oil, fish sauce and chilli to warm up. It all comes together in a food processor in a few minutes.
While the glaze-covered chicken is being baked in the oven, you can prepare the second part of the dish, pineapple salad. It is a remarkably refreshing blend of pineapple, cucumber, red onion and lime juice.
Fresh salad is a beautiful contrast to chicken, but to be honest, every piece of food would be great on its own.
And ift? Nothing could be better.
Yield: 6 servings
2 (1-pound) eggplants, cut in length
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, ground
1/2 cup white, full-fat yogurt
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, see notes
Mint leaves, for decoration, optional
Notes: Pomegranate seeds are harder to find than ever before. I bought mine at Whole Foods. They are a beautiful addition to this recipe, but they are not necessary.
– If you do not have a grill, go to step 2.
1. Prepare the fire on the grill. When the coals are hot, prick the eggplant skins with a fork or knife over the entire surface and bake on the grill, turning once until the cutting side starts to turn slightly black and the skin is not charred. Let cool. Skip to step 3.
2. If you do not have a grill, heat the broilers to the maximum; Prick the aubergine skins with a knife or fork and place on a baking sheet on the top grate of your oven. Grill, turn once until the cutting side starts to blacken and the skin coals. Let cool.
3. Using a large spoon, remove the eggplant from the peel and set it aside. Put lemon juice, tahini and garlic in the food processor; let stand for 10 minutes. Add the reserved eggplant, yogurt, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Make a hole on the surface and drizzle with oil. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and mint.
Per serving: 165 calories; 15 g fat; 3 g of saturated fat; 3 mg cholesterol; 4 g protein; 7 g of carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 2 g of fiber; 403 mg sodium; 40 mg of calcium
Edited according to a recipe in Saveur
LENTILS AND ROASTED ONION RICE (MUJADARRAH)
Yield: 4 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large white onion, cut into circles
1 1/3 cups green lentils
3/4 cup uncooked long grain white rice
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup white yogurt
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn a rich mahogany brown, about 45 minutes to 1 hour or longer. Don’t let it turn black; it will make them bitter. Browned onions can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for several months.
2. Place the lens in a medium pot and cover with 1 1/2 inches of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cook for about 15 minutes.
3. Add rice and enough water to cover 1/2 inch or a little more. Add at least 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the rice and lentils soften. Let cover stand out of the fire for at least 5 minutes.
4. Add 1/2 onion and stir with a fork to mix and inhale the rice well. Taste and taste if necessary. For serving, place the remaining onion and yogurt on each portion.
Per serving: 460 calories; 10 g fat; 2 g of saturated fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 22 g protein; 73 g of carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 8 g of fiber; 167 mg sodium; 76 mg of calcium
Recipe by Melissa Mueller at allrecipes.com
POTATO BREAD CUTS
Yield: 8 servings (32 patties)
2 medium potatoes
1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili or to taste
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed rasca seeds (or dried rasca)
A pinch of turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chaat masala, see note
1 green chili
6 mint leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped
32 slices of sandwich bread
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups breadcrumbs
Note: Chaat masala is a mixture of spices. It is available on international food markets. If you can’t find it, you can skip it.
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Put in boiling water and cook until soft for about 10 minutes. We strain and push.
2. Heat the oil to a medium temperature in a large skillet. Add the onion and salt to taste and cook until clear, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
3. Add crushed red chili, coriander, rasca, turmeric and chaat masala and stir until combined. Add the mashed potatoes, green chilli, mint and peas and stir until well mixed. Add lemon juice and coriander and mix well. Remove from heat.
4. Remove the crust from the bread and roll each slice with a thin roller. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of one slice. Lightly soak the edges of the bread around the perimeter with water, bend one corner so that it meets the opposite corner, and form a triangle. Press the sides together to seal. Repeat with the remaining slices and filling.
5. Pour the oil 1 1/2 inches deep into a large pot and bring to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While heating, place eggs in one bowl and breadcrumbs in the other. Soak each triangle first in eggs to wrap, then in breadcrumbs to cover; take off on a plate. Fry the triangles in oil several at a time, without pushing, into the goldsmith on both sides. We pick it on a plate lined with paper towels to drip.
Per serving: 600 calories; 13 g fat; 3 g of saturated fat; 93 mg cholesterol; 20 g protein; 98 g carbohydrates; 11 g of sugar; 7 g of fiber; 1,211 mg sodium; 267 mg of calcium
Recipe by yesicancook.pk
STICKING MALAYSIAN CHICKEN WITH PINEAPPLE SALAD
Yield: 4 to 5 servings
For topping and chicken
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 (1 1/4-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/3 cup liquid honey
1/3 cup light soy sauce or tamari
1 red chili (remove seeds if you want less spicy)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 pounds of chicken thighs
2 pounds of chicken thighs
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, roasted
For pineapple salad
1/2 of a small pineapple, see note
1 small red onion
1 lime, juicy
1 pinch of salt
Note: You can use fresh pineapple that has already been peeled, or even canned pineapple if you want.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Glaze preparation: In a food processor, mix garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce, chilli, sesame oil and fish sauce until it is completely smooth. Put the chicken pieces in a large baking pan with the glaze and mix well to wrap. Roast for 45 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle with fried sesame seeds.
3. To prepare the salad: Cut the cucumber lengthwise; remove the seeds with a spoon and remove the seeds. Cut each piece lengthwise, then cut at an angle and place in a large bowl. Cut the pineapple into small cubes and add to the bowl. Peel the onion and cut into thin slices. Add to bowl along with lime juice.
4. Taste the salad just before serving; add salt if necessary.
Per serving (based on 5): 310 calories; 11 g fat; 2 g of saturated fat; 102 mg cholesterol; 25 g protein; 31 g carbohydrates; 24 g sugar; 1 g of fiber; 1,600 mg sodium; 53 mg of calcium
Slightly modified from Rachel Khoo’s recipe through food52.com
Baba Ghanoush served with a drink
Sticky Malaysian chicken with pineapple salad
Lentils and rice with fried onions (Mujadarrah)