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My Favorite Ramadan Recipes

July 26th, 2012 8 comments

There are certain recipes I turn to every Ramadan. For example, nearly every iftar during the holy month, we sit down to this easy Lentil Soup. This has been a tradition at our house for several decades. However, I have recently improved this recipe by adjusting the seasonings and the method. Meanwhile, another flavorful soup we eat during Ramadan is Moroccan-style Lentil Soup with Chickpeas, a good soup when I’m looking for something hearty.

As for main courses, a Ramadan favorite at our house is the Palestinian dish Maqluba, which means “upside down” in Arabic. It’s prepared in a layered pot—chicken, rice and cauliflower simmered on the stove and served with yogurt on the side and a simple Arabic salad. We traditionally eat this dish on the first day of Ramadan, as we did this year. I plan to prepare it several more times before the month is over.

For a terrific side dish during Ramadan, I’m preparing Fattoush, a hearty peasant salad from the Levant. It’s super-healthy, as it’s loaded with various greens and veggies and prepared with an olive oil dressing. The salad is topped with toasted Arabic bread pieces, which is what makes it fattoush.

As for sweets, our favorite Ramadan indulgence is ‘Atief. There are endless ways to fill and prepare these little pancakes. My method is to stuff them with walnuts and bake them. This makes for a filling sweet which can be served as dessert or as a suhoor snack. I prepare ‘atar scented syrup to pour over top.

A more traditional dish for suhoor, the pre-dawn meal during Ramadan, is Ful, an Egyptian fava bean breakfast, which is filling and nutritious. Also, at some point I will prepare Hummus, which can be made in advance and served at both iftar and suhoor.

Finally, I’d like to wish you all a blessed Ramadan.

Question: What are your favorite Ramadan foods?

Moroccan-style Lentil Soup with Chickpeas

August 16th, 2011 12 comments

I love this soup! This is a wonderful soup to eat as a meal with crusty bread—or to break your fast during Ramadan. This particular soup was adapted from a recipe in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. (A lovely cookbook). However, I changed the ingredients to make the soup heartier and healthier.  Also, I experimented with cooking methods to be able to prepare this on the stovetop or in a slow cooker.

If you’ve never used a slow cooker, it’s a wonderful tool—especially during Ramadan. Why? First, food can be prepped and simmering early in the day. Then when it’s time to break your fast, there’s less last-minute rushing around. Second, a slow cooker can free up your stovetop when entertaining. It’s traditional when hosting a Ramadan iftar to prepare many, many dishes. The slow cooker enables you to get a dish going early on and out of the way.

The ingredients in this recipe are generally straight-forward, except for one: harissa. This Tunisian hot chili sauce comes in a tube, can or small jar. It’s normally found in specialty stores; however, I sometimes have trouble finding it in Dubai. This time I used something called “harissa paste” and it worked just fine. For those that like more of a kick, serve extra harissa on the side.

This recipe calls for canned tomatoes, chopped. I suggest avoiding any type of ready-cut canned tomatoes and opt for whole plum tomatoes, which are higher quality. Chopping them yourself takes only a few minutes, and it improves the flavor of the dish.

Moroccan-Style Lentil Soup with Chickpeas

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, chopped finely

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled & minced

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup orange lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 14½ -ounce can whole plum tomatoes, chopped (reserve liquid)

1 15½-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

6 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock (and/or water)

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 to 2 teaspoons harissa

Fresh pepper and 1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)

Fresh cilantro or parsley (garnish)

Serve with extra lemon slices and harissa on the side.

Method

  1. In a large skillet or cooking pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and carrot and cook until softened. Add the ginger and the four spices, stirring to coat the vegetables.
  2. Transfer the onion mixture to a slow cooker. Alternatively, keep the mixture in the cooking pot to cook on the stovetop. Add the lentils, chickpeas, stock, and chopped tomatoes, including the liquid.
  3. SLOW COOKER METHOD: Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours—or on High for 4 hours.
  4. STOVETOP METHOD: Simmer gently, uncovered, over low heat for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add extra liquid if necessary.
  5. Just before serving, add the lemon juice and harissa and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with lemon slices and extra harissa on the side.

Tell me: what is your favorite Moroccan food—or Ramadan time-saver?

Lentil Soup for the Soul

August 2nd, 2011 19 comments

It’s not Ramadan without lentil soup. When the sun sets and we hear the call to prayer, we break our fast with dates and water and move onto this soup. This is our first course for iftar, the sunset meal to break the fast.

There are as many ways to make this soup as there are Arab families. There are endless variations in seasonings, garnish and proportions. Since we eat this almost every night of Ramadan, my soup is pretty simple.

Easy Lentil Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 or 2 carrots, finely chopped

6 cups water and/or stock

1 cup orange lentils

½ teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon turmeric, for color (optional)

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

pepper to taste

1 lemon

Garnish: chopped parsley

1. Over medium-low heat, sauté garlic and onions until translucent. Add carrots and continue stirring for a few more minutes.

2. Add liquid and lentils. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature and simmer gently for one hour.

3. Add salt, pepper, cumin, and turmeric, if using. For a smooth soup like in the photo, puree in a blender or food processor or use an emulsion blender. Alternatively, if you like the texture, leave as is.

4. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with fresh lemon slices.

 Note: This recipe can easily be doubled. It freezes well.

What soup do you eat during Ramadan?