NEW YORK – With the month of Ramadan quickly approaching, Muslims around the world prepare for a month of spiritual cleansing and self-reflection. The month offers opportunities to reinvigorate one’s relationship with the creator, bolster faith, and interact with family, friends, and community.
In addition to spiritual inspiration and communal unity, Ramadan is a time when Muslim kitchens buzz with preparing essential suhoor (pre-fast) and iftar (break-fast) meals.
Many cooks responsible for feeding fasting Muslims revel in the blessings that come with their efforts and decide on traditional meals as wells as search for new ones to that will satisfy.
In anticipation of Ramadan, author Mindy Johnston graciously shared recipes from her cookbook Halal Comfort Food: The New Muslim’s Guide to Going Halal, soon to be released in print by Djarabi Kitabs Publishing.
Johnston is a revert motivated by challenges she experienced when trying to at halal meals after her conversion to Islam.
According to a Pew Research study, 23 per cent of American Muslims converted to the faith. In addition to learning a new way of worship, converts must also adjust many of their eating habits, and find alternatives can be daunting.
Johnston’s book offers some assistance in making a faith-inspired culinary transition.
Johnston’s recipes include a new take on a suhoor staple, an Italian delight for iftar and a scrumptious dessert.
Ful Medames (Rebooted!)
Ful Medames is a delicious and flavorful spread made of fava beans that is commonly eaten for breakfast in Egypt. Serve with warm pita bread.
- 2 cans small fava beans
- 2 cloves garlic, mashed
- 1 Tbs tahini
- 1 ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Extra olive oil, diced tomato, and diced onion for garnish
Place the fava beans, with liquid into a medium sized sauce pan. Cover the pan and place on the stove over medium heat until the beans are heated through. Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the garlic, tahini, cumin, salt, pepper flakes, lemon juice, and 1/3 cup olive oil in a small bowl.
Drain the beans, and pour the dressing into the pan. Mash the beans and dressing together with a potato masher. Alternately you may also process the beans in a food processer for a smoother consistency.
Once mashed, spoon the mixture into a medium sized serving bowl and smooth out the top. Using the back of a spoon, create a ridge around the sides of the beans, then create a shallow well in the center. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top, then garnish with the diced tomato and onion. If desired, you may add additional garnishes such as chopped fresh parsley, and a sprinkle of sumac or smoked paprika.
Lasagna with Homemade Italian Sausage
Homemade Italian sausage, freshly made sauce and lots of ooey, gooey cheese…what could be better? If you’re in a rush though, feel free to substitute the sauce with a commercially available jarred sauce.
- 1 pound halal ground lamb or ground beef
- 1 ½ tsp dried anise
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ – ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- 3 Tbsp. ice water
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
- 1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp oregano
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2 cups cottage cheese
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp Italian seasoning
- Dash nutmeg
- 1 lb lasagna noodles, prepared according to the directions on the package
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- Nonstick spray
To prepare the sausage, add all of the spices into a medium-sized bowl and mix together with the ice water. Add in the ground lamb or beef and mix with your hands for 2-3 minutes to ensure that all of the seasoning is fully incorporated into the meat.
It is best to make this as far in advance as possible to allow the flavor to develop. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for an hour or two, or even overnight if possible. You can also make the sausage well in advance and freeze it for up to 3 months.
To prepare the sauce, brown the sausage in a large pot, then drain off the grease. Add 2 Tbs olive oil to the pot and place over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for about 3-5 minutes, or until the onions become translucent. Add the minced garlic and saute for a minute longer. Add in the whole tomatoes, breaking the tomatoes apart with your hands, and the tomato sauce. Stir in the Italian seasoning, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow the sauce to simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes.
To prepare the filling, thoroughly mix together the cottage cheese, ricotta, eggs, salt, Italian seasoning and nutmeg in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
To prepare the lasagna, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a deep 9”x13” pan with nonstick spray. Spread ¼ of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan. Layer ¼ of the lasagna noodles over the sauce. Spread another ¼ of the sauce over the noodles. Cover with another layer of lasagna noodles. Spread all of the filling evenly over the noodles, then top with another layer of noodles. Spread ¼ of the sauce over the noodles. Top with the remaining noodles. Top the noodles with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella evenly over the top. Cut a piece of aluminum foil to fit over the top of the dish and spay one side with nonstick spray. Place the foil, sprayed side down, over the dish and secure (this will help prevent the cheese from sticking when removed). Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour, removing the foil during the last 15 minutes to allow the cheese to brown.
This traditional sweet is quick and easy to whip up as the perfect ending to any iftar. It is an especially good accompaniment to hot tea or coffee.
- 1 ½ cups semolina
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 tsp vanilla flavoring
- 1/3 cup raw or blanched almonds
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 Tbs rose water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter an 8” square baking dish and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the semolina, flour, coconut, sugar, baking soda, and melted butter until the butter is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture resembles damp sand. Stir in the yogurt and vanilla. You will be left with a very thick batter. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and press the mixture down with your hands. Using a damp knife, cut the mixture into serving-size squares. Press an almond into the top of each piece. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 – 40 minutes until browned.
While the basbousa is baking, prepare the syrup: Mix together all of the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickened.
Remove the basbousa from the oven and re-cut the slices. Immediately pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the cake. Place on a rack to cool. Serve warm, or at room temperature.