While politicians and pundits have been arguing over the idea of a Muslim community center at Ground Zero, the major Muslim holiday Ramadan has quietly started. Ramadan is a holy month that involves fasting during the day and special prayers at night. This year Ramadan has been especially fun, what with all the Muslim bashing going on -- imagine enduring that on an empty stomach! (Okay, hope I'm not the only one here who doesn't think all Muslims are radical jihadists ...)
So, if you only get a quick pre-dawn meal and a simple supper at night, what do you eat to carry you through a day of fasting?
I know what some of you are thinking: quick pre-dawn meal, simple supper at night, nothing in between ... hey, that sounds like my life, every day!
Parathas, pan-fried Indian breadThe pre-dawn meal, called sahur, is typically just breakfast food -- anything from scrambled eggs to parathas, depending on where you live. Obviously bacon is not on the menu. A wise Muslim will try to include some whole grains and protein to keep them going during daylight hours.
After a long day of fasting (that includes no water!) it's time for the fast-breaking meal, the iftar. This meal traditionally begins with water and dates. The dates give people a quick dose of natural sugar to revive them after their fast.
Some folks have iftar at TGI Fridays. Hey, why not?With nearly a billion Muslims around the world in nearly every country, iftar could be anything from pide bread in Turkey to coconut milk-based dessert kolak in Indonesia. But Americans will most likely enjoy typical Middle-Eastern foods. Muslim magazine Ahlan Live lists their top 10 iftar dishes as fattoush and tabbouleh (salads), hummus, moutabel (eggplant dip), stuffed grape leaves, falafel, lamb shawarma, baklava, olives, and lamb kofta.
Also popular is shole zard, a saffron rice pudding that can be decorated with cinnamon. I'm thinking I may have to try this myself even though I'm not Muslim (recipe at Persian-Recipes.com). For that matter, now I'm in the mood for some lamb shawarma and tabbouleh!