Host an Iftar for Your Neighbor
Tastes: Fresh dates, fruits, juice, and maybe some Maa’mouls or easy Lentil Shorbet to be extra festive?
Sounds: Gorgeous audio recitation of Quran, free via Spotify
Story: Connect with your neighbors over a simple iftar
Curious about Ramadan and/or other Muslim traditions? What better way to learn about the Ramadan, than to invite friends or neighbors over to your house to break the fast together and let them tell you how and why Ramadan is so important to them. It is very easy to prepare the food items you need and beyond that you just need a cozy and respectful place and attitude.
This Ramadan we are celebrating similarities and variances of Ramadan traditions around the world. We shared the reflections of one family in Brooklyn, including memories and recipes, and we have a few more in the works. If you are inspired to share your story, you can share your story through this Google form!
Our Culture Capsules typically feature a related playlist for the auditory portion of the multi-sensory adventure. This time will be slightly different, and probably my favorite offering to date.
It is the Quran recitation by Sheikh Mishary Rashid Alfasay, available on Spotify, which is free with ads. The recitation is sung and it is gorgeous. If you haven’t listened to the Quran being recited, you are in for a treat. Even if you don’t know what is being said, I think you will feel the powerful peacefulness of it. Take a second to put it on before you continue reading.
You put it on, right? How beautiful…
ftar is the breaking of the fast. Once the clock strikes the official sundown time, which is also when the adhan (call to prayer) is made, people observing the fast may have a date (or 3) to break their fast, just as the Prophet Muhammed once did.
Contrary to what you may assume, when sundown comes there isn’t a gorge-fest to make up for a day of fasting. Friends tell me that not only is it tradition to break the fast slowly but it is the after many hours of fasting the body wants a slower introduction to food, starting with dates, and water, tea or juice. It’s all the stomach can handle at first. After some time, = a small meal will follow. These meals are often soups or breakfast-type foods, both of which vary according to family customs and/or geography.
As W. Kamau Bell would tell you, ask the dumb (but respectful) questions, instead of making up answers or going with answers that other people made up (appropriately, he said this in his “What I Learned from Muslims in Small-Town America” episode of United Shades of America filmed in Dearborn and Hamtramck, Michigan. Watch it if you haven’t already!
Dates are recommended to break one’s fast during Ramadan, so be sure to have some on hand. It is a Prophetic tradition but it also it provides the body with sugar by helping restore low blood sugar after fasting all day. Juice, especially freshly-squeezed, is appreciated too. That’s all is really needed, especially if your guests plan to head elsewhere for prayers and/or dinner after breaking their fast.
If you expect your guests to stay longer, you may ask if they want to have a meal as well. They may want to or they may plan to have a larger meal at home with family or friends later in the night. One option for a quick but delicious soup sometimes eaten at Ramadan is this recipe for Shorbet Adas (lentil soup).
Some local friends from Yemen shared these delicious sambusas (some made with potato and peas, and some with beef) that they made.
For the ma’amoul, I referred to several recipes and ultimately went off on my own. I also DOUBLED the batch below. This should make about 30 cookies, which is enough to eat and also share some. We always like to make a big batch of things so that there’s enough to share, plus, with the multiple steps/ingredients here, it makes sense to make a larger batch while everything is out!
- 1 1/2-2 cups dried dates, pitted and chopped, or 13 oz package of baking dates / date paste
- 1 1/2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- [ground anise or fennel next time if we have it....]
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1-3 tbsp water, to get desired consistency and so it doesn't scorch
- 1/2 cup pistachios
For The Dough
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp sunflower oil
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup water (if needed for dough to reach correct consistency)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Heat a small saucepan over low heat.
- Add all the filling ingredients and continue stirring and mashing continuously until it becomes thick and pasty, for likely not more than 5 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely.
Prepare the Dough
- In a small bowl, mix the warm (not hot!!) milk and yeast. Set aside until the yeast has softened and is foamy, 8-10 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, mix flour and sugar.
- Rub the oil and melted butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture is an even, sandy texture.
- Add the yeast and milk mixture and vanilla. Mix gently with your fingers.
- Add water, a little at a time, mixing gently after each addition, until the dough comes together in a soft and shaggy dough.
- Cover the dough and set aside to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.
Shaping the Cookies
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Take 1 tbsp of dough, roll it into a ball, flatten it into a disc of about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
- Place 1 tsp of filling on the center. Wrap up the edges of the dough around the filling and pinch it together.
- Roll it between your hands again to make a ball shape.
- Flatten it into a cookie shape.
- Place the cookies on the parchment lined sheet 1 inch apart.
- Bake for about 10-12 minutes, turning halfway through. Cook only until just barely beginning to brown on the top.
- Allow to cool completely then dust with powdered sugar using a sieve.