Summary: Azadeh prepares two Iftar table for her guests.
Ramadan is called the month of divine festivities; fasting from dawn to dusk, more than 1.6 billion Muslims around the world enter into the Kingdom of God by refraining from eating, drinking and smoking as stated in the Holy Quran. Instead, they focus on the spiritual aspect of Ramadan; reciting the Holy Quran, soul-searching by engaging in charity works and offering to give to those in need.
Since eating and drinking is prohibited from sunrise to sunset, there are two meal times during which fasters fuel their body for the day ahead; sahari or suhur, and Iftar. Suhur is usually simple and consists of light and water-rich food to keep the body hydrated throughout the day.
But, Iftar is a different story. Usually, Iftar table becomes a banquet of delicacies, refreshments and hearty meals that allow fasters to make up for the lost energy.
I recently had the opportunity to host two iftar for my dear friends observing Ramadan. Following my family tradition to break the fast, I offered my guests a cup of hot water slightly sweetened with honey and infused with rose water drops. The aroma of rose water immediately lifts the mood. The essence itself is known to have hydrating effects which makes it a perfect drink of choice to break the fast especially during the summer heat.
To ease into eating and not overwhelm the digestive system, I offered Saffron Rice Pudding – a fragrant and delectable dessert mostly prepared during Ramadan – to go with a hot glass of tea.
Soups are great for reintroducing food to body after long hours of starvation. The guests enjoyed a hot cup of rolled oats soup as a starter. For the main dish, chicken celery stew was served along with white rice.
On the other occasion, I opted for a more elaborate table with more food choices to choose from. In addition to dates stuffed with walnut, the appetizer platter was filled with white cheese, walnuts, fresh basil and mint, sliced cucumber, tomatoes and an especially stone baked flat bread, sangak.
The bite-sized stuffed grape leaves worked charmingly as a light starter. Also on the table, the yogurt soup garnished with caramelized onions and dried mint satisfied the taste buds of hungry fasters.
Last but not least, the main course consisted of split pea and eggplant stew served with white rice. The dishes on the menu represent a well-balanced diet that includes animal protein as well as plant-based proteins, grains, vegetables, herbs and fruits.
While practicing self-discipline by way of fasting and refraining from bad deeds, sitting at the iftar table is rewarding. After enduring long hours of fasting, there is really no rush to gulp down everything on the table. Nor is it healthy. The iftar can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. The idea is to compensate for breakfast, lunch and dinner in well-spread increments to maintain the body health. Fasting is an opportunity to put your body to test and nourish your spiritual soul at the same time. Ramadan Kareem!