Monday, August 1, 2011
Breaking the Fast on the First Day of Ramadan
Islam's holiest month, Ramadan, began last night. Tonight at sundown, therefore, will be the end of the first day of fasting, with denial of food and water during daylight hours this month being one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
The month of Ramadan is the time during which The Quran "was sent down from heaven (to provide) guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation ...," according to RamadanKareem.org. Fasting, then, is a form of self-denial intended to encourage reflection, introspection, patience, humility, and rejuvenation. And Ramadan is an extremely auspicious month, considered to be filled with blessings.
Iftar - the evening meal to break the fast - is one that is ideally shared with family and community. And it is necessarily both nutritious and fairly light. It is traditional for many to first eat a date when they sit down to their meal; this is then followed by a wide variety of foods, dependent upon country and culture.
I cooked up this chickpea dish over the weekend and offer it as an option for breaking the fast. It's quick and easy to make, features spices which are commonly used in the Middle East (the birthplace of Islam, of course), and is absolutely delicious!
Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Spinach
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sumac (available at Middle Eastern markets)
1 teaspoon shawarma spices (available at Middle Eastern markets)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent. Add the chickpeas and tomato; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, sumac and shawarma spices; cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley.
Serve over rice or stuffed into a pita or placed into a hollowed-out tomato.
Please note: You can squeeze the juice from half-a-lemon onto this in place of the sumac. And you can substitute a mix of cumin, garlic powder, and a pinch each of cloves and cinnamon for shawarma spices.
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