Returning with a hunger!

The first blessed meal of RamadanI never meant to abandon you. Every day that has passed since that fateful Saturday evening (thumb still flaunts an irritating scar) I have longed to return here in hopes of concocting such sorcery with words that even the driest of tongues and most satiated of hungers will be left smacking their lips and reaching out to the screen for a taste.

Ok, creepy.  Rein it in, Alya.

This unintended break has allowed a lot of breathing room though, and most importantly has reinforced a truth: this site is a beacon of sanity for me.  I can sit and dream up edible possibilities and suddenly the world makes sense again…  Ah, but I’ll spare you any rambling discourse and just get straight into it.  It’s certainly unexpected that I would reboot this blog during Ramadan of all times, but anyone going through this blessed month of fasting will tell you that dishes demand the spotlight.  Whether that’s because a certain variety of dishes only make their presence known traditionally during this month (fruit chaat anyone) or because we become exceedingly more appreciative and aware of what we eat and how much we take in, at the end of the day I have felt increasingly inspired and cajoled into baking, cooking, and desiring to share and reflect upon it.

So just as a reintroduction into my little world of eating, I’d like to share the first dinner of Ramadan this year, an exceptionally special occasion because it was my first one here in MD with the husband.  For the unawares, we fast during daylight hours for a month, and at sunset we break our fast – a special meal called iftar.  Traditionally one has a date first, and from there the food expands into the realm of individual cultures. 

Within my culture and family traditions, a few things are vital: the dates (of course), samosas, and the most heavenly of concoctions—fruit chaat!  Fruit chaat is the best Ramadan dish ever (don’t listen to the husband who will argue otherwise; just pity him and his unrefined palette). 

the food of my heaven, no doubt.Basically, it is fruit salad, but to leave it at that would be utter sacrilege!  You could at least say it’s a spicy fruit salad, but it must (in my opinion) abide by the following rules:

  1. Bananas – these are the most important fruit, the foundation, the heart and soul if you will.  Without these, don’t even bother giving me any (that’s not true, I’ll still eat it, please, share!)
  2. Apples, tropical fruits, pears, nectarines, strawberries – all good additions
  3. NO GRAPES (Sorry, I had to say it)
  4. Spices – you can buy fruit chaat masala mixes, that’s the easiest way to go—it has a blend of too many things to list off the top of my head.  What my family always does is mix a little bit of that (depends how spicy you like it) with some orange juice (freshly squeezed trumps all!), a smidge of salt, some red pepper, and a dash of sugar if the fruit isn’t particular at its sweetest.
  5. Serve and fight me for the bowl ‘cuz I ain’t letting go

Yes that truly is how much I love it.  But as this is a month of charity and blessings, You can have a bite. Just one.

For my first iftar here, I had a small assortment of goodies besides that, including:

Cream-filled dates (a delicacy of the sweetest joys!)Chana (Garbanzo beans cooked with onions, spices, and a bit of tamarind)Samosas (I wish I could make them this good, but these are courtesy of a blessed lady in CA who creates harmonious flavors in her chicken and potato samosas)And eggplant Pakoras!  I can give you the rundown of these succulent treats:

  • Small round eggplants (no idea what they are called) – sliced in rounds, sprinkled with salt and dipped in lemon juice (for flavor, to keep from browning, to aid in getting some moisture out)
  • Besan (gram flour/chickpea flour)
  • A dash of baking soda (perhaps ½ tsp per 1 cup flour)
  • Salt
  • Turmeric
  • Red pepper
  • Cumin
  • Water

No quantities given because I just winged it until I had a nice consistency, pasty liquid, not too thick to glop into the frying pan, but not watery thin.  And the spices are simply to taste, you do what you like.

Just heat a frying pan with some oil and drop a few in at a time, flip over once and remove to a paper towel when golden brown.  Serve with chutney, sauce, or anything worthy of dipping.

So that was my first iftar with the husband—his sister came over too, so we partook in this pleasure together.  Dinner did follow shortly after this, and I don’t think I have eaten so much in recent years during Ramadan.  The rest of Ramadan certainly has generally not followed suit as far as quantity of food (none of which has gone to waste, I am so proud to admit) but I have had some splendid moments in the past weeks which I am hankering to share with you.

For now, have a blessed last week of Ramadan and partake in some fruit chaat this evening.

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