Ramadan, which begins on Monday night, April 12, is a month-long interval of fasting in the course of the day and breaking the quick after sundown at a meal referred to as iftar, typically with household and mates.

The iftar dinner may be easy or elaborate. Many individuals begin by ingesting water, fruit juice or milk, and consuming a date or two.

In Anaheim’s Little Arabia District, most break-the-fast meals are Center Japanese. For a few years we loved going there with mates to lavish iftar buffets at eating places however in the course of the present interval of restricted gatherings, the eating places can’t provide the buffets. The truth is our favourite one, Olive Tree Restaurant, needed to shut final yr; we hope it can reopen quickly.

Center Japanese cuisines are identified for meat dishes however cooks make quite a lot of vegetable dips as effectively, to function appetizers or aspect dishes. Turkish, Syrian and Palestinian iftars typically start with an array of such dips. At residence we make these savory, simple to organize dips and spreads principally from pantry meals mixed with one or two contemporary elements.

One is muhammara, a spicy walnut and crimson pepper pâté seasoned with cumin, semi-hot crimson pepper and pomegranate molasses. We tasted our most memorable muhammara close to Gaziantep in southeast Turkey, at a restaurant on the banks of the biblical Euphrates River, the place it was served with just-baked flatbread.

Grilled eggplant dip enriched with tahini and flavored with lemon and garlic, referred to as baba ghanouj or mutabbal, is one other favourite of ours. For a reddish unfold with a contact of sweetness, we add pureed grilled candy crimson peppers. For a fragile taste, we substitute yogurt for the tahini.

Hummus, the acquainted chickpea and tahini dip, is the quickest of all to organize if you happen to use canned chickpeas. Center Japanese cooks typically give the hummus a bowl form and drizzle olive oil within the middle, then garnish it with chopped parsley and semi-hot floor crimson pepper.

What individuals eat for iftar varies in keeping with their origins. At an Afghan iftar, for instance, we had aushak —Afghan dumplings full of leek chives and topped with meat and break up pea sauce; at a Pakistani iftar we ate peppery hen curry and pakoras — vegetable and chickpea flour fritters; a Ramadan meal we savored at a Sri Lankan restaurant featured biryani — meat cooked with spiced rice. It doesn’t matter what the culinary fashion of the Ramadan dinner is, it may be a veritable feast.

Muhammara (spicy walnut crimson pepper pâté) garnished with crimson walnuts, contemporary oregano, thyme, roasted garlic, drizzled with olive oil. (Picture by Yakir Levy)

Spicy Walnut and Purple Pepper Pâté (Muhammara)

Serve this Center Japanese unfold in halved mini candy peppers, on cucumber slices or in a bowl, with contemporary bread. Oregano and thyme leaves and roasted garlic cloves are good additions to the garnish.

Yield: 8 servings


2 medium-size crimson bell peppers

2 cup walnuts (about 7 ounces), plus walnut quarters or halves for garnish

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

1 or 2 crimson Fresno peppers (elective), seeds eliminated if desired, finely chopped

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or strained contemporary lemon juice

2 to three tablespoons additional virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons paprika

1 teaspoon floor cumin

Sea salt to style

1 to three teaspoons crushed semi-hot Turkish crimson pepper or Aleppo pepper (coarsely floor, semi-hot Center Japanese crimson pepper) or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to style (elective)

Halved mini candy peppers, mini cucumber slices or contemporary flatbread (for serving)

Chopped Italian parsley (garnish)

Muhammara (spicy walnut crimson pepper pâté) served in mini candy peppers and on mini cucumber slices, garnished with crimson walnuts and parsley (Picture by Yakir Levy)


1. Preheat broiler. Set bell peppers on a slotted broiler pan or in a roasting pan, lined with foil if you happen to like. Broil, turning peppers a number of occasions, till they’re charred on all surfaces, about 7 to 12 minutes. Take away from broiler.

2. In the event you broiled the peppers on foil, enclose them within the foil; in any other case put them in a bowl and canopy, or put them in a plastic or paper bag and shut bag. Let stand till cool sufficient to deal with. Peel with help of a paring knife. Lower them in half, draining off any liquid. Lower peppers in items, discarding cap and seeds.

3. Grind walnuts and breadcrumbs in a meals processor till fantastic. Add chopped crimson Fresno pepper and peeled candy pepper items and course of to combine. Add pomegranate molasses, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sugar, paprika and cumin and course of to a paste, leaving a number of chunks if you happen to like.

4. Switch combination to a bowl. For a thinner or moister unfold, stir in 2 to three tablespoons water by teaspoons.

5. Add salt to style and, if desired, semi-hot crimson pepper or cayenne and extra pomegranate molasses or sugar. Refrigerate for 1 hour to mix flavors.

6. Serve the pâté drizzled with olive oil if desired, and garnished with parsley and walnuts.

Grilled eggplant dip with yogurt garnished with roasted seasoned almonds, crimson pepper, parsley, drizzled with olive oil. (Picture by Yakir Levy)

Three-way Grilled Eggplant Dip

The best method to cook dinner eggplants is to grill them complete. You can also make them into Center Japanese eggplant dip with tahini, Persian-style eggplant with yogurt, or reddish- orange eggplant dip with roasted crimson peppers. (See variations.)

Globe eggplants are conventional however we like to make use of Chinese language eggplants too. For garnish, use mint sprigs, olives, toasted almonds or pomegranate arils, or the customary chopped parsley and floor crimson pepper. Serve these dips with contemporary pita bread or different Center Japanese flatbreads.

Yield: 4 to six servings


2 globe eggplants (complete about 2 kilos), complete

3 massive garlic cloves, minced

4 to five tablespoons tahini (sesame paste), stirred in jar till blended earlier than measuring, or extra to style

3 to 4 tablespoons strained contemporary lemon juice, or to style

1 to 2 tablespoons water

Salt and freshly floor black pepper

Additional virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

About 2 or 3 teaspoons minced Italian parsley (garnish)

Aleppo pepper (coarsely floor, semi-hot Center Japanese crimson pepper), coarsely floor scorching or candy paprika or cayenne pepper (garnish)


1. Preheat broiler or put together grill with medium-hot coals.

2. Prick every eggplant 5 or 6 occasions with a fork. Set eggplants on a broiler pan, lined with foil if you happen to like, or on grill. Broil or grill, turning eggplants a number of occasions, till they’re very tender, about 20 minutes. They need to look collapsed and their skins must be charred; verify for tenderness by urgent on neck finish or piercing it with a fork — it ought to go in simply.

3. Take away eggplants from oven or grill. Let stand till cool sufficient to deal with.

4. Lower off eggplant caps. Halve eggplants lengthwise. Scoop and scrape out eggplant pulp from inside pores and skin. Put pulp in a colander; depart for five minutes to empty off any liquid. Chop pulp fantastic with a knife or by pulsing in a meals processor.

5. Switch eggplant to a bowl. Add garlic and blend effectively.

6. Spoon tahini right into a medium-size bowl. Regularly stir in 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water. Add to eggplant and blend effectively. Season generously with salt, add pepper to style and extra lemon juice for a sharper style or water for a milder style or thinner dip. In the event you like, stir in additional tahini; style once more for seasoning. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours to mix flavors.

7. To serve, unfold eggplant combination in a thick layer on a plate, making edges barely thicker than middle. Drizzle middle with olive oil. Garnish with parsley and Aleppo pepper.


Grilled Eggplant Dip with Yogurt

Omit tahini, lemon juice and water. Combine 1 1/2 cups complete milk yogurt into eggplant-garlic combination. Add 1/2 teaspoon dried mint or extra to style, and, if desired, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons roasted peeled scorching peppers resembling jalapenos or pinches of cayenne pepperto style. Style for salt; add extra yogurt if desired.

Grilled eggplant dip with crimson peppers drizzled with olive oil, garnished with chopped parsley. (Picture by Yakir Levy)

Grilled Eggplant and Purple Pepper Dip

Broil and peel 1 1/2 to 2 kilos crimson bell peppers, following steps 1 and a couple of in recipe for Spicy Walnut and Purple Pepper Pâté. Purée broiled peppers in a meals processor. Add chopped broiled eggplant, minced garlic and tahini sauce to processor and mix till easy. Style for salt, and add 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or cayenne pepper to style. Serve drizzled with olive oil and, if you happen to like, garnished with roasted crimson pepper strips.

Hummus (chickpea tahini dip) garnished with chickpeas, chives, edible flowers, crimson pepper, drizzled with olive oil. (Picture by Yakir Levy)

Chickpea and Tahini Dip (Hummus)

When time permits, we cook dinner dried chickpeas for hummus; their cooking liquid enhances the flavour. Along with the standard garnishes — a drizzle of olive oil, and pinches of chopped parsley and floor crimson pepper, you possibly can add chopped chives, mint sprigs, edible flowers, cooked chickpeas or toasted pine nuts.

Yield: 8 servings


1/2 pound dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) (about 1 1/4 cups) or two 15-ounce cans

2 massive garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste), stirred in jar till blended earlier than measuring

1/3 cup strained contemporary lemon juice

1 teaspoon floor cumin (elective)

1/2 cup chickpea cooking liquid or water

Salt to style

1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

Aleppo pepper, paprika or cayenne pepper (garnish)

Chopped Italian parsley (garnish)


1. Decide over chickpeas, discarding any pebbles and damaged or discolored peas. Rinse effectively. In the event you like, soak chickpeas 8 hours or in a single day in water to cowl generously; this cuts their cooking time barely and helps enhance the feel if peas are outdated. Drain soaked chickpeas and rinse.

2. Put chickpeas in a big saucepan and add 5 cups water. Convey to a simmer. Cowl and cook dinner over low warmth for 1 1/2 hours or till very tender. Drain effectively, reserving cooking liquid. Cool barely. In the event you like, rub chickpeas gently to take away their skins.

3. Chop chickpeas in meals processor. Add garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin and 1/4 cup chickpea cooking liquid or liquid from the can. Puree till blended and chickpeas are finely floor. Switch to a bowl. Regularly stir in additional chickpea cooking liquid or water till puree is a easy unfold. Season with salt to style. Refrigerate, coated, till able to serve.

4. To serve, spoon hummus onto a serving plate. Unfold it so edges are thicker than middle. Drizzle olive oil into middle. Garnish with pinches of Aleppo pepper and chopped parsley.

Faye Levy is the creator of “Feast from the Mideast.”


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