Day 5: Let's Hear It for Home Cookin'!
Editor's note: Aspiring photojournalist and Gut Check contributor Kholood Eid is chronicling her Ramadan fast in diary form. Click for all Ramadan Diary entries to date.
For many, Sunday is a day of rest. For Mama, Sunday is a chance to shovel a ridiculous amount of food onto her grown children's plates, making sure they're extremely well fed.
Last Sunday was our first family dinner during Ramadan, and it was no exception.
My mother usually cooks in quantities that could feed a Third World country, but with Ramadan upon us she cooks a wider variety of meals. This is to ensure that she has met the individual needs and requests of each of her five kids, two daughter-in-laws, two grandchildren and husband. One of my sisters-in-law, like me, doesn't eat red meat. This often gives my mom a chance to improvise on traditional, normally meat-based dishes -- like bamya.
Bamya is a Middle Eastern dish that consists of fried okra in a tomato-based soup and is usually poured over rice. Sometimes the rice will be topped with fried pine nuts or slivers of almonds. This time it was almonds. Bamya usually has chunks of steak in it, but my mom left it out. If you're a fan of tomatoes and okra, you'll like this dish. It's simple -- not spicy, but it has a good amount of flavor to it.
I also helped myself to some pieces of chicken breast that had been marinated with pepper, lemon, thyme and a hint of rosemary, then sautéed with onions and mushrooms. It, too, went great with the rice.
Most Middle Eastern meals either begin with or feature salad on the side. Mama went with fatoosh, which is similar to a traditional Arabic salad -- diced tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions -- but includes toasted pieces of pita bread broken up and sprinkled on. The salad, which is tossed in lemon juice and olive oil, provides a nice, fresh balance to the meal.
As much as I enjoyed the iftur, none of it came close to the dessert.
My favorite thing about Ramadan is a seasonal dessert called katayif. The base is very similar to pancake batter, but it's only cooked on the one side (it's strange to resist the urge to flip). The uncooked side is then topped with sugar, cinnamon, shredded coconut and walnuts. I'm usually not a fan of coconut, but it's subtle and blends very well with the sweet mixture. The patty is then folded and sealed shut like an empanada and either deep-fried or baked. Mama usually opts for the former, which is fine with me.
These little pockets of heaven are usually dipped in qatar, a watery, honey-based syrup. I prefer them with maple syrup, which only enhances the flavors of the stuffing.
Katayif is one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten, and I'm peeved each year when my mother stops making them as the days of fasting dwindle down. Last year we froze some, so I got to enjoy them past those 30 days of Ramadan.
One of these days, I'll take matters into my own hands and make some of these bad boys myself.