The holly month of Ramadan is over and Eid el Fitr (the feast) is here! I don’t want, however, to let it go without posting about my fond memories of the holly month.
Years and miles away from a place that once was home, Egypt, I still vividly remember those days, tightly holding my grandma’s hands while wandering the crowded local open market. The market was teeming with shoppers who were eyeing the freshest ingredients for their Ramadani dishes.
The colorful scene of hills of dry fruits and nuts, the smell of freshly made kataif (Middle Eastern crepes), and the glistening lanterns still put a big smile on my face and cheer me up. The best part was watching the spirals of Kunafe threads sizzling on the hot griddle, before they get amassed in a timely manner by the expert hands of a Kunafe maker.
On the first week of Ramadan, my grandma’s kitchen counter was replete with the offerings of our Muslim neighbors. Whereas on the last week of Ramadan, when the same neighbors are withered up after a whole month of fasting and the taxing daily cooking marathon, my grandma would send them homemade meals to give them a break. Peaceful coexistence among different faiths was so organic. It was never sponsored or politicized. It was true and came straight from the heart.
My Christian pious grandma shared the seasonal, gastronomic treats of her Muslim neighbors’ religious celebrations in exactly the same way they did with us for on Christmas and Easter.
Sadly enough, these true stories of wonderful coexistence in the Middle East seldom get any space in the prevalent negative narrative. When I read the wonderful blog post of Kathryn, the food blogger behind Cardamom and Tea, regarding the same subject, I was determined to come forward and share my story too.
Below is a recipe for refreshing carob juice. Carob juice is associated in my memory with the moment of breaking the fasting. I used to watch volunteers offering fresh juices including carob juice to those who are stuck in the heavy traffic and couldn’t make it to their home on Iftar (breaking the fasting) time.
In addition to its refreshing taste and aroma, carob is known as a healthful substitute for chocolate. It has twice the amount of calcium as cocoa; it is free of a migraine-triggering compound, and it is caffein- and fat-free. It is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern markets and sold as whole pods, chips, molasses, or powder. You might find kids turn into big fans for this exotic drink!
A glass of Carob juice goes a long way on hot summer days.
To all my lovely friends, neighbors and acquaintances who are celebrating Eid Fitr: Many happy returns.
Title of Recipe
- 2 cups of carob chips
- 1 cup of white granulated sugar
- Soak the carob chips overnight to soften. Discard the water on the second day.
- In a heavy bottom pan, over low heat, add the sugar to the carob and let them caramelize together, swirl the pan to avoid burning the sugar.
- Add cold water and let it sit for few hours in the fridge.
- Strain it using a fine mesh sieve and serve with cubes of ice.
- Carob chips are available on amazon, Middle Eastern grocery stores and probably in some health stores.