Join the Feast

A JFON supporter shares some of her memories of Eid al-Fatr in Damascus, Syria.

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Before the first day of the Eid, we must make a donation of food to the poor so that all may partake in the feasting. To prepare for the feast, we cook elaborate dishes—a challenge when one is fasting, believe me—and decorate our homes with lights, banners, flowers and paper lanterns.

The prayers that day will touch on the themes of gratitude, peace, generosity, and service to the poor. Then we gather as a family to eat and exchange gifts.

The table is set for the party!
The table is set for the party!

Every country has its own Eid specialties, but the one unifying staple is the date. Dates are frequently mentioned in the Quran, and they are the first food eaten each nightfall to break the Ramadan Fast. Thankfully, this is the one dish that is very easy to prepare:

Stuffed Dates

Whole blanched almonds

Rose water or orange blossom water

One pound pitted dates

Dip almonds in rose water or orange blossom water.  Stuff one almond into each date. That’s all there is to it—probably why mama let the kids do it!

Another commonality of the Eid meals is the wealth of sweets offered. The women in my family spend a great deal of time perfecting sugary and nutty desserts such as baklava. My specialty, however, is much simpler to make and also much healthier to eat!

Tabouli  (Parsley Wheat salad)

2 cups fine to medium grade bulgur wheat

Water

3 cups finely chopped fresh curly parsley (about 6 bunches)

¼ cup chopped fresh mint or 2 Tablespoons crushed dried leaf mint (Middle Eastern/Moroccan mint)

1 Tablespoon minced fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed

1 cup chopped green onions

4 medium to large tomatoes, diced

1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced small

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup lemon juice

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Romaine lettuce leaves for serving (optional)

Black olives for garnish (optional)

Tomato wedges and mint or parsley sprigs for garnish (optional)

Wash and dry the parsley.  Place bulgur in a large bowl and add water to cover.  Let it stand for @ one hour until bulgur has doubled in size and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Take the thoroughly dry parsley and chop it in small batches in a food processor, using short quick bursts of chopping to ensure that the parsley is chopped into small bits, not creamed into mush.

Turn to the soaked bulgur wheat and drain the excess water, squeezing out excess liquid with your hands.  Add the parsley, mint, dill, green onions, tomatoes and cucumber.  Toss gently.

In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Toss this dressing with the bulgur wheat and parsley mixture to thoroughly coat everything.

Refrigerate for several hours.

To serve, line a salad bowl with lettuce leaves.  Mound the tabouli on the lettuce leaves and garnish with olives, tomato wedges and sprigs of herbs.

This recipe serves 12 and keeps for several days.

Cover photo by TimesKuwait.com.