Fresh Fridays 
July 26, 2013
  Vol. V, No. 12    
Puff pastry filled with dates and walnuts. Text says
Although we often associate the Mediterranean Diet with the cuisines of Greece and Italy, the Mediterranean Diet also encompasses many other culinary traditions, including those of southern France, Spain, Portugal, the Middle East, and North Africa. The Mediterranean is home to a rich diversity of foodways, informed by the equally diverse cultural traditions of the region.


Each year Muslims in the Mediterranean region and across the world observe the fast of Ramadan for 29-30 days (one lunar month). This year Ramadan began on the evening of Monday, July 8 and will end the evening of Wednesday, August 7.    


Sakina Cornell, a half-American, half-Moroccan Muslim woman who now lives in Denmark, shares with us her own family traditions:     

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From a spiritual perspective, Ramadan is a time for self-reflection, introspection, worship, and meditation, observed in part through abstaining from food and drink from dawn until sunset. Abstaining from eating and drinking allows those who observe Ramadan to redirect their attention from the hustle and bustle of daily life to spiritual matters. From a social perspective, Ramadan draws community and families together. The nightly breaking of the fast, called iftar, is a time for prayer, food, family, and fun. 


My iftar traditions are strongly rooted in Moroccan culture. My mother, who is Moroccan, maintains these traditions whether we are living in Morocco or abroad. Now that I have my own household and husband, the traditions live on with me.


In Morocco, as in most of the Islamic world, iftar is all about the food. It is eaten right after the sunset prayer, or Maghrib. Everyone in the family anticipates iftar, and even children (who are not required to fast) can't wait to break fast. No Moroccan iftar would be complete without harira, a meat-based tomato and lentil soup. Harira is eaten year round in Morocco, but is especially important for breaking the fast during Ramadan. There are as many variations on harira recipes as there are Moroccan families, however authentic harira recipes share some basic ingredients. One of my fondest childhood memories from my time in Morocco during Ramadan was catching the rich scent of cooking harira as it wafted from neighbors' homes 2-3 hours before Maghrib. Along with harira, our iftar table, and that of most Moroccans, would include dates, milk, hard-boiled eggs, and finger foods like briouats (seafood or meat filled pastries), and traditional desserts. Two types of dessert are most common: sfouf and shebbakia. Shebbakia is a honey soaked fried sesame pastry, while sfouf (also known as smita or sellout) is an unhusked sesame, almond and flour dessert. Families either make or purchase these sweets, and during Ramadan you see sweet stalls with carts piled high with glistening stacks of shebbakia and mounds of sfouf.


While I can't capture all of the magic a Ramadan in Morocco evokes living here in Denmark, there are a few traditions I can't live without. Every Ramadan includes harira and dates no matter where I live. Below is my basic harira recipe, in the hopes that if you make it, you'll feel a little of the magic of Ramadan, too.
(Click on the titles or photos below to link to the recipes.)
Bowl of harira soup garnished with parsley. Harira        

Try making Sakina's family recipe for harira, a traditional soup made with beef or lamb, tomato, lentils, and chick peas.  

Recipe courtesy of Sakina Cornell    
Plate with three pieces of sfouf bi dibs, a type of cake made with carob molasses. Sfouf Bi Dibs      

During the month of Ramadan it is customary to eat sweets during the evening meal known as iftar. This recipe replaces cane sugar with carob molasses and is a version of a traditional iftar treat. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar

Dates are a traditional food on iftar tables in Morocco and other parts of the Mediterranean. Try this date-stuffed pastry for your next special occasion. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Bard Valley Natural Delights 
Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.   

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        



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Explore the wide range of flavors and cooking styles of Moroccan cuisine in Jeff Koehler's Morocco: A Culinary Journey.
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