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17 recipes to celebrate Ramadan

From baklava to lamb tagine, 17 recipes to celebrate Ramadan

Observed by Muslims worldwide, Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, a time of fasting meant to commemorate the first revelation of the Koran to the prophet Muhammed.  Before dawn, families observe a pre-fast meal called the suhoor. And at sunset, the fast is broken, often with social gatherings, with a meal known as iftar.

We’ve combed through our recipe database to come up with 17 of our favorite Ramadan dishes. From simple snacks to hearty main courses and sweet treats, these recipes span the month of Ramadan and its various holidays, reflecting a variety of culinary influences.

There are ab-e dandon, cardamom cookies from a Food story about Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday corresponding to the final day of the Mecca pilgrimage. And ‘Igaili, a cardamom-saffron sponge cake, one of the sweet treats commemorating Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday signaling the end of Ramadan. According to culinary historian and former Times food writer Charles Perry, "'Fitr,' or the 'breaking of fast,' is traditionally associated with sweets.” You’ll find a simple eggplant and tomato salad from Claudia Rodin and a hearty lamb tagine from chef Farid Zadi.

Even if you don’t celebrate Ramadan, these are still pretty great recipes, with incredible flavors and rich culinary traditions. One of our favorites, this baklava, was named one of our top 10 recipes of the year.

BAKLAVA

Total time: 2 1/2 hours | Makes about 3 dozen pieces

Note: You can substitute prepared puff pastry sheets for homemade dough if desired (1 sheet of puff pastry for each 20-layer sheet of homemade dough); bake at 375 degrees and omit brushing the puff pastry with melted butter before baking. We tested using 4 (9 1/2-inch square) prepared sheets and made 2 baklava using the amount of walnuts and prepared syrup given below.

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons (17.64 ounces) flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Cornstarch, for flouring
Scant 4 cups (1 pound, 2 ounces) walnuts, coarsely ground
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, then remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the baking powder with the flour. In a separate medium bowl, beat together the eggs, cooking oil and yogurt. Gently stir the liquid ingredients into the dry. Knead to a fairly soft but not sticky dough, adding a little water if necessary.

3. Divide the dough into 40 equal pieces (each will weigh about three-fourths of an ounce and will be about the size of a walnut in its shell). Roll out each one to the size of a small breakfast plate (about 5 inches in diameter), sprinkling with cornstarch to stop the dough from sticking to the counter or pastry board. Stack 20 of the pastry sheets, sprinkling cornstarch in between each layer. Roll out the stacked sheets at once until the dough is about 15 1/2 inches in diameter. (You will need to place it on a large rimmed baking sheet; if you do not have one that's big enough, divide the dough into 80 equal pieces and prepare 2 smaller trays of baklava.)

4. Lay the combined rolled sheets of dough on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the ground walnuts evenly over. Roll out the next 20 sheets of dough in the same way as the first batch and place on top of the walnuts. Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into parallel slices about 2 inches apart, then rotate the baking sheet by 45 degrees and cut again into parallel slices.

5. Spoon the melted butter over the baklava. Bake until the top of the baklava is golden and crisp, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove and pour over the cooled syrup. Serve hot or cold.

Each of 36 pieces: 265 calories; 4 grams protein; 24 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 18 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 26 mg cholesterol; 12 grams sugar; 21 mg sodium.

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