Muslims around the world will spend the next month fasting daily from sunrise to sunset. But the ways they choose to break that fast each night will be all over the map — from smoothies and lamb tacos to raisins and cereal. We explore the cultural quirks and traditions families bring to make the month of Ramadan their own.


  • Lobna Ismail President, Connecting Cultures, Inc.
  • Andy Shallal Owner of Busboys and Poets, Iraqi American, peace activist, artist, and co-founder of The Peace Cafe.
  • Yvonne Maffei Editor,


Courtesy Yvonne Maffei

Nonna’s Italian Wedding Soup

This is a classic Italian soup that I grew up on. My grandmother (Nonna) made it and so did my mother. When it was time for me to make it, I incorporated a few tricks of my own, using beef and chicken from my local halal markets.

Serves 8
Meatballs Ingredients
1 Tb. dried parsley
1 Tb. dried basil
3 cloves garlic
1 cup bread crumbs (unseasoned)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 lbs. ground beef
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Soup Ingredients
2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
2 small yellow onions, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 lb. chicken, skinless, boneless & diced
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
4 cups water, vegetable broth or chicken stock
1/2 lb. small pasta noodles (1/2 bag)
1/2 lb. (8oz.) fresh or frozen spinach
flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped for topping
Extra Parmesan and Pecorino-Romano cheeses for topping

Soup Directions
1. In a large Dutch oven, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil over medium heat until all the vegetables are soft, but not brown.

  1. Remove the vegetable mixture from pan and set aside.

  2. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and brown on both sides, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side.

  3. Return cooked vegetables to the pan.

  4. Add the spices then the water or broth. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta noodles, then reduce heat to a simmer.

  5. Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs by mixing all the ingredients listed. Make each meatball about the size of a walnut.

  6. Add meatballs to pot and more water to cover, if necessary. Add the spinach.

  7. Continue to simmer for about 1- 1 ½ hrs., or until the center of the meatballs are no longer pink (approximately 1 hour).

  8. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and Pecorino-Romano cheeses and fresh flat leaf parsley on top.

Buon Appetito!

Dates & Cream Iftar

Because it’s a religious tradition to break one’s fast with dates, most Muslims will have plenty to go around during the month of Ramadan. My personal favorite is the Medjool date because it is thick and meaty and therefore, easy to stuff. This recipe serves to add even more flavors and texture to the palate upon breaking the fast by incorporating a variety of nuts, fresh cream, honey and lemons to the already delicious and nutritious date.

Serves 4
20 Medjool dates (large)
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/8 cup chopped mixed nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios
1-2 tablespoons honey

1. Wash and dry the date and remove any pits, but do not break the dates apart.

  1. Stuff each date with a 1/2 teaspoon of the chopped nuts.

  2. On a plate or platter, arrange the dates. Dollup the creme fraiche on top of the dates. Drizzle with honey and lemon zest on top.

  3. Serve at room temperature with small forks for dipping.
    Note: Check out the recipes for homemade crème fraiche and how to preserve your own citrus zest, as well as suggestions for some of the country’s finest honey on

Courtesy Andy Shallal

Harrira Soup

4 carrots
2 onions
4 stalks celery
4 cups lentils
1 can garbanzo beans (drained)
1 can tomato puree
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp veggie base
8-10 quarts water
3 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
3 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp tumeric
2 tbsp garlic
1 bunch cilantro

In a large stock pot cook onion, carrots, celery, tomato paste, tomato puree and all spices until translucent. Add lentils, garbanzo beans and water and bring to a boil. Let simmer under low heat for abput 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and chopped cilantro.

Zarda and Halib

1/2 cup jasmine rice
1 cup water
4 cup of whole milk
1/2 teaspoon of cardamon or rose water
1 cup molasses

Using a sauce pan, cook the rice in one cup water with the cardamon until it’s done. Divide the cooked rice into two equal parts and place in two separate sauce pans.

For the halib (the white pudding):
To the first half of the rice, add 3 cups of whole milk and stir under low fire for a few minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice thickens. Allow to settle for a few minutes and place in a shallow pan and refrigerate until chilled (variations: adding a little sugar or rose water is optional).

For the zarda (the dark pudding):
To the second half of the rice, add 1 cup of milk and continue to heat on a low fire. Add molasses and stir until completely combined. Place in a shallow plate and refrigerate until chilled. You can place the zarda and the halib side by side – allowing them to meet in the middle. The pudding is eaten by spooning some of the zarda with the halib.

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