Eid al-Fitr, the celebration at the end of Ramadan, marks a joyous time for millions of Muslims who are looking forward to home-cooked meals and family time after a month of fasting and inner reflection.
There traditionally has been an emphasis on cooking special dishes that can feed large numbers of people, many of which feature meat, said San Diego-based food writer Yvonne Maffei. (If you’re considering a celebration that includes more than one other household, however, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance on how to safely visit with loved ones, depending on your Covid-19 vaccination status.)
She has been running the blog “My Halal Kitchen” for over a decade, featuring recipes for Eid and other Muslim holidays.
Historically, meat has been scarce, she said, so serving meat to guests honors them and their presence.
“There’s a lot of significance around the generosity of the food that you have when your guests come, and Eid is definitely one of those occasions,” Maffei said.
Biryani, a fragrant meat dish from India that’s often made of lamb, goat or chicken, is a popular dish served on Eid, she said. The aromatic flavors cardamom, saffron, cumin, cinnamon and other spices soak into the meat and basmati rice mixed in.
People might not describe celebratory Eid dishes as nutritious, but Maffei aims to include some healthy recipes on her blog. She said the Arabic word “halal” translates to the word permissible in English, which is her inspiration when writing recipes.
There is a huge importance placed on the body in Islam because it is believed to be a gift from God, Maffei explained. When she writes her recipes, she has a high standard for what ingredients are permissible to include to honor that gift.
While meat dishes are popular on Eid, Maffei said there are also plenty of vegetarian dishes for people to enjoy.
Turkish stuffed grape leaves, which feature Mediterranean flavors like olive oil and tomatoes, are another popular Eid offering. Grape leaves are large leaves that come from grapevines and are commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking.
The leaves are stuffed with a vegetable and rice mixture and served with a side of herbed yogurt sauce called Turkish Cacik. The creamy cucumber dipping sauce is sprinkled with fresh dill, parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Maffei layers her stuffed grape leaves on top of tomatoes while cooking to keep the leaves from burning and to infuse more flavor. She recommends serving them as a side dish for vegetarians and nonvegetarians alike during Eid.
For those with a sweet tooth, she said baklava is a quintessential Eid dessert. The dish features layers of crisp phyllo dough brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with ground walnuts. To finish off the treat, a sweet syrup is drizzled on top.
Baklava is an indulgent choice, but Maffei makes sure to include high-quality, wholesome ingredients in her baking.
While living in Turkey, Maffei said she was exposed to different styles of baklava, such as one filled with pistachio cream. For her recipe, she kept it simple, so beginners will have little trouble following along.
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“This is sort of a baseline recipe that people can tweak with their own edits,” Maffei said.
To make Maffei’s Turkish stuffed grape leaves and her baklava, follow the recipes below. For more Eid recipes, visit the Eid section of myhalalkitchen.com.
Sarma Dolma: Stuffed Grape Leaves
Makes about 24 grape leaves (serves 6)
- 1 pound fresh or brined grape leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup short-grain rice, uncooked
- 3⁄4 cup medium-grind bulgur (#2)
- 1 tablespoon plain tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sumac
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried
- 2 to 3 fresh tomatoes, sliced
- 1 lemon, sliced thinly
Sauce to cover the stuffed grape leaves while they cook:
- 1⁄2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1⁄2 tablespoon pepper paste
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
1. Soak fresh or brined grape leaves in water to remove any excess salt. If using fresh grape leaves, blanch in hot water for about 15 seconds. Remove and let cool before using.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan and gently add the onion, rice, bulgur, tomato sauce, spices, salt, pomegranate molasses, 1/2 cup water and the fresh herbs. Cook, stirring frequently to combine, until onion is translucent and the grains are glossy, 10-12 minutes. The grains will not be fully cooked but will finish cooking during the remainder of the cooking process. Remove from heat. Let cool for about 15 minutes.
3. Lay each grape leaf vine side up and add about 1 tablespoon filling to the lower end of each leaf. Bring the sides inward and roll tightly upward.
4. Line a stockpot or Dutch oven with tomatoes. Add stuffed grape leaves in an organized way, each one sitting on top of the tomatoes. Top with lemon slices.
5. To make the sauce, combine tomato paste and hot pepper paste with 1 1/2 cups hot water and salt, using a whisk. Pour over grape leaves in the pot.