Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Raw Ramadan or Fearless Fasting

Raw Ramadan! Polarity salad. Photo Cred: Sasha Douglas-Nares

One of the things they say in the healing world is "Hunger: It makes you younger." Fasting is known to re-boot the immune system, help with diabetes and insulin resistance, and help cells all over the body regenerate. Surprisingly, fasting can also help protect your body during chemotherapy, so people with cancer might discuss it with their doctors.

Ramadan 2015. 30 long, hot summer days - each one where one can only eat and drink before sunrise and after sunset - are a 16-hour marathon in NYC and even longer in other parts of the world.

Lots of people find it alarming and are even more shocked that I can't drink water. "That must be dangerous!" First, I am lucky that I work inside. My work doesn't require extreme physical exertion and I can take a rest if I need one. But second, I do keep working and swimming and, when I do energy work, I find I can channel Source much more powerfully. And last, people all over the world and of many different faiths have been fasting this way for at least a century or so.

As an experiment, I tried one fast day drinking water. After the 2nd or 3rd day of Ramadan, I am not hungry. It's as if my entire system is in sleep mode. But the moment I drank water, all the hunger and thirst came rushing back. It was as if I had flipped the switch on the boiler. I could feel my organs all humming back into operation.

My experience has been that if, during the evenings, I hydrate well but eat lightly, the fast wears more lightly on me. 

Thus I started my raw Ramadans. Since it's summer, it's easier to eat raw meals or almost entirely raw meals during the month. I find my body is energized and cool, no matter the temperature outside. The raw food gives me the enzymes to digest easily despite the rest time and is also filling and means one is not in a hot, sweaty kitchen. I choose foods that are hydrating and energizing as well as immune-supportive so that you don't feel weak the next day (or during late-night tarawih).

Also, since you are fasting, make sure that everything you use is organic and has no preservatives. Your body has been resting so you don't want to throw off the balance.

So here is my favorite iftar menu - variations on which I like to make for iftar at my Sufi mosque in Tribeca.

Raw Ramadan: Avocado Gazpacho Photo Cred: Sasha Douglas-Nares

Avocado Gazpacho
(serves 6)

3 large avocados chopped
2 cups cubed cucumber (1 hothouse cucumber)
1 cup of fresh cilantro/coriander or cilantro sprouts
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves of fresh garlic
½ green chili (jalapeno or Serrano, depends on your sensitivity)
juice of 2 limes (1/4 cup)
1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1-2 large beefsteak tomatoes
¾ cup of filtered water to thin out


1 bell pepper diced
1 jalapeno diced

Place all ingredients except garnish into your blender and puree until smooth. Add salt, chilies and/or more lime to taste. Chill for at least an hour before serving so the flavors become more complicated than guacamole.

To serve, pour into small bowls or shot glasses and add the garnish. You can even garnish with tortilla chips (ideally organic and homemade). Yum!

My professional chef friend, James Akins, mastering the tabbouleh

Fearless Food Class with Ameena Meer and James Akins

Quinoa Tabbouleh
(Serves 6)

1 cup uncooked, sprouted quinoa
4-5 green onions, chopped (3/4 cup)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (2 cups)
1 1/2 to 2 cups minced parsley (1 large bunch)
1/2 cup minced mint (1 small bunch)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus extra to taste
salt and pepper
8 ounces feta or avocado

Rinse the quinoa under cool water, then combine with 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan.  If you are committed to staying raw, rinse, salt and then soak the quinoa overnight in a large bowl.  When you are ready to use, drain the quinoa and toss the water. (There may be some use for it, but I just don't know about it yet!)

If you are cooking, bring to a rapid simmer, then turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the quinoa is fluffy and chewy, about 20 minutes. Then empty it into a large bowl and allow it to cool almost to room temperature. The quinoa should feel just barely warm to the touch. 

Stir the onions, tomatoes, parsley, mint, and garlic into the warm quinoa. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour this over the salad and stir to combine. If using, crumble the feta or chopped avocado over the salad and stir it in. Taste a spoonful of the salad and add more salt or pepper to taste. Serve room temperature or cold. This salad is even better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to mingle.

Raw Ramadan - Polarity Salad Re-Mixed Photo Cred: Sasha Douglas-Nares

Polarity Salad (Asian-Inspired Slaw)
(Serves 10)


½ head of cabbage
4-6 carrots, grated (I like multicolored ones)
1 beet, grated
3-4 scallions, chopped
2 cups of mung bean, adzuki bean or other sprouts
1 cup cilantro/coriander sprouts
1 cup basil sprouts


½ cup chopped basil
½ cup chopped mint
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup of olive oil
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Fish sauce and/or coconut aminos (to taste)
1 chopped Serrano or jalapeno pepper (to taste)

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and all salad ingredients in a bowl big enough to toss them around. Once the dressing is combined into a tangy, complex mixture, pour it over the salad. Wash your hands well with soap and water and then toss the entire salad mixture.

As cabbage is quite a hardy leaf, it will hold up to the dressing so you can put the salad in the fridge and eat it for a couple of days. It's useful to have in there when you are too tired to prepare anything early in the morning. It is increasingly delicious as the flavors of the herbs and the garlic mix and deepen.

Zucchini “Pasta” with Pesto

(Serves 6)


6 zucchini, ends trimmed


3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
½ cup pine nuts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1 package of cherry or grape tomatoes


1. Use a spiralizer to slice the zucchini into noodles. Set aside.
2. Combine the basil and garlic in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Pulse until blended. Season with salt and pepper.
If you are pressed for time, buy some freshly-made pesto from the store! Just make sure the ingredients are organic and there are no preservatives – your body doesn’t need them when you are fasting.
3. Toss until zucchini noodles with the pesto until they are well coated. Top with tomatoes, if using. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Note-if you want to cook the zucchini noodles, you can. Just add the zucchini pesto noodles to a skillet and sauté them up over medium heat. It only takes a few minutes.


Happy Birthday! Raw Lemon Cheesecake! Photo Cred: Sasha Douglas-Nares

Raw Lemon Cheesecake
(Serves 6)


1/2 cup dates
1 1/2 cups nuts (I used pecans, you can use almost any kind, even better if you soak them first, overnight)
2 teaspoons of sea salt

In the food processor, pulse the dates and nuts together until you get a rough, sticky mixture that you can pat down with your hands into the bottom of a glass pie or baking pan (only because it looks prettier in glass, otherwise any pan will do). For this cooking class, we doubled the recipe and used a glass 11 x 9 baking pan. If it’s not sticking well, add a little coconut oil, that will make it taste a little more buttery anyway. Put in fridge.


3 cups cashews (preferably soaked for 3-4 hours)
3/4 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup honey/agave/maple syrup/coconut sugar
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 teaspoons dried lavender  (if you want, I found I couldn't taste it when it was cold and set)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract/seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod

Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth and creamy.  Taste the mixture. If you've never had raw food, you will be overcome with pleasure. Pour onto crust in cake pan and set in the freezer or fridge until it has the hardness you want (probably 3-5 hours or overnight).  I decorated it with some organic, local blueberries I bought upstate so it still tasted of the country.

Slice and enjoy! Even if it’s not hard enough, it will taste delicious!

For Suhoor (the before sunrise meal to prepare for your fast):

Hydrating Drink
(Serves 2)

1 liter of coconut water
4 tablespoons of chia seeds

Pour the coconut water into any sort of jug. Add 4 to 6 tablespoons of chia seeds (black or white).  Let sit for several hours until the chia seeds are saturated and have sunk to the bottom of the jug. Stir and drink as your last meal before starting your fast or any time you need to be hydrated for long periods of time.

Peaceful Ramadan. Photo Cred: Sasha Douglas Nares