Thursday, June 30, 2016

Raw Ramadan - Fearless Fasting 2016

Yes! It's here! Ramadan again. While it's a long holiday - 30 days of abstaining from food, drink, smoking or sexual activity during daylight hours - for me, it's a magical month. The lights seem to sparkle more brightly. When you do eat or drink again, it feels almost ecstatic, the food fills your body with energy and radiance. When you rest while fasting, your sleep is deep and nourishing. And when a day doesn't go well, let's say I lose my temper or I'm especially tired or thirsty or irritable, I have 29 more do-overs to try and get better. I do whine about the length of time, but I am deeply grateful for it as well.

Not consuming, for me, has an interesting effect on my psyche. I speak less, I listen more. I have time to meditate, to read a new translation of the Quran (currently getting lost in The Heart of the Quran, meditations by the American founder of our order, Lex Hixon), Ibn Arabi, Jalaluddin Rumi or another mystical thinker. I notice that my senses are all heightened. Sounds are louder and sharper, scents are more complex and hypnotic, my skin and intuition perceive more precisely. Visually, I am constantly struck by the beauty and grace of the little things around me - plants and animals seem more deserving of attention and care.

Since while you are fasting, you are meant to feed others who are not as fortunate, so I get the pleasure of buying meals for homeless people on the street or helping others in small ways. And we all know that helping another person is really a gift for yourself. It reduces your cardiovascular stress, increases your resilience, regulates your neuroendocrine systems and stimulates your immune system. On an esoteric level, it opens your heart chakra - your emotional connection to the shared human experience.

I've said this before, but I always used to tell my daughters that anyone can give up eating or drinking. Many people do, for many reasons, but a true fast involves an abstention from the more difficult things to surrender: anger, dishonesty, disloyalty and unkindness of any sort. I am so far from perfect in this regard, especially when driving in the summer in New York City, but the effort toward that goal, the self-reflection, feels good. It is said that if you can't manage the secondary aspects of the fast, you shouldn't do the first.

It goes without saying that after not eating for 12 to 16 hours, your body is clean and quite sensitive to what you put back in it. Thus, you should really try to make sure your food is organic and as fresh and local as you can get it.  Your main goal at the beginning of the fast break is to reintroduce foods gently and slowly into your system - as well as eating nutrient-dense foods so you will have the energy to fast again the next day (just a few hours after you break!)

Fasting foods should be your medicine
I reduce caffeine little by little in the month before Ramadan so I don’t get horrible headaches. But if you need your coffee, tea or other caffeine fix – I suggest you wait until later in the meal. Breaking your fast with a cup of hot coffee could be jarring! Also, it’s a diuretic and rehydration is the first goal.

So here is the menu this year's Raw Iftar at the Sufi dergah! Do try these recipes but, don't stress yourself out and make them ALL at once. Try one or two at a time. Experiment with flavors, spices, tastes and see what works best for your body and your tastebuds. Play with the juicer, the dehydrator, the spiralizer and see what's fun and what's tedious.

Most of these recipes are even better if you make them in advance and let them sit at room temperature - or if it's very hot - in the fridge. Thus, you can make them early in the day and then take a nap when the afternoon spaciness overtakes you. You wake up to a ready-to-eat iftar!

Watermelon, Cucumber and Mint Juice
(serves 6)

This is a great juice to make in your juicer, if you have one, but because these ingredients are so liquidy, you can easily do it in the blender, too! This year, ours was made by Community Supported Juice in Gowanus, Brooklyn. They make their juice using fruits and vegetables from CSAs and the Brooklyn Green Market so everything is fresh and local and surprisingly affordable. Plus they put their juice in glass bottles which is better for keeping the enzymes and nutrients in tact.

½ - 1 small watermelon (depends on the size)

2-3 cucumbers

1 bunch of fresh mint


Cut up the watermelon into chunks, but leave the rind on, just cut off the green skin. Watermelon rinds have a lot of hydrating properties and you want to use the whole fruit because it will make the juice less sweet. (Too much sugar as you break your fast will make your blood sugar surge – and release insulin too quickly – start slowly!)

Chop the cucumber and mint roughly. Since it is going through the juicer or blender, you can leave the stems on the mint, just make sure you rinse it well before using.

Little by little, add the watermelon and cucumber/mint mix to the juicer or blender. If you are using a less efficient juicer, you might find that the pulp comes out still very wet. In that case, just put the pulp back through the blender for a second squeeze. If you are using a blender, remember that you just want to liquefy the ingredients and you don’t want the process to heat or overly damage the enzymes.

Pour into glasses or serving vessel and chill – shake gently before serving - or drink immediately! Try and use this within a four or five hours as it becomes less effective as it oxidizes.

Raw Avocado-Pineapple Gazpacho right in front, Raw Carrot and Cabbage Pad Thai and then a green salad next.

Avocado-Pineapple Gazpacho
(serves 6)

This is a version of the one I made last year - but I switched up by adding some pineapple.
2 large avocados chopped

2 cups cubed cucumber (1 hothouse cucumber)

1 cup chopped pineapple

1 cup of fresh cilantro/coriander or cilantro sprouts

½ cup chopped onion

2 cloves of fresh garlic

1/2 green chili (jalapeno or Serrano, depends on your sensitivity)

juice of 1 lime

¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon of sea salt (more or less, to taste)

1 large beefsteak tomato

1-2 cups of filtered water to thin out


1 bell pepper diced

Coriander chopped


Place all ingredients except garnish into your blender and puree until smooth. Add salt, chilies and/or more lime to taste. Chill or let sit in a cool place for at least an hour before serving so the flavors become more complicated than a liquefied guacamole! I added fresh pineapple for a different variation this year, the sweetness off-sets the chilies and the enzymes help the digestion. The fats in the olive oil and avocado satiate the appetite before the main meal. It is a good idea to have a soup before your main course as it soothes your hunger and keeps you from overeating! After fasting, it’s good to start slowly!

Egglant or Aubergine just waiting for their transformation!

Raw Eggplant/Aubergine “Bacon” or Jerky
(serves 6)

Head's up. The prep for this is easy, but it takes time. The "bacon" tastes better when left to marinate overnight and then the dehydrating time can take anywhere from 12 to 18 hours. That said, it keeps well - even for a month at time - in an airtight container with a silica packet or two from your supplements or seaweed snacks.

3-4   small white eggplants – or 1-2 regular eggplant

4 tablespoons maple syrup     

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons naturally-fermented tamari

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring

½ teaspoon chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and black pepper to taste


Whisk together all the ingredients except the eggplant in a bowl or an 8 x 10’ roasting pan. The idea is to marinate the eggplant slices in this liquid so a shallow wide container is better to cover more eggplant strips.

Peel the eggplant and cut them into long, relatively even slices. Thin, but not too thin, because when they dry, they become much thinner. You can leave the skin on but it becomes very chewy when it’s dried. I slice the eggplant by hand but I’ve heard people use a mandolin with success – I just don’t have one (birthday present, anyone?)

As you slice the eggplant, add them to the sauce and allow them to marinate (ideally, overnight, but even an hour is fine) until they soften.

After they are marinated, take them carefully out of the liquid – they will be soft and drippy – and lie them on a mesh dehydrator or oven tray. If they are very wet, put them on a teflex sheet first. You want as much of the marinade on there as possible. You can brush the slices with the extra marinade if you want.


46°C - 52°C / 115°F - 125°F for 12-24 hours, depending on how thick your eggplant slices are. Mine took about 12 hours.


I haven’t tried the oven, but here’s what I’ve read - 75°C / 165°F for 1 hour. Turn oven off, open oven door and let trays sit in there for 30 minutes. Turn oven back on at 75°C / 165°F and cook for 1 hour. Repeat this process until the eggplant is crispy.

Carrot and Cabbage, ready to toss with the creamy, spicy almond butter sauce!

Raw Carrot and Cabbage Pad Thai
(serves 6) 

For the pad thai:
2 large carrots (choose the fattest ones you can find)

1/2 head of Cabbage, chopped like coleslaw

1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
4 or 5 green onions, chopped

2 cups mung bean sprouts
1 cup sugar snap (chopped) or snow peas (whole)
1 cup of cilantro, roughly chopped

½ cup basil chopped

½ cup mint chopped
1/2 cup cashews crushed
Lime slices, to garnish

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons raw almond or sunflower or other nut butter

2 tablespoons of coconut aminos – or natural tamari, it is saltier so do it to taste!

¼-1/2 inch of ginger root or 1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of one lime or ½ lemon
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
3 tablespoons of water


Make the pad thai
Use a spiralizer to make the carrots into long noodles. If you don’t have a spiralizer or it requires too much arm strength, run vegetable peeler down the length of carrots, shaving off long ribbons. Put the carrot noodles in a bowl with all the other vegetables. Set aside.

Make the sauce
In a blender, spin the sauce ingredients, adding more water to get a smooth, creamy consistency and coconut aminos to taste. Pour sauce over carrot noodle mixture and toss to coat. Chill or let it sit in a cool place so that the flavors have time to emerge.

Before you serve, add the crushed cashews and the lime slices to garnish!

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad, top left, Cauliflower Rice, middle, Eggplant "Bacon," top right. Raw Falafel at the bottom.

Kale and Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad
(serves 4)
I adapted this from
5 ounces, lacinato kale, rolled and thinly sliced, stems removed. 
5 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded

¼ cup roasted hazel nuts 


1/2 cup (60 ml) roasted hazelnut oil

1 small garlic clove

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 raw mustard

salt and pepper to taste


Chop kale and brussels sprouts finely and toss to combine in a large salad bowl.

In a blender, blend the oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard and salt and pepper until creamy. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and massage to coat, sprinkle with the roasted hazelnuts.

Allow to soften in the sauce before eating.

my best sous-chef and protege is the Bomb...

Curried Cauliflower Rice Salad
(serves 4)

This one is sort of a cheat because it isn’t totally raw. As an Indian, I have a horror of “raw” ground spices because, to my palate, they taste grainy and sharp. Also, many spices healing properties are activated by oil, especially turmeric. Simmering in warm oil and water releases their magic! If you have an auto-immune disease, look into the Indian spice mixture called, “Garam Masala” (basically, warming spices) instead of curry powder. You can find it in most Indian grocery stores.


1 head Cauliflower

3 tbsp Coconut oil – more if necessary – it will help keep you satiated and hydrated.

1 Onion chopped

3 cloves of Garlic chopped finely

¼ inch of Ginger root, chopped finely

1/2 tsp Curry powder/Garam masala

½ tsp Turmeric

1 cup of freshly-shelled Peas or chopped Sugar Snap Peas

1 cup of chopped tomatoes

1 cup sliced Almonds

1 cup of fresh Cilantro chopped


Cut the cauliflower in half, then quarters and then break into smaller pieces. Add the cauliflower pieces to a food processer and pulse until you get a crumbly, rice-like texture. (A secret – you can buy this frozen by the bag at Trader Joe’s or in packages from a health food store – if you don’t have time).

Brown the onions in the coconut oil in a wide skillet, then add the garlic and ginger, turmeric, a little salt and pepper and letting the mixture simmer until the spice mixture has become a sort of paste.

Add the cauliflower to the skillet, scraping it out of the food processor bowl with a spatula.

Cook slightly for 4 minutes, stirring to make sure that all the cauliflower is coated in the spice mixture.

Remove from the heat, as the mixture cools, add the peas, chopped tomatoes, sliced almonds and chopped cilantro.

Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature or - as we did - chill and eat later!

Raw Falafel
(serves 6)

The prep for this involves 2-3 days to sprout the garbanzos/chickpeas and lentils and 2-3 hours of dehydrating - so just be sure to plan ahead with this one, too. These days you can find pre-sprouted beans and lentils in the salad section of the grocery store, so you can save time by getting those. Ours were adapted from

3 cups of sprouted chickpeas and lentil

1 cup of finely chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 cups of sunflower seeds

1/2 cup ground flaxseeds or chia seeds

1/4 cup of lemon juice

1/2 cup of parsley, chopped finely.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of ground coriander

3 teaspoons of cumin

1 tablespoon of tamari or coconut aminos

Prep 3 days in Advance - Sprout chickpeas and lentils. Place 2 cups organic dry beans in a jar, cover with water and let soak for 24 hours. Make sure there is plenty of room in the jar as these will expand quite a bit. Drain off water and rinse 3 times a day until little sprouts appear. Usually 2-3 days. Remember to keep rinsing as they can get moldy very easily.

Starting with the sunflower seeds, put them in the food processor and grind until fine. Then empty the ground sunflower seeds into a mixing bowl. 

Put the garlic in the food processor and pulse until it is chopped, them add the sprouted chickpeas and lentils. Pulse until they are mashed. Then empty the mixture into the bowl with the sunflower seeds. Add the chopped onions, the parsley, the ground flaxseed, cumin and coriander, along with the olive oil, and the tamari and mix together until is a soft, uniform "dough." You can also put the entire mixture back into the food processor and mix it that way - but it can also make the falafels a little too smooth and sticky.
Wash your hands thoroughly. Rub a little olive oil in the palm of your hands and fingers and shape the mixture into small falafel balls and arrange them on the dehydrator trays. We then flattened them out because fast break was in a couple of hours and we wanted them to be ready faster!
We used my Excalibur dehydrator and put them in at 145 for 1 hour, then because everyone was hungry just thinking about them, we turned the heat up higher, to 165, for another hour. When we took them out, they were soft in the middle and slightly crispy on the inside. But a few got left in an hour or two longer and they were even better. I'd suggest you leave them at 145 for 2-3 hours.

Serve on a bed of sprouts and drizzled with tahini. 

DESSERT! creamy, sweet, delicious tiramisu

For dessert, I was not quite as ambitious this year. I asked my friend Watt at Rawsome Treats to make us one of her incredible Raw Tiramisus and her raspberry-chocolate Trisome mousse cake. They are all vegan, raw, gluten-free and free of refined sugar! I will have to get the recipes some day. Here's one I found, but I haven't managed to make it myself (yet)!

here's the trisome cake! Raspberry, vanilla and a crunchy chocolate crust and drizzle.

Here's the most important thing to remember - Ramadan can help you make incredible shifts in your physical and spiritual being. However you do it, start with Love. The loving energy you use to make and serve your food will nourish and heal those who eat it.