poolside iftar

Carson's first official catering gig starring his delicious Lebanese cuisine had been a long time coming. My friend Omaima had been begging him to cater an event at her house for at least over a year now. He didn't have the facilities to accommodate the huge affair she'd originally imagined, plus he'd been busy with his glass business, but when she asked him to cater a small gathering for fifteen, he agreed. Turns out it was a pretty special affair-- a celebratory iftar, which is the breaking of the fast at sunset during Ramadan. 

from top right: pulled lamb, tabbouleh, kebabs, hummus

Carson mans the grill meditatively

We also got to carry through an idea we'd talked about many times before-- a falooda bar! Omaima and I have been sharing a love of falooda ever since she introduced it to me about a year ago. We decided a falooda bar would be perfect for a wedding or other event. Omaima's sister Azima made the base milk for the drink and they assigned various friends different ingredients, like chopped nuts, basil seeds, vermicelli noodles, ice cream (there were several flavors-- rose, pista [pistachio], malai [almost a condensed cream]), jello (also several kinds-- lychee was my favorite!). I brought the fruit-- pineapple, mango, strawberry, dragonfruit, lychee, and jackfruit! I'd actually never worked with a dragonfruit before.. I was kind of surprised how indistinct in flavor it was (texture of a kiwi but almost tasted like a mild strawberry), despite its vivid magenta skin:

idn't it purdy?

FYI, my originally plan was to fast all day as well and break my fast with them. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do this, as I woke on a little island somewhere in Webberville after camping and had to canoe back. A day without food or water while boating in the Texas sun just wasn't happening (Omaima says it's pretty impossible to be active when iftar falls during the summer months).

check out this falooda bar!

Carson began manning the grill before the sunset. Timing was especially important for two reasons-- firstly, nobody had eaten all day, obviously. So when the sun went down, they weren't going to want to be waiting around! Secondly, there were actually three types of Muslims present who all ate at different times-- some at actual sunset and others at actual specific times. Everyone broke their fast with a date and a sip of milk, before moving onto the Lebanese feast...

All the food was an absolute hit! Besides the hummus, tabbouleh, pulled lamb, and beef kebabs you see above, he also made vegetarian cabbage rolls, lemon chicken kebabs, herbed grilled tomatoes and had pita, lebneh, and olive accoutrements. Omaima said her parents are extremely picky and wouldn't stop raving about the meal. Her brother's wife is Lebanese and they've all fallen in love with the food of the area, but it's extremely hard to find in Austin (rather non-existent really). 

Omaima and Azima's pet bunny Luigi!

After fasting all day, there was only so much everyone could eat. So, at the end of the night, all the guests came around with Tupperware and Ziplocs, bagging up leftovers to split up and take home.. another occurrence that is apparently pretty rare (according to Omaima, who said everyone is overly polite and usually refuses the offer to bring leftovers with them)! Further confirmation that Carson should open that food truck of his someday...

Before we left, Omaima told us that anyone who has a part in serving iftar during Ramadan is especially blessed and protected, so we should be noticing great things coming our way! This knowledge, as well as their silky pet bunny Luigi, warmed my heart.