The first time my family celebrated Thanksgiving was when my older sister, Aviva, came home from school one day and requested it be a tradition. Both my parents grew up in Iran, where pilgrims and Indians had no place in the history, carving pumpkins was not “a thing” and in coming to America this was just another bank holiday. So when my sister asked that we celebrate Thanksgiving, they did what they did every Friday night for Shabbat dinner. They got the whole family together and served traditional Persian food like steamed basmati rice and tomato and eggplant stew– this time along side a Turkey and on a Thursday night.
What started out as an annual Shabbat dinner on Thursday has evolved over time to become a more American-style Thanksgiving. –With the exception that at one point the gathering served as my grandfather’s annual birthday party (they didn’t have birth certificates back them so we decided his birthday could have very well been the last Thursday in November, every year). Anyway, standard American fare began to appear on our table like roasted brussels and sweet potatoes. And while basmati rice still makes an appearance, it now bears all American embellishments like sour cranberries balanced with sweet dates (acrobat parents, no?) and is served in a pumpkin.
In my take on the Neman family grain dish- I nixed the pumpkin and I swapped the labor intensive soaked and steamed basmati rice for a quick cooking whole grain- quinoa (I’m a millennial and acrobatic dietitian after all…). I kept the dried fruit embellishments and use my maternal grandmother’s favorite spice of all time (used on Friday nights, and every other), turmeric.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat
- Add turmeric, cinnamon, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and quinoa
- Sautee spices and quinoa until quinoa is toasted and yellow color is well incoporated
- Add 2 cups of water; bring to a boil and reduce to simmer
- Cover quinoa and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed
- Remove pan from heat, sprinkle with salt and fluff with fork
- Top with cranberries, dates and seeds
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