As proof that Thanksgiving is purely American holiday, most immigrants to this country that I know, have gone out of their way to be as American as they can be. The minute that a federal official swears in a new crop of immigrants as American citizens, one of the first thoughts in their mind is not” who is the 1st president of the United States, ” but, “how do I make Thanksgiving dinner now that I’m an American?
Everyone, whether immigrant or native born, is convinced that eating a turkey on Thanksgiving is the proper thing to do. Last year, my brother’s wife, who is fairly new here from Syria, called me incessantly from Boston in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, asking, “how do I cook the turkey?” “How do I make the dressing?” “What do I serve with it?” When I ask her: how does she like it to be done, she answered: I don’t care, I am not going to eat it.
My family usually gets together with a small group of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants-all American citizens now-to celebrate Thanksgiving. Of course, whether they intend to eat it or not, turkey is mandatory. Someone of the group will cook a turkey to make it the centerpiece of the table. However, along with the turkey, these families, most of whom are excellent cooks, will prepare and bring to the dinner the most dazzling array of side dishes, most of them from the Middle East. You have hummous, tabbouli, kibbeh and baklava to name few.
It is fascinating to watch the show, once all this food has been set out. The guests scoop up all the side dishes that have been prepared, but the turkey -untouched- remains proudly in the center of the table, like a monument to their American citizenship.
Here is a recipe for rice and nuts stuffing that we serve next to the turkey. This stuffing will make your Thanksgiving dinner a little different this year.
Rice, vegetables and pine nuts stuffing
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 -inch thick cubes
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup raisin
1 cup Basmati rice
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
-Heat the olive oil in a cooking pot. Saute the onion for couple of minutes. Add the vegetables, stir and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
-Add the raisins, the seasoning and 2 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil.
-Add the rice, stir and bring back to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes.
-Turn off the heat, keep the pot covered and allow the rice to rest for ten minutes.
-To serve: Serve the rice onto shallow serving platter, sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts.