JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Cinnamon is the ticket to greatness
A fresh-baked pumpkin dessert is a lip-licking prospect for Courage the dog, as Teri Kashiwamura puts out a restraining hand. Kashiwamura and her kids, Matthew, 9, and Bri'el, 11, have a Thanksgiving tradition of baking up their special cinnamon-flavored treat.
... without these dishes, Thanksgiving just wouldn't be the same
The foods of Thanksgiving are deeply rooted in family tradition. Mom's stuffing. Grandma's mashed potatoes. Cousin Carolyn's cucumber kim chee (OK, maybe that's just my family). Sure, you can be an upstart and introduce a new side dish or two, but if certain basics aren't there, it's just not Thanksgiving.
It was these dishes -- but more importantly these stories -- that we were seeking when we put out the call last month for holiday tales from the table. Today we present three of the best, beginning with Bri'el Kawashimura.
At age 11, Bri'el might seem too young to be the keeper of a tradition, but her mother, Teri, has had her helping with the baking since she was 2. Bri'el and brother Matthew, 9, always help with the Thanksgiving dessert, which is revered by the extended family.
"How did we get the special taste?" Bri'el writes. "Well, one year, we were baking pumpkin pie and discovered we were out of pumpkin pie spice, so we had to substitute cinnamon. We thought it was a goner. On Thanksgiving, everyone tried it and thought it was the best pumpkin pie. We've been using this recipe ever since."
From deprivation comes innovation -- and a family legend is born.
Bri'el's pie isn't a pie in the classic sense. It's rectangular, for one thing, and has a pressed shortbread crust. The secret, as the baker says, is a healthy dose of cinnamon.
Bri'el's Pumpkin Pie
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 cup flour
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 large (29-ounce) can pumpkin purée
2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan.
To make crust: Cream butter and sugar. Cut in flour. Press into pan. Bake 10 to 15 minutes.
To make filling: Beat eggs in large bowl. Add sugar, salt and cinnamon. Stir in pumpkin and evaporated milk. Pour mixture over baked crust. Bake another 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 40-50 minutes more, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 2 hours.
Nutritional information unavailable.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Neva Keres holds photographs of her grandmother and mother, who taught her to make kapusta. With its mixture of pork, sauerkraut and cabbage, it might seem alarming, Keres says, but it's guaranteed delicious. If any of your guests don't like it, she says, "then something's wrong with them. Don't invite them over again."
The Keres family
Family's Russian heritage yields side dish of epic proportions for Thanksgiving Day
Neva Keres' dish is a death-defying brew that has to violate every American Heart Association guideline. It's so audacious, you know it's got to be good. "My story is about kapusta," she wrote. "It is the Russian word for cabbage, but the recipe my family thinks of when they hear the word kapusta is a meat-rich, brown, oil-glistening, sour, salty glop that tastes like Thanksgiving and heaven."
She then proceeded to describe the process of cooking a pound of bacon, adding shredded cabbage to the rendered fat, then a jar of sauerkraut and then a rack of ribs. It is frankly beyond imagination, but Keres says it is ideal with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.
If you're game, it might be something to try with the leftovers on Friday.
COURTESY KEVA KERES
Neva Keres' grandmother Eva Stull, left, and mother, Florence Fay Keres, on Stull's 50th wedding anniversary.
The tradition was maintained by both her grandmothers, Agnes Keres and Eva Stull, and later by her mother, Florence Fay Keres.
"If Grandma Stull were still alive, you'd have ice box cookies and coffee later with hot turkey sandwiches. I have to take some deep breaths because just the thought of those days -- with Grandma Stull in her apron and high-topped heels, and Grandpa Stull having coffee hot as Hades from a blue-green glass coffee/saucer set, and too loud TV and good cheer -- makes me wish to hug them all again.
"Whoever thinks food is just food never ate in my family."
1 pound bacon
1 large head cabbage, shredded
1 pound plain sauerkraut (do not used canned)
1 rack country-style ribs
Cook bacon in large skillet over medium-low heat until all the fat is rendered. Remove bacon.
Stir cabbage into bacon fat and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is brown, about 45 minutes. Add a little water or oil as needed to prevent sticking.
Add sauerkraut and keep stirring until browned, 20 to 30 minutes.
Push mixture to side of skillet and place ribs and bacon on bottom. Cover with cabbage mixture. Cover skillet. Raise heat to medium-high and cook 45 minutes.
Uncover and stir to break up meat.
Nutritional information unavailable.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Melanie Kohler, center, presents a bowl of Aunty Mel's Rice Pilaf, a dish that's part of every family celebration. With her in the kitchen are sister Lisa Fonseca, left, sons Daniel and David Kohler, sister-in-law Karen Fonseca and brother Jerry Fonseca.
The Kohlers & Fonsecas
Rice is nice, but pilaf is perfect
Melanie Kohler came up with this dish 25 years ago when searching for a new type of stuffing for Thanksgiving. Her pilaf has become an essential dish whenever the family gathers.
She comes from stock that knows how to party, dating to the old family home in Pupukea. "We had huge parties there when my parents were alive."
The brood has scattered some, with two sisters now in Seattle and a niece and nephew away at college, but the Hawaii branch will gather tomorrow -- and the pilaf will be on the table.
Last year, Kohler made a double batch and packed it up for her brother to take to his kids, the ones away in college.
It arrived safely in Redlands, Calif., Kohler says, but "my nephew couldn't wait, so he ate it the day before Thanksgiving."
The recipe she's provided is for a smaller amount than she usually makes. She'll normally start with 8 cups of rice in an industrial-sized pot -- to be sure everyone gets leftovers.
"It was first created for Thanksgiving, but now is requested (demanded, even!) for any special dinner. It's ono plain, but I think it's extra special with some of the turkey gravy poured over it. Just thinking about it makes me wish Thanksgiving were here already!"
Aunty Mel's Rice Pilaf
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 block butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 cups rice, washed and drained
3 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes, optional
Salt, to taste
Sauté onion in oil and 2 tablespoons butter until translucent. Add almonds; sauté until golden. Add rice; stir to coat. Add water, remaining butter and bouillon; stir and bring to boil. Immediately reduce heat to medium.
Once most of the liquid evaporates, cover and turn heat to low. Cook 20 minutes, using spatula to gently turn rice a couple of times during cooking (do not stir as this makes rice gummy). Serves 10.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 330 calories, 11 g total fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 51 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 6 g protein.
Nutritional analyses by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.