We visited the home kitchen of chef Kiele Turrini to learn a few of her favorite holiday recipes inspired by her home country of Guam. She also shared with us some of the holiday traditions of the Chamorro culture and her beloved memories celebrating the holidays on the island.
Tell us more about yourself, where you are from and what you do.
My name is Kiele Turrini, and I’m a handbag designer turned private chef. I have been living in New York for 17 years, and I’m originally from the beautiful island of Guam, a US territory and the largest island in the Mariana Islands. I am the owner of Conscious Chef, a boutique catering company based in Greenpoint.
My food philosophy is simple: I only use high-quality, whole, nutrient-rich ingredients, focus on health-supportive cooking, and creating unique, artful dishes with a designer’s mind. I love working with clients that want to focus on their food as nourishment and healing, in order to live a more conscious, healthful lifestyle. I graduated from Pratt Institute with a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration in 2004, and later went on to study Food and Healing at the Natural Gourmet Institute Chef’s Training Program in New York City in 2014.
Growing up in Guam, I had tons of exposure to Chamorro cooking. Food and celebration are our way of island life. It is part of our customs, traditions, and culture. Some of my fondest memories are cooking with my grandmother in her outdoor kitchen, where I learned how to cook and prepare Chamorro food, and attending village fiestas.
You are preparing Bonelos from your home country of Guam. Tell us more about its origin and how it is a part of holiday celebration in Guam.
My favorite holiday dessert I grew up eating is Bonelos, or fried yam donuts. It’s simple, delicious, and very easy to make. Eating Bonelos gives me a taste of home every time. Typically, it is made from grated yams local to Guam, but I prefer it roasted and mashed.
You mainly see this Bonelos at a nobena (or novena), which is a nine day rosary and devotional prays said every evening the nine days before Christmas. It’s our holiday tradition. I grew up in a Roman Catholic family, so nobenas were a normal occasion during the holidays. The nobena is led by a techa, a prayer leader. After the nobena, families have fiesta dinners with relatives and friends, and of course, everyone eats tons of Bonelos.
1c cooked yams (roasted for 1 hour and cooled)
1t baking powder
1c flour (with a little extra, if necessary)
1/4c sugar (to garnish donut)
Canola or vegetable oil, enough to fill the pan half way
1/4c maple syrup (optional, to dip donut)
Preheat oven at 400 degrees. Prepare a sheet tray with parchment paper. Peel the yams, lightly coat with olive or vegetable oil, and place on sheet tray. Roast for one hour or until soft. Once softened, remove from the oven, and place into a bowl. Mash lightly with a fork, removing all browned bits, until well mashed and combined. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, 1/4c sugar, and salt together. Add in the yams into the flour mixture, using your hands, and mix together to form a heavy dough. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Using a measuring spoon or melon ball scooper, scoop out some of the dough into a golf size ball, and fry in the oil until golden brown.
Once golden, transfer to a cooling rack, and roll it in sugar to garnish. Serve hot with maple syrup to dip.
I also prepared a refreshing cocktail to serve with the Bonelos!
Calamansi Pomegranate Spritz
1 bottle of cava, prosecco, or champagne
1 box calamansi juice
1 can Lacroix cran-raspberry sparkling water
1 bottle of orange bitters
1 lime, cut into 4 slices
1 pomegranate, seeds only
In a shaker, mix together half of the box of calamansi juice, squeeze in 2 limes, and 4 shakes of orange bitters over ice (around 1 tablespoon). Shake until well mixed.Pour the mixture into a champagne flute until about 1/3 full. Then pour in another 1/3 of Lacroix, and top it off with your bubbly of choice. Stir until blended.
Garnish with a slice of lime and some pomegranate seeds.
Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
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Photos: Andrew Supnet