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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tzimmes (Jewish Casserole or Stew)

The following hit my email, and of course the first thing I say is "Oy Vey!".

Subject: A Request

Ted, there is recipe I'd love to find. During one of the memorable dinners at my college roommate's home, her Mom served a side dish called (I think) Carrot and Apple Tzimmes (sp?). I know this dish was sweet and had apples and carrots in it, but I've not found a recipe that sounds like the same thing I had at the Gonchar's house, and sadly my friend and her parents have passed away, so the recipe has been lost forever to me.

Here's your challenge: come up with a recipe that is an equivalent or a close one to it and I'll give you my eternal gratitude and a gold star for cleverness and know-how.

Well here we go Nance. Your wish is my command. But first some background. Tzimmes is a traditional Casserole made usually for Rosh Ha'Shanah - The Jewish New Year. Of course it is eaten all year around as well, but since the major part of Tzimmes is the fact that it is "sweet" and it is made sweet with honey, not sugar, it is eaten on the Jewish New Year. We traditionally dip our bread in honey from Rosh Ha'Shanah until the end of Sukkot (Tabernacles) a period of 21-22 days (depends if you live in Israel or outside of it) to show our hope that the new year that is coming will be sweet and full of blessings. Thus Tzimmes is an old-world recipe which is served during these times. Honey is the key.

Tzimmes is one of those dishes that belongs to the world that my mother and father grew up in. I can think of Tzimmes and Borscht as two of those dishes that whenever they are mentioned bring back really long gone memories of a different era and time. Of Rosh HaShanah meals and Sabbath meals colored by the forgetfulness of time and basking in an aura of laughter, warmth and love.

But enough nostalgia. As I said, the key to Tzimmes is "honey". It is a "sweet casserole" and if you do not like honey forget about real Tzimmes. Carrots and Apples are traditional for the Tzimmes, along with Sweet Potatoes (indeed Sweet Potatoes and Prunes are also part of the recipe) but one can use virtually any vegetable (or fruit come to think of it) in this dish. I should mention this is a great vegetarian dish as well. But since you asked - well here we go - Tzimmes for Nance. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of Tzimmes and I really did not like most of what I could find on the Internet, but the following two pictures may give you an idea of what the dish should look like.


Utensils You Will Need:
  1. Pot To Boil Water
  2. Oven Baking Pan or Aluminum Foil Pan
  3. Peeler
  4. Lots of Love
*This should make enough for around 6 people.
  1. 1 Jar of Honey (Approximately 350 grams. - Approx. 12 ounces) A normal Jar of Honey or two will do. Depends on how much honey you want to use. I use LOTS!
  2. 8-10 Carrots
  3. 3-5 Sweet Potatoes
  4. 4-6 Apples
  5. One Lemon or One Orange (or you can actually use both)
  6. Olive Oil (didn't think I would forget OO did you?)
  7. One Tablespoon of Salt
  8. One Tablespoon of Cinnamon (if you like it!)
  1. First we have to peel the carrots and sweet potatoes
  2. Now fill the pot with water to cover to cook the carrots and sweet potatoes and let them cook in the pot on the gas for at least 40 minutes. You want them soft but not mushy.
  3. Take them out and on the cutting board cut into slices. Not too thin not too thick.
  4. Cut the Apples up into slices as well.
  5. Squeeze the orange and/or lemon juice into a cup and add the salt to it. (sounds nuts but it works!)
  6. Now lay out the carrots, apples and sweet potatoes in the pan. Hey you - do it real pretty! Sheesh!
  7. Now pour the juice all over the laid out spread.
  8. Now sprinkle the Olive oil all over as well. Just a bit!
  9. Now open that honey jar and spread the honey out all over. Let it go. You want a sweet year or a sweet week or a sweet meal. Just go for it.
  10. If you are using cinnamon sprinkle on top.
  11. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
  12. Put in your preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) and leave it there for 30-40 minutes.
  13. Now take it out, take off the cover, and put it back in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius) for 8-10 minutes.
  14. Voila - Tzimmes!
Some people mix it all together to give it a look of a casserole. I like laying it out in the pan and letting it cook. Makes for a much prettier and appetizing looking dish that way. However, Tzimmes is really a casserole and thus mixing it together is much more traditional. Remember to lay it out so that apples, carrots and sweet potatoes are all spread out with each other. Do not put all the apples together etc. They should all be mixed in.

Serve it on a bed of romaine lettuce and it an appetizing dish for any meal.

This is fairly simple though it requires baking. If you like honey and veggies this is a dish for you. Some people add a bit of white pepper (though with honey I fail to see the purpose) and certainly prunes are used - but I loathe prunes. Enjoy Tzimmes, and may it always grant all of those who eat this dish, a year of sweetness and all good things.

4 Fire Comments - Click To Post A Comment:


WOW! Thank you, stood up to the challenge. I loved your history of that dish, too.

It sounds enough like what Sandy's Mom served that I'm going to make it, for sure. I happen to love prunes, so I could put those in and still thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, your mention of the prunes made me think of a casserole I make sometimes for holidays. It's a baked fruit compote that is a cinch to make. My kids took to calling it "Mom's Compost", so that's what it became permanently. However, it definitely doesn't taste like compost! I might send it in, but I don't want to overdo the number of recipes I deluge you with.

I don't remember sweet potatoes in Mrs. Gonchar's Tzimmes, but I was only 19 years old, for gosh what did I know...and what can I remember at 75?!

But I simply adore honey. With a whole bottle of honey poured over it, no wonder I loved eating that dish at Sandy's house. As a kid, my brother and I also dipped regular soft, white bread into honey for a treat now and then. We loved how the honey seemed to make the outside of the bread kind of sweetly crusty.

Incidentally, I love the idea behind the Tzimmes, that the dish may portend a sweet year ahead. There are a number of similar customs in Judaism that are just as appealing to me. Judaism seems to me to be the great "father religion" of all of us, full of the wisdom of the ages for the rest of us upstarts.

Still thinking about the Tzimmes and the honey. I'm drooling, so I'm going to sign off.



Ted, I forgot to ask you my only question about the Tzimmes recipe: Do you peel the apples, or do you leave the slices with the peeling on them?


Anonymous said...

thanks for the background info on tzimmes, i was never quite sure what it was, but i knew the word from some "Funny Girl" song lyrics. (i was one of the ziegfeld dancers in a drama dept production of Funny Girl when i was in high school)

looks like an interesting recipe, and i'm with you on the prunes, teddy!

food said...

very nice! I like.