An old world dish takes on a new taste
Tzimmes is a hot, sweet carrot dish often served on Rosh Hashanah, for a sweet new year.
I'm a traditionalist. If you're going to make tzimmes, I say, do it properly. But not everyone likes the idea of sugar-soaked carrots roasted slow and low in schmaltz (chicken fat), with plumped prunes and knaidlach (dumplings) stewing their flavor into the broth. That's why I've also included a vegetarian, organic alternative.
Below are the two versions of tzimmes. The first is my grandmother's recipe, which dates to her time in the town of Kharkov, Russia. The other is a healthier, fresher, easier, and schmaltz-free version. As my grandmother says, "In Russia, we needed fat to keep warm, but there is no need for this extra fat these days…"
Tzimmes of Yesteryear
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
1 cup brown sugar
A squirt of honey
4 or 5 prunes (optional)
1 pound schmaltz--unrendered/raw chicken fat (or 3 sticks margarine, if you must)
2 white onions
1 pound flour (a mixture of white flour and course semolina is optimal)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon course ground pepper
A piece of brisket or flanken
1 white onion
Salt and pepper
Place the carrots in a bowl. Add the sugar and honey. Stir well and let sit in the refrigerator at least a few hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place the carrot-sugar mixture in a large casserole dish. Add the prunes if you're using them.
Chop the onions and place in another bowl. Chop the schmaltz and add to the onions. Add the flour salt and pepper. Start mixing with a wooden spoon and then knead with your hands until it becomes doughy. Roll the dough like a sausage and place it in the center of the casserole dish, with the carrot mixture.
If including the optional meat, rub the brisket with salt and pepper. Sautee an onion and pan-sear the brisket in the same pan. Bury the meat under the carrots, together with the kneidlach mixture.
The carrots should have released some liquid. Depending on the amount of moisture, add some water--just enough so the carrots are covered.
Cover the dish and place it in the oven. After 15 minutes, turn the temperature down to 320 degrees. Cook for about three to four hours, checking periodically to make sure the dish doesn't boil over.
Can be frozen and reheated.
Tzimmes of Tomorrow
1 Tablespoon olive oil
A small bunch of scallions, a leek, or a bunch of chives
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup honey (or a little less of agave nectar)
1 cup apple juice or apple cider
1/4 teaspoon salt
Choose three of the following (what suits your taste):
1 cinnamon stick (discard before serving)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
2 or 3 cloves in cheesecloth (discard before serving)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shelled walnuts or pistachios
Sautee the onions in the oil for a minute. Add the carrots and when browned, add everything else, including whatever spices you've chosen. Bring to a boil in a large pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the carrots are very soft. Remove and discard cinnamon stick and cloves before serving.