Tzimmes in Yiddish means “a big fuss.” The Big Fuss is coming up next week, and I am buckling up for it. We are only a few people this year (the Decavore is staying at school) so menu will be roast duck along with the vegetable sides. The vegetables are the best part of Thanksgiving, and, given how bland turkey is, and how unimaginatively it is generally prepared, the meal can be fantastic without any meat at all.


I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try to incorporate tzimmes, which is a traditional Ashkenazi casserole made with carrots and fruit, and served on holidays like Rosh Hashanah… how is it this dish has not been coopted for Thanksgiving? If we are willing to eat marshmallows on yams, chestnut stuffing, and pumpkin pie, why not carrot and raisin casserole?


A number of years ago I was the Passover guest of chef Zarela Martinez, who made a buffet with an array of incredibly delicious Sephardic dishes. I have been searching for one of them for years. The name of the dish is lost and I can’t recall any of the ingredients (olives? chicken?) so I can’t ask Zarela. I just remember a rich gravy the color of burnt umber and still hold the irrational belief that I will know it when I find it. If you have ever worked in a bookshop, you will have encountered the customer who comes in and asks for “that book with the green cover” or “that book about Nebraska.” Sometimes there is the magical moment when you know what the confused person wants. A tired man came up to the register and asked for “the book with all the pictures.” This was 1985. I handed him A Day in the Life of America, and it was the book he was looking for! So I keep looking.


In the course of my on-and- off again hunts for that Sephardic stew, I recently came across a book called 52 Shabbats by Faith Kramer, which has an Indian-fusion version of tzimmes that was a huge hit at my house. This is a knock out vegan recipe that combines a spiced carrot dish from the Bene Israel Jewish community in India with traditional Ashkenazi tzimmes. “Curried” is an inadequate descriptor for this stew, which has fantastic depth of flavor- subtle heat from curry and mustard seed, as well as the mellowed spice of cardamom and clove. High praise for someone who doesn’t care for overly sweet main courses and who has a deep aversion to fruit in savory dishes. So you know this is good!


I frequently play with recipes I find. I do not recommend making any additions or changes to main ingredients or amounts of the spices for this one, as it has a really perfect balance of spice and sweetness.


Curried Carrot Tzimmes


Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon brown, black, or yellow mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups chopped onions

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

½ teaspoon salt, divided

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 pound carrots, cut into ½-inch rounds

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks

1 cup dried apricots

½ cup raisins (I did not have raisins in the cupboard and it was still okay without)

2 cups vegetable broth

1 large ripe banana, mashed

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley (I did not have any herbs in the fridge so sprinkled on some methi, dried fenugreek leaves, which worked well with the Indian flavors)


Faith recommends serving with plain yogurt, lime pickle, and/or chutney, but we tried it plain and it was fantastic.


Instructions:

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and sauté until sizzling, about 1 minute. Stir in the garam masala, cardamom, cloves, and cayenne and sauté for 1 minute. Add the onions and sauté until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.


Add the garlic and sauté until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt, black pepper, and carrots and sauté for 10 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, apricots, and raisins and stir until covered in oil and seasonings.


Add broth and banana. and bring to a simmer. Add chickpeas. Cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and sweet potatoes are tender but not falling apart, 30 to 40 minutes.


Remove the cover and simmer uncovered until the liquid is syrupy, about 10 minutes.


To serve, ladle the stew into bowls and top with a dollop of yogurt (or not if you want to keep it vegan), herbs, cilantro, and/or hcutney (if using). We had ours plain.


This can be made ahead for Thanksgiving, and keeps for several days in the fridge.



17 views0 comments

Updated: Nov 17


I love the month of November. I enjoy the peak foliage of October, but November in the Northeast has its own beauty - nature's colors are softer, muted, with the landscape around our home turned into layers of tawny grey, raw umber, and bronze. I have been taking advantage of this time for long walks in the woods and around the neighborhood.



November, especially when the clocks change and we are plunged into darkness is also a time for carb-loading. I try to avoid this, but I do find myself eating more as it gets colder and darker. If we are not careful, the month of November at our house can quickly devolve into Fat Bear Week. All the more reason to increase my mileage.


Everyone has one type of starchy treat - potato chips, or pizza-- which in a perfect world we would eat without consequence forever. For me this is unquestionably Yorkshire Pudding. Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, the ur-WASP Sunday feast, was my family's favorite meal when I was growing up. The roast beef (oh the delectable memories of those tiny, stringy, hideously expensive roasts of the 1970s!) were just a pretext for the real treat - golden popovers cooked in beef drippings which came to the table puffed and shining. God, they were delicious.


I never cook roasts of beef anymore, or very rarely, so have not had any occasion to make Yorkshire Pudding. I have tried to make plain popovers, which have always been disappointing and bland without the salty funk of the beef drippings.


This dish uses the carmelized flavor of the vegetables cooked inside the pudding as an alternative to the beef drippings. It is deeply savory.


Vegetable Popover Pie

Serves 4


Ingredients:

Vegetables

1 red bell pepper, sliced, or half a red onion, quartered

2 portobello mushrooms, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

olive oil

salt and pepper


Batter

3 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons gruyère

salt and white pepper


Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss sliced vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste

Lay out vegetables onto a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil

Bake in the oven until vegetables develop a nice char (15-20 minutes)




While vegetables are cooking, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, cheese and salt & pepper.

Generously butter an oven proof pan (for best results, use a cast iron skillet)

When vegetables are ready to come out of the oven, pour batter into the pan.

Arrange the vegetables in the center of the batter


Bake at 400 degrees until the pudding puffs and turns golden (15-20 minutes).


Slice and serve.










46 views0 comments

Updated: Nov 17


Eighteen years of life with the Decavore is winding down, as we plan our road trip to drop him off at college next week. I joined a social media group called "Dorm Chatter" which offers moving and decorating tips for parents installing their kids into their dorms for the first time. I joined it mainly for yux, and it did not disappoint. There were the usual insane helicopter parent talk and humble bragging (a friend reports that the parent chat for her child's college included intel on the local real estate market, for parents who were planning to buy their kids homes) and, of course, the latest in must-have décor. (Tufted headboards and rows of spot-lit succulents in tiny pots are de rigueur). A lot of intense discussion around woozoo desk fans and pool noodles. I must admit that I am touched by, and share, the mix of excitement and grief that these parents are expressing through their obsessive packing ("we forgot the batteries for her tv remote!"), seeing their child off to college and going home to an empty house.


The Decavore is studying in Canada, so for us there is the added anxiety of having him in another country, amid threats of possible future Covid lockdowns and any other international issues. He has a passport for each country should the need arise, and he is going to be in Ontario, so there will be no language barrier to contend with. Still, I worry about him being away from home. Being a decavore, will he find things to eat? The Decavore's slightly older (and I hope wiser) roommate has just arrived from India, so fingers crossed he will have a fellow vegetarian who can encourage him to explore new and different flavors, since I could not entice him to try this insanely delicious cauliflower butter masala last week.


The Decavore has had an extensive film education, not surprising given that his father studied filmmaking. He's seen almost everything. These last few weeks has been a film festival to fill in some remaining gaps before he leaves. He has seen a number of Italian neo-realist movies, but somehow missed some of the most famous ones, so we screened Bicycle Thieves. He'd seen a lot of Fellini, but not my favorite, Nights of Cabiria. We also watched Chaplin's Modern Times (the first scenes are how I imagine working in an Amazon warehouse) and some Bergman films he did not know, The Seventh Seal and Smiles on a Summer Night. We got Potemkin out of the library, which I was keen to re-watch after all these years, so I am not sure why they chose a Clockwork Orange. Outvoted, I decided to make gnocchi instead. What do you think are the most essential films for a young person to see?


I have tried pre-made, store-bought gnocchi, even from the local gourmet Italian market, but the gnocchi was always tasteless and rubbery. It's one of my favorite pasta dishes, and I had tried making it at home over the years with varying degrees of success, until I found the below recipe from Tasty. I tend to go lighter on the flour, because I like more of a mashed potato texture in my gnocchi.


Pan-fried gnocchi with summer squash and feta


Ingredients:

2 smallish Idaho baking potatoes

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 egg

1 medium-sized yellow squash

4 oz of feta

1 clove of garlic

butter

olive oil

shredded fresh basil leaves

salt and pepper


Instructions:

I really can't improve on the simple instructions from this recipe and video from Tasty, which takes all the stress out of making something like this at home. I thought this would be more work than it was. Rolling out the dough on the back of a fork was kind of fun, and tingled the old propreioceptors.


https://tasty.co/recipe/easy-homemade-potato-gnocchi


Gnocchi can be made in advance, and actually benefit from chilling in the fridge. I have also frozen left over gnocchi and thawed them out in the fridge for a few hours before cooking.


Next, chop up summer squash into bite sized pieces.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet, and add squash. Season with salt and sauté until it starts to get crisp and brown.

Feel free to be less of a grease monkey than I was- end product will no doubt taste better.

Remove squash from skillet and set aside. At this stage, to add a bit more flavor, I add some minced garlic and let it get fragrant before removing from the pan. I suppose you could leave it in, but it may overpower the other flavors, and also can easily burn.

Add gnocchi and more butter and oil if skillet is dry. Sauté gnocchi until it starts to get crisp and brown. (You could cook gnocchi and squash together, but you will crowd the pan and prevent browning. Also, you run the risk of breaking the gnocchi.)

Add squash back into the pan (some moisture will collect with squash, which is fine to add back to the pan).

Remove from heat and toss with feta.

Divide into plates and top with shredded basil and a few grindings of fresh pepper.


That's it. Very simple, and you can adapt it to different vegetables and flavors.










15 views0 comments