JewishBoston.com: Shamefully Simple Tzimmes

Originally published on JewishBoston.com.

tsimmes, photo used under CC license from Flickr user Edsel LittleTzimmes is an Ashkenazi specialty generally associated with Rosh Hashannah due to its sweetness. There are as many variations on tzimmes as there are Jews, but the common threads are that it’s a sweet dish made from carrots and whatever else you want to throw in. A common version is “tzimmes with flanken,” featuring short ribs to add a meaty savor.

Tzimmes has a reputation for being a big pain in the neck to make — so much so that the phrase “to make a tzimmes” is synonymous with “to make a big deal” out of something. But my family’s recipe is so simple, it’s almost embarrassing to call it a recipe. Even so, it’s delicious and is always a hit when served at holiday meals and potlucks. Better yet, it freezes well and reheats even better.

And since my tzimmes relies on sweet potatoes, an autumnal vegetable if there ever was one, it’s perfect for Sukkot, our fall harvest festival. But honestly, I serve it year-round.

2 large (29 oz.) cans of cut sweet potatoes or yams
2 15-oz. cans of carrots (I like canned whole baby carrots)
1 frozen kishke, thawed (feel free to substitute vegetarian kishke)
Maple syrup and cinnamon, to taste
Optional: raisins, prunes or other dried fruit

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Drain most of the liquid out of the cans of vegetables, then mix the vegetables in a casserole dish. If you’re including dried fruit, add it now. Add liberal amounts of maple syrup and cinnamon. Toss to coat. Slice kishke, laying rounds across the top of the casserole to cover. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the kishke is browned and the casserole is bubbling.

Tzimmes photography used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Edsel L.

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JP Shabbat: D’var Torah on the occasion of a new minyan in Jamaica Plain

Originally delivered at the inaugural meeting of JP Shabbat, a monthly independent minyan that started in my living room in April 2009, and as of this writing is still going strong four and a half years later, in the hands of a new generation of organizers.

I closed on my condo in Jamaica Plain just over two years ago.  When I decided to move to JP, I knew I’d be entering a community where neighbors talked to each other, where acres of green space awaited just down the street, and where I’d be just a quick T ride from downtown and a quick car ride to my office.  I also knew that I’d be entering a community with a lot of Jewish people, but not a lot of Jewish activity.  As someone who works for the Jewish community, I have to admit I found the idea of JP as an island away from the Jews of my work week to hold more than a little appeal for me.

Of course, I don’t really want to live in an island away from Judaism… to paraphrase a rabbi I work with, I don’t hate Judaism, I just have a problem with Jews.  Luckily, JP’s lack of a major synagogue presence means that the Jews who move here tend to be like-minded.  It didn’t take long before many of us were murmuring to each other about starting some kind of Friday night… something.  A minyan, a dinner group, an occasional Kiddush club?  The common theme was “I don’t care what we start as long as I don’t have to be in charge.”

Well, God bless Jess Gould and Efraim Yudewitz for stepping forward and actually getting us all into a room together.  About two weeks ago, nine people assembled in Jess and Efraim’s living room and decided to start whatever this is that we’re doing now. Continue reading