You say potato. I say potato kugel. You say you’re in a stew? I say what’s the big tzimmes?

Tzimmes.

Pronounced tzim-mess. For those unfamiliar with the term, tzimmes is generally understood as Yiddish for “a big fuss.”

In Jewish cooking terms, a tzimmes is essentially a casserole. Similar to a stew. Asked to bring a side dish to a Seder meal, for example, it would be understood that I would be happy to make a big tzimmes in the kitchen, stewing up something extra delicious, “company-style.”

I don’t know which came first, the big fuss or the Eastern European dish, but I do know that to make tzimmes involves some chopping, simmering and stewing, tzimmessing, if you will.

Like a good argument –  or discussion around the Seder plate –  a good tzimmes is both savory and sweet. What goes into a tzimmes can be either vegetables or meat and any combination of fruit, most notably prunes.

In cooking as in life, as it turns out, making a tzimmes is easy as pie. Essentially it’s take, chop, mix and stew.

My No-Fuss Version of a Big Tzimmes Serves 8

  • 4 to 6 large carrots
  • 4 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup bite-size pitted dates (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 cup dried apricots (about 5 ounces)
  • 1 medium apple, sliced (optional)
  • ½ cup dried cherries (Michigan-style and optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ orange (chopped in food processor with rind)
  • 1 dash of cumin (optional to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Cooking Method:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut carrots into 2-inch pieces. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and lower heat to medium; add sweet potatoes in their skins and cook for 20 minutes, adding the carrots after 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes, and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large bowl along with carrots.
  3. Heat oil in a saute pan, add fruit, brown sugar, maple syrup, orange juice and simmer for a minute or two, just until the mixture is heated. Mix with potatoes and carrots. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well, and transfer to a 2-quart baking dish.
  4. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, basting with pan juices after 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve immediately.

This recipe is a Food52 Community Pick. Here’s the review:

“I read through this recipe and knew it had to be on our Seder table, something traditional (with twists). It’s bright and tasty, appeals both to adults and children, and simple to make. After a short time in a crowded oven, we all admired it, and ate with pleasure. Don’t wait for a holiday for this one! It does speak Thanksgiving too, but I’d be ready for this balance of sweet and tart any time. You could even make it a one pot meal with some added beans or cheese.” – Susan G.

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