LESSON OBJECTIVES AND OUTLINE FOR TEACHERS
I. LESSON OBJECTIVES
A. The students will demonstrate their knowledge of proper cooking techniques by preparing the tzimmes; thereby demonstrating that they know how to:
- Peel and slice carrots.
- Peel and dice sweet potatoes.
- Peel and grate ginger.
- Peel and partially quarter an onion.
- Measure and combine ingredients.
- Make an einbren.
B. The students will demonstrate their knowledge of the origins, nutritional value, and significance of tzimmes and their understanding of the dual meaning of the Yiddish words by eventually completing the final Sample Test.
II. KITCHEN ORGANIZATION: TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
- Tzimmes cooks for a considerable length of time (approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes) so it is necessary to prepare one ahead of time so that the students can taste the finished result. Most of the time involved, however, simply requires letting the mixture simmer on the stove.
- The students are grouped for this recipe so that several activities can be taking place at one time. Once the peeling, grating, slicing, dicing, etc. have taken place, they may find that there is extra time while the dish is simmering. You may want to provide for additional reading or activities.
- If there are more than one class, the tzimmes prepared by the first one can then be sampled by the others and so on.
- It may be necessary to demonstrate on one carrot and one sweet potato the method for slicing and dicing to give the required-size pieces so that the students can have uniform-size pieces.
- Fresh ginger can be a little tricky to peel and grate. A vegetable peeler will do the job and you must just keep at it to get into the irregular spaces. Little mini graters can be found in some cookware stores which are handy for grating citrus peels as well.
- When making the einbren, watch carefully while stirring the fat and flour combination because once it starts to turn brown, it burns very quickly and anything beyond brown will taste very bitter.
III. FOOD FOR THOUGHT
A. This may be a good time to initiate a discussion of the ill-effects of smoking and how beta-carotene may help prevent cancer. Of course, the best way to prevent cancer is not to start smoking in the first place!
B. Much of Jewish cooking has fallen out of favor in view of today's emphasis on low fat, low cholesterol, low salt diets. It would probably be interesting to see how much students are aware of what foods are good for them, and if they are aware, whether they actually try to eat those things that they perceive as healthy and avoid those things they perceive as unhealthy. Jewish cooking need not be full of saturated fat and salt. Like all good cooking, if one starts with good quality ingredients and prepares them with simplicity and an eye towards good health, many of our dishes, like this one, can be totally in line with healthy eating.
MATERIALS FOR TZIMMES
- 2 lbs. carrots
- 1 large onion
- 2-1/2 lbs. orange sweet potatoes
- 1 12-oz. box pitted prunes
- fresh ginger
- 1/2 c. honey
- 1 lemon or reconstituted lemon juice
- 1 stick butter or margarine
- 1 c. flour
- small fine grater
- several sharp knives
- 6 vegetable peelers
- 1 6-qt. pot
- measuring spoons
- measuring cups
- small saucepan
- foil lasagna-size pan
- 1 made-up batch of tzimmes
Food Section of the Philadelphia Inquirer dated Sunday, January 22, 1989:
A good-for-you sweet stew
“A sweet potato a day keeps the doctor away” may be hard to say trippingly on the tongue, but help is at hand. “A carrot a day” works out pretty well, is only slightly less accurate, and has the advantage of pointing up just why the old adage has changed.
It has changed because evidence is suggesting that eating fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene, the orange pigment converted by the body into Vitamin A, helps prevent many sorts of cancer, especially among smokers.
Scientists don’t yet know exactly how it works. They don't even know for sure that it works at all. But several studies of smokers have found links between high blood levels of beta-carotenes and lowered cancer risk.
Is it the beta-carotene itself or something else in those foods—Eat your vegetables!—that’s causing the good effect? Does it apply only to smokers? Stay tuned. A 10-year experiment using beta-carotene supplements and involving 22,000 doctors as subjects is currently being conducted. Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute is urging everybody to consume lots of the right stuff (mentioned later in this story) just in case.
What could it hurt? More complex carbos, more fiber, more vitamins, less room for junk food. But after baked carrots and steamed carrots and carrot sticks, then what?
How about a nice tzimmes, probably the only dish in all of classic European Jewish cuisine that does not actively promote cardiac arrest? It contains both sweet potatoes and carrots, the Beta-Carotene Top Two, and more than most other dishes, it makes a statement. Colloquially speaking, to make a tzimmes is to make a fuss, a to-do, over something, and if occasion warrants, you can make a gahntze tzimmes, a really major big deal. To illustrate: Vitamin manufacturers are currently making a tzimmes about beta-carotene. Cholesterol, on the other hand has been a full-blown gahntze tzimmes for years.
There are many kinds of tzimmes. The most common ones contain beef brisket as well as vegetables, but many are meatless, as is the recipe that will be forthcoming. They can also be made of lima beans, or, as in the Balkans, from assorted dried fruits and rice. Prunes are often included but are not mandatory. The trait that unites these disparate dishes is sweetness; all are seasoned with sugar or honey. This connects tzimmes in Jewish custom to happy holidays and special meals. “You wouldn't have it on a Wednesday afternoon, for instance,” says my father.
OK, wait until Wednesday evening then. If you serve it with a big mess of greens, the flavors will balance wonderfully and you can call it a cross-cultural, soul-food health special; dandelions, kale and turnip greens are also rich in beta-carotenes.
This is a rich vegetable stew, sweet enough to be a tzimmes but much less sweet than the classics. It is un-classically enhanced with ginger but does retain the einbren, a thickening mixture of fat and flour that is the Jewish equivalent of Cajun roux. Einbren adds considerably to the flavor, and I can’t see making a big tzimmes over one teaspoon of fat per serving, but if you want to omit it, do so and cut down on the liquid so the finished dish isn't watery.
[The following recipe has been doubled for the purposes of this class and set forth in the usual format.]
A Small to Medium Tzimmes
- 2 lbs. carrots
- 1 large onion
- 2-1/2 lbs. orange sweet potatoes
- 1 12-oz. box pitted prunes
- 1 T. fresh ginger
- 1/4 c. honey
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 1/4 c. margarine, butter, or rendered chicken fat
- 4 T. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 t. salt
1. Cut off the very top and very bottom of each carrot and peel using a vegetable peeler.
2. Slice into 1/2-inch thick slices.
3. Peel the sweet potatoes using vegetable peelers and cut into I-inch dice.
4. Peel an onion and cut it in four from tip to root as though you were going to quarter it, but stop about 1/2-inch from the bottom so the quarters don't separate.
5. Peel a “hand” of ginger and grate on small grater until you have a tablespoon of grated ginger.
6. Place carrots and onion from Group 3 in a 6-qt. pot and add cold water to cover them by an inch or so.
7. Put the pan over high heat, bring to just under a boil, then reduce heat so the liquid simmers vigorously. Cook, shaking the pan from time to time to keep everything from sticking to the bottom for about 10 minutes, or until the carrots are almost tender when tested with the point of a knife.
8. After the carrots have cooked for 10 minutes, add the potatoes, prunes, ginger, honey, and lemon juice and add a bit of hot water if necessary to bring the liquid level just under the top layer.
9. Cook 25 minutes more, or until the vegetables are completely tender and the liquid reduced by about half. Do not undercook; classic Jewish cuisine is not interested in al dente vegetables.
10. Remove and discard the onion.
11. While the vegetables cook, melt the fat in a small saucepan over medium heat.
12. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until it is a nice nutty brown.
13. Whisk in a spoonful or two of broth to make a thinnish paste.
14. Continue to cook until the sauce is well-thickened.
15. Add salt, taste and adjust, adding honey if necessary to make the tzimmes distinctly sweet.
The dish may be served as is, but flavor and looks are improved if you turn it into a shallow pan and run it under a hot broiler for a few minutes to brown the top. Makes 12 servings.
According to a list published in the December 1988 Nutrition Action Health Letter, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the following are highest in assorted carotenes (alpha and zeta, as well as beta). The Recommended Daily Allowance is 5,000 IU’s (international units). The doctors in the controlled study are taking 83,000 IU’s every other day. All numbers are for half-cup servings and all foods are cooked except where noted.
Sweet potatoes, 24,880 IU; raw carrots, 20,250, cooked carrots, 19,150; spinach, 7,370; butternut squash, 7,140; hubbard squash, 6,160; dandelion greens, 6,080; kale, 4,810; turnip greens, 3,960.
And so it goes. An apple a day? Apples certainly have their virtues, but they're at the bottom of this list with 74 IUs of carotenes.
Important warning: All of these good words are about beta-carotene. As far as anybody knows, it's just about impossible to overdose on beta-carotene. Vitamin A, however, can be toxic; the RDA is 5,000 IUs, all of which your body can make from beta-carotene.