There are certain dishes that make an appearance on our Rosh Hashanah table every year. I’m sure your family has their own favorite traditional foods– you know, the dishes that really make it a holiday (no matter which holiday you celebrate!). For my family, it wouldn’t be Rosh Hashanah without Brisket, Perfect Chicken Soup with Floater Matzo Balls, Saffron Rice, and Apple Honey Cake. These recipes have been a part of our family celebrations for many years. They’re expected.
That said, I’m happiest in the kitchen when I have the freedom to get creative. I like playing with our holiday menu each year, adding some new flavors to change things up. This year, I’m introducing a new fish recipe, as well as a different type of tzimmes– Citrus Honey Glazed Vegetables.
Tzimmes is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish made with sweet root vegetables– carrots, sweet potatoes, yams. Sometimes dried fruits are added, like raisins or dried plums. The word tzimmes is a Yiddish expression for “making a fuss” over something, probably because making tzimmes is a bit of a fussy dish… with all of those root veggies, there is lots of peeling and chopping involved. Tzimmes is often served as a side dish for Rosh Hashanah, where sweet foods are served to signify our hope for a sweet new year. Sometimes tzimmes are served with meat, like chunks of flanken or short ribs, in a luscious sort of savory/sweet stew.
Usually, tzimmes are stewed together with sugar and/or dried fruit till soft. This year, I thought I’d make our tzimmes by roasting the vegetables. Roasting brings out their natural sweetness and a depth of flavor you just can’t get from simmering. I peeled and chopped up some root vegetables, using golden, orange, yellow and white colored veggies. In Sephardic holiday tradition, golden colored foods signify abundance, so I stuck with a golden color palette for this dish.
I used my basic recipe for making Roasted Root Vegetables, but sweetened it with honey, orange zest, and the exotic scent of orange blossom water. You can find orange blossom water at any Middle Eastern market. If you don’t have a market in your neighborhood, click here to buy orange blossom water. You won’t need much of it– a little goes a long way. If orange blossom water is too difficult to obtain, feel free to substitute a tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice instead.
I covered the vegetables with foil for most of the cooking process, knowing that honey tends to blacken when exposed to extreme heat. At the end of cooking, I uncovered them, allowing them to caramelize and the glaze to thicken. The result? Tender, warm root vegetables with a citrus caramel-like glaze that will melt in your mouth. This is a tzimmes worth celebrating!
If you’re making a lot of dishes for the holiday and you want to plan ahead, make these vegetables early in the day, then reheat in the oven just before serving.
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- 2 large yams (orange sweet potatoes) - about 2 lbs total
- 3 large yellow beets (about 1 1/2 lbs total)
- 1 lb carrots
- 1 lb parsnips
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp orange blossom water or 1 tbsp orange juice
- 2 tsp grated orange zest
- Salt and pepper
- Place racks in the upper third and lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with foil. Cut the vegetables into 1 1/2-inch chunks.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the honey, olive oil, orange blossom water or orange juice, and grated orange zest.
- Place the cut vegetables into a large mixing bowl and toss them with the honey mixture till evenly coated.
- Spread the vegetables out evenly across the two cookie sheets, making sure to leave space between the vegetables. Don't overcrowd the pans. Sprinkle the vegetables lightly with salt and black pepper.
- Cover both sheets with another layer of foil. Place the sheets into the oven. Let the vegetables cook for 35 minutes. Halfway through cooking, uncover and stir the vegetables, recover, then switch the baking sheets on their racks.
- After 35 minutes, uncover the baking sheets and stir the vegetables again gently. Allow the vegetables to roast another 10-15 minutes till they are glazed and caramelized.
- Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm. These vegetables can be made ahead early in the day, then reheated in the oven or microwave just before serving.