Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Tzimmes

The biggest family dinner of them all, Thanksgiving is less than one week away. The menu is so simple I often wonder what the fuss is about. The basics are easy: turkey, stuffing, a few sides, pumpkin pie. I guess, there's the stress of having extra people around the table or the fear of revisiting long-held family tensions. Sometimes, there's overnight guests too, since traveling from distant places is a common necessity. Maybe most people have higher standards than me, or at least more complicated recipes. I think the anxiety is rooted in the fact that many Americans don't cook anymore, yet feel like they have to create elaborate dishes for the signature Thanksgiving meal.

I'm getting old enough to just pine for a little extended family togetherness. Thanksgiving was the holiday that brought us all together. But this year, it's hard for many of us to travel, due to health issues or the high cost of air travel. So I'm sending my brother-in-law my tzimmes recipe via email, and we'll plan to do a video-chat with Great Grandpa and Grandma and whoever else is online. Somehow, it's not the same.

On the bright side, we will connect to our extended network of friends in lieu of family on Thanksgiving. Much good wine and food are sure to be consumed. Our relatives may also get a chance to invite a few close friends or neighbors over to share dinner, since the table won't be groaning with the 25+ of us that can take part in family gatherings. And Thanksgiving is the only day of the year that my mother can get my father to her church, where the majority of the congregation comes together for a community pot-luck. "It's a good thing," as she would say.

So if you are lucky enough to be with family this year, relax about the menu and count your blessings. If you are apart from them, connect in the best way you can and aspire to do better next year.

Carrot Tzimmes
Tzimmes means "with a lot of fuss" but this recipe is actually very easy. Organic carrots are optional of course, but worth the "fuss." You can also use sweet potatoes or a mixture.

1-2 lbs of sliced organic carrots (depending on how many people you are serving)
approx. 2 Tbs of each Butter and Olive Oil
1/2-1 cup Orange Juice, enough to fill pan by 1/3.
2 Tbsps. Honey or brown sugar
1/2 cup Raisins or currants, more or less to taste
1 tsp Cinnamon, more or less to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Parboil carrots. Melt butter in microwave, add equal amount of olive oil. Then mix in orange juice, honey, and cinnamon. Drain carrots and arrange in 9X12 baking dish. Pour in orange juice mixture, adding more liquid if needed. Toss in raisins and cover with foil. Whenever the oven is free, place pan in oven for about 30 minutes or until hot. If you like the carrots to be more golden brown, remove foil and heat for another 15 minutes or more, until desired color.

(Oven Temperature can vary, though 350 degrees is ideal. If oven is hotter than 350, decrease time and check more regularly so that it does not burn.)

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