Hanukkah Face-Off: Ashkenazi Dish #1


Hanukkah is a time for enjoying Jewish culinary traditions with family and friends, and to that end we present a daily competition between Ashkenazi and Sephardic food, going up around sunset on the first seven days of Hanukkah – and presenting a wrap-up as the sun goes down on the eighth day. Whose food is the most appealing? Help us decide with your comments and social media shares.

Jewish food, like many Jewish people, is humble in nature but laced with undertones of sweetness. Honey, prunes, apples, and wine are all regular features on Shabbat tables from New York to Tel Aviv.

Tzimmes is traditionally a stew of carrots and prunes served at Rosh Hashannah, and is eaten to usher in a sweet new year. It stands out among the other ambrosial dishes, not only due to its flavor, but its name. Derived from the Yiddish words tzim (for) and esn (to eat), the expression tzimmes means to make a big production out of something small (since it takes a fair amount of work to peel, chop, and stew all of those carrots). As an Ashkenazi Jew, I can personally attest to making a tzimmes out of pretty much everything, regardless of the time of year.

Daniel Holzman, chef and co-owner of The Meatball Shop, riffs on the tzimmes recipe by adding mint and walnuts to the classic combination of carrots and prunes. Holzman also roasts the fruit and vegetables, allowing them to caramelize without turning to mush. The result is a sweet, punchy dish that’s finished off with a solid crunch and is served seasonally at the restaurant.