Stick with carrots

Get sweet on some honeyed tzimmes variations.

Carrots simmered at length in my mother's classic beef tzimmes, which tasted fine to me when I was growing up, but when I moved to Paris, the rich, sweet carottes glacees were a delicious discovery. Although they were tender, the glazed carrots had not cooked for long in liquid; rather, they were slowly stewed in butter with sugar and just a bit of water. This cooking technique enhanced their natural sweetness. I quickly adopted it for my Rosh Hashana menus, using honey, the time-honored holiday sweetener, instead of all or part of the sugar, and substituting oil for the butter when I needed my carrots to be parve. These luscious, shiny carrots became popular with my family and friends and in my Rosh Hashana cooking classes. French chefs I studied with often glazed their carrots separately even if they were destined to be part of a meat or poultry stew, instead of cooking them in the pot with the meat. To make the carrots a component of the final dish, they simply heated them in part of the meat's sauce just before serving. This way the carrots kept their sweet identity. I find that this method works beautifully for meat and vegetable tzimmes. Sometimes the chefs glazed the carrots with other sweet vegetables such as baby onions or sliced turnips. In a similar way Aviva Goldman, author of the mostly Ashkenazi collection The Kosher Cookbook (Hebrew, published 1969), pairs her carrots with kohlrabi, peas or diced potatoes. She cooks the vegetables in a tightly covered pot over low heat with sugar and oil but no water, so they get a slightly caramelized flavor. Although Mizrahi cooking is not known for its sweet dishes, many Sephardim like the sweet taste of caramelized carrots, especially for Rosh Hashana. My friend Kitty Morse, author of The Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco, roasts carrots with leeks, winter squash, and other vegetables. During the two hours that they bake with sugar, oil, cinnamon sticks and raisins, these vegetables become very tender and concentrated in flavor. The roasted vegetables are so esteemed that the platter is traditionally placed on the table for the blessings before dinner, alongside plates of pomegranate seeds, dates and other sweet treats, as well as the Kiddush wine. Sweet carrots are valued by Persian cooks as well. Margaret Shaida, author of The Legendary Cuisine of Persia, calls Persian Morasa Polow, the jeweled rice served for special occasions, "the king of Persian dishes." A prominent feature of the dish of basmati rice studded with nuts, dried currants and candied orange zest is its generous garnish of sweet carrots, glazed with sugar and saffron, the precious spice. FOUR-WAY GLAZED CARROTS Sweeten the carrots with honey, sugar or both, and enrich them with vegetable oil or butter according to your menu. You can flavor the sauce with citrus zest or a bit of spice, like cinnamon or ginger, or enhance the dish with dried fruit. Prepare these versions according to the variations below. Instead of serving the carrots in round, coin-shaped slices the traditional Rosh Hashana way, you can make this dish with whole baby carrots. Makes 4 servings 4 450 gr. carrots, sliced in rounds 4 about 6 mm. thick 4 1 cup water 4 Pinch salt 4 2 Tbsp. honey or white or brown sugar, or 1 Tbsp. of each 4 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil or butter Combine carrots, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Add sugar, honey and oil and continue cooking uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until carrots are very tender and liquid is absorbed, about 10 or 15 minutes. Watch so mixture does not burn. Serve hot or warm. Variations: Glazed Carrots with Raisins - After simmering the carrots for 10 minutes, add 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup golden raisins to the cooking liquid. Glazed Carrots with Citrus Zest or Spice - Add 1 cinnamon stick, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 2 teaspoons chopped gingerroot to the pan along with the carrots, or stir 1⁄2 teaspoon finely grated orange or lemon zest into the finished dish just before removing the pan from the heat. Fast Glazed Carrots - Increase water to 11⁄2 cups. Cook the carrots in water for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving liquid and returning 3 to 4 tablespoons of it to the pan. Return carrots to pan with remaining ingredients and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. HONEY-ORANGE CARROTS AND SWEET POTATOES WITH FRESH GINGER Some will call this tzimmes, and some will refer to it as oven-glazed vegetables. Whatever the name, this casserole flavored with sweet spices and dried fruit is a delicious accompaniment for chicken or meat. If you don't have fresh gingerroot, add 1 teaspoon ground ginger to the honey mixture. Makes 4-6 servings 4 1 cup dried fruit, such as apricots, prunes or pears, or mixed dried fruit 4 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil 4 550 gr. carrots, sliced 4 550 gr. sweet potatoes 4 Salt and freshly ground pepper 4 1 Tbsp. minced gingerroot 4 1⁄2 cup raisins 4 1⁄4 cup honey 4 1⁄2 cup fresh orange juice, strained 4 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, strained 4 1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon Pinch of ground cloves Put dried fruit (but not raisins) in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak about 20 minutes or until nearly tender. Dice fruit. Preheat oven to 190ºC. Pour 1 tablespoon oil into a shallow, 10-cup casserole or baking dish. Put carrots in a saucepan. Peel sweet potatoes, cut in 2 cm. dice and add to carrots with water to cover. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender. Drain well. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan used to cook vegetables. Add ginger and saute over medium heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Add carrots, sweet potatoes and a little salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove dried fruit from soaking liquid. Dice fruit and add to vegetables. Add raisins. Transfer mixture to the oiled casserole. Combine honey, orange juice, lemon juice, cinnamon and cloves in small saucepan. Bring to simmer, stirring. Pour evenly over vegetables. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes or until most of honey mixture is absorbed. Serve from the baking dish. n Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.