Southwestern Tsimmes from Joan Nathan

Spicing things up with a holiday favorite!

by Marcy Harris

Southwestern Tsimmes at Zingerman's Roadhouse.

Dubbed by the Houston Chronicle as the “Queen of American Jewish cooking”, we love our friend Joan Nathan because she connects us with Jewish foods and their stories. The author of no less than 10 cookbooks, Joan preserves recipes that are important to Jewish culture. 

“Cooking traditional recipes is a way of saying, ‘This is my family, these are our customs’”, says Joan. “Holiday cooking should show Jewish people where we came from.”

What we also really love about Joan is that she likes to make traditional foods approachable. One of our favorites are the Southwestern tsimmes from her James Beard award-winning cookbook, Jewish Cooking in America, and they are super easy to make at home.

While the Ashkenazi Jewish dish is more often prepared for Rosh Hashanah, they also find their way on the Roadhouse menu nearly every Chanukah. Joan’s version, which requires stuffing tsimmes into chilies, reflects how traditional foods can adapt as people move around the globe. At the Roadhouse, we mix the tsimmes with roasted New Mexico green chilies before we bake them to capture the Southwestern flavor. The adaptation fits perfectly with the Roadhouse because of our love for American regional cuisine as well as Jewish foods.

Rather spend your time stuffing your face than stuffing the chilies? In step 8, you’ll find an alternative that requires you to simply bake the stuffing in a casserole dish. Just as we do here, you can of course still mix chilies in with the tsimmes. The subtle smokey heat is a perfect complement to the sweet tang offered by the rest of the dish. What’s also fantastic about Joan’s recipe is that they are vegetarian, gluten-free, and could honestly be served throughout the season for any occasion. I actually make them for Thanksgiving after realizing that they are far superior to the sweet potato casserole I had been making for years. Any version you choose to make will definitely be a hit for your family holiday feast!


Southwestern Tsimmes Stuffed in Chilies

From Jewish Cooking in America

1/4 pound pitted prunes

6 medium peeled carrots, cut in chunks

3 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and diced

6 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

12 green or red Anaheim chilies

  1. Mix all the ingredients except the cilantro and the chilies in a greased 3-quart baking dish.
  2. Cover and bake in a preheated 250-degree oven, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, but not mushy, about 2 hours. Let cool.
  3. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the mixture coarsely with the chopped cilantro to facilitate stuffing into the chilies. This can be prepared a day ahead.
  4. Place the chilies on a cookie sheet in a preheated 450-degree oven. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, or until the skin is black. Remove to a plastic or paper bag and leave until cool. Peel off the skin.
  5. With a sharp knife, make a slit from the bottom of the stem to the point of each chili.
  6. Gently scrape out the seeds and rinse the inside of the chili.
  7. Pat each chili dry and stuff with chopped tsimmes so that each chili is slightly overstuffed, causing the slit in the chili to open, exposing the filling.
  8. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Alternately, you can merely put the stuffing mixture in a greased flat casserole, approximately 9- by 13-inch, and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until it is warm.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings