AAA Healthy Dessert to the Rescue

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 July 2011 08:44 Written by Flax Wednesday, 27 July 2011 08:38


Healthy Dessert to the Rescue

Let’s be honest, healthy and dessert are oxymorons.  There are no really good desserts that are truly healthy.  On the other hand, sometimes all we need is a little taste of something sweet at the end of a meal in order to feel completely satisfied.  This is especially true after eating a heavy meat meal.  While those rich, creamy, and sugary desserts always look attractive, many of us often regret that short moment of pleasure.  I recommend trying a lighter dessert which also has wonderful health benefits.

The AAA in the title stands for Apple Agar-Agar.   Agar-Agar, also known as kanten,  is a gelatine made from seaweed.  Besides having all  of the wonderful health benefits of seaweed, it is also an excellent kosher gelatine option.  More and more badatz products in Israel that use gelatine are switching to seaweed gelatine.  Seaweed gelatine  is also preferable to animal gelatine  from a culinary point of view as unlike beef or fish gelatine it doesn’t melt at room temperature.

All seaweeds are known to be high in vitamins and minerals.  They are especially high in  iodine, calcium, and iron.  Some seaweeds have up to ten times more calcium than milk and up to twenty-five times more iron than beef.  All sea vegetables (a fancier way of saying seaweed) help to lower cholesterol, are beneficial to the thyroid, and they help to detoxify the body.  Seaweed is so healthy and it makes me feel so alive that I have made it a habit to eat  five to fifteen grams of seaweed every single day.  Not everyone however likes the taste of seaweed (that was an understatement) and they avoid eating it.  Since agar-agar is tasteless, odorless, and  invisible when cooked, no-one has to actually know what it is that they eating.

However, my favorite feature of agar-agar is that it helps to promotes digestion and weight loss.  Yes, that is correct, a dessert that will actually help you to lose weight!  So, now you can eat your dessert and enjoy it too.


  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 5 tablespoons agar-agar flakes
  • 1 tablespoons rice malt (a healthy sweetener)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 golden apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

Bring the apple cider, agar flakes, rice malt, and spices to a boil over a medium flame while stirring frequently.  Simmer for three minutes .  Add the apple pieces and simmer for two minutes more.  Remove the cinnamon stick and pour into individual molds.  Allow to cool and then refrigerate for one hour.

Serves 6-8.  Serve chilled

Note:  The correct amount of agar-agar to use fluctuates in accordance to the acidity of the dish.  To check if you are using the correct amount of agar-agar, remove one tablespoon of the mixture and pour onto a flat surface.  After five minutes you will be able to see if it holds.


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Rosh Hashanah Carrots

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2011 11:07 Written by Flax Wednesday, 14 September 2011 10:57

I find food anthropology fascinating, this is especially true on holidays where the differences in traditions are the most significant.  While the Sephardic Jews have for the most part retained the traditional Talmudic customs of the Rosh Hashanah Seder, the Ashkenzi Jews have retained only the basic idea.  Rather than a lack of faith on the part of the European Jew, I see this as a lack of availability of these foods in Medieval Europe.  Despite their limitations, we see a basic desire on their part to retain the Talmudic concept of eating foods which contain special meanings.  Hence, the introduction of the carrot and the apple.

The apple and the carrot are both sweet foods, reflecting upon our desire for a sweet year.  The apple is dipped in honey to add sweetness while the carrot is cooked with a combination of sweet flavors such as honey, sugar, and fruit. This dish, called zimmes, is a staple at the Ashkenazi Rosh Hashanah meal.  An interesting trend however developed around the carrots.  Carrots translated into Yiddish means mirrin,  mirrin also  means ‘more’ in Yiddish and thus the carrot was attributed a blessing similar to that of  the pomegranate.  Rabbi Avraham Danzig (Vilna, d. 1820) wrote in Hayye Adam (Klal 139:6) that we eat merrin on Rosh Hashanah and we say: “May God increase our merits”.  The carrot here is a brilliant example of how Jews were able to adapt to their enviornment, using the easily available carrot to replace the elucid pomegranate, while still maintaining the spirit of the ancient traditions.

Modern Israel has a large population of both Sephardi and Ashkenzi Jews, and for the first time since the Diaspora we see a merging of the two cultures.  Perhaps this is why we see a new development, something that I might refer to as the “Neuvou-Israeli Rosh Hashanah Seder”.  Israeli children, sometimes with the encouragement of their teachers, have turned the Seder into a game, seeing who can come up with the most symbolic food reference.  Of  late I have heard such “pearls” as a blessing over chicken and chickpeas, “she’yafu hachamas”  (the Hamas should disappear) and a blessing whichp lays on the french word for banana, banané, which sounds like “bonne année”,  French for a good year.  (Never say that Jews are not adaptable.)

An underlying theme in my Elul recipes has been Jewish fusion, or foods which reflect upon  kibbutz galuyot.  The recipe below maintains this theme as I offer a North African alternative to zimmis.  Polish zimmis is basically sweet, even overly sweet.  The carrots, sweet to begin with, are then cooked with sweet, and only sweet.   I chose instead a sweet carrot recipe with a greater variety of flavors.  The recipe below is a  traditional Algerian carrot salad.  This dish is intended as a first course, where it is served accompanied by other salads.  It has the same carrots and the sugar as zimmis but the wider variety of flavors and spices adds greater depth to the dish and turns the carrots into a delicacy. 

A word of caution:  I have never had any leftovers from this dish.  Whatever I put on the table is devoured!


  • 1 bag of carrots (1 kilo–2 lb.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp hot pepper (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • corn oil or olive oil

Peel the carrots, remove the tips, and boil them in lightly salted water until they are slightly soft (about 30 minutes).  Be careful not to over-cook the carrots as they will crumble when stirred.

Slice the cooked carrots into 1/2 inch roundels. Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive/corn oil, add the garlic, sugar, and spices and mix on a low flame for 30 seconds. Add the carrots and saute while gently stirring for about ten minutes or until the carrots are completely cooked and coated in the spices. Remove from the flame and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Serve cold as a first course,  accompanied by bread and other salads.

Sima Herzfeld Navon has a clinic for holistic medicine.  She also teaches healthy cooking and nutritional healing.

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