who's in the kitchen: judy joszef

After quick trip to Israel, a mad dash to Pesach


The good news is I’m going to Israel nine days before Pesach; the bad news is I’m coming home two days before Pesach. 

My husband and I are going to visit his daughter, husband and three adorable children in Yerushalyim and his son, daughter-in-law and their three adorable children as well, in Efrat. And while there for five nights, we also get to attend the wedding of our close friend’s daughter.

So heads up — if you see me the morning I arrive back to the states, in any of the Five Town’s supermarkets, I might not be safe to be around. 

Every year right after Purim I have these grandiose plans of starting to turn over my kitchen in preparation for Pesach. I clean out most of my pantry and start buying all the non-perishables. Most of which I won’t use, but have to have. There are certain items that I now am able to pass by — the mustard container looks like it would hold mustard, the soy sauce bottle gets an A for authenticity, but when it comes to the actual product, unless it’s being used on a TV or movie set, leave it on the store shelf. Each year more and more products are introduced, and most taste nothing like the real thing.

You can fool me once, but not twice. My problem is trying not to buy things I know won’t be eaten, but has become such a habit to buy. Every year I think of how much I’m spending, so what’s the difference if I buy a few (way more than a few) items I won’t use.

One such item is those jelly half moon candies. Red, yellow green and orange, each with that awful tasting white half circle in them, made of sugar. Maybe I would eat a red one, maybe, but the green? Really, who eats the green, and if you do, why, for heavens sake? Why, I ask you?  

So his year i stood my ground and did not buy it. But to be fair, and because some of you might have seen me in the candy aisle, I must admit, I hesitated a bit. Ok, so maybe I hesitated a lot. I walked by and laughed to myself, “No way, not this year.” Then I stopped for a second and walked on.

“That wasn’t too hard I thought to myself.”

Next, I then walked by the granola section (aka crushed matzah), then the bread crumb section (crushed matzah), then onto and past the “cracker” section (hexagon shaped matzah pieces with salt). Then comes the macaroons. Should I use the can I just found from last year, never opened, or was it from two years ago? Don’t, get me wrong, we don’t actually open or eat them, there just has to be at least one can in the pantry, because it’s a tradition, you know, along with jar of borscht that won’t be opened, as well as the token box of passover cereal that comes in a myriad of sizes, shapes and colors but all taste alike and will turn into a wet soggy mess before you can return the container of milk to the refrigerator … but you need one in case. In case what, I don’t know, but just in case. 

So here it is two weeks later. My extra freezer and fridge are cleaned and stocked. Freezer loaded with roasts, chickens, breast of veal, lamb chops and corned beef. Fridge with dairy products except for milk and juice. All done in only eight major trips, seriously. And each of those times, I walked by those jelly candies, I stopped for a second, picked it up and a voice inside said of me, that sounded like a police officer on a megaphone, said, “Put your hands back on the cart where I can see them and walk away from that box of half moon jelly candies.” On the last trip someone standing next me asked, “You’re not buying those candies are you, I stopped buying those years ago.” “Me? No, definitely not,” and I walked on. I did it!

Now, if I only I could control myself from buying that extra soup ladle, vegetable peeler, ice scream scooper and wine bottle opener — just in case I didn’t put it away last year. Since I don’t unpack my dishes, pots, etc. until a week before, I always buy things just to make sure I have it.

Meanwhile, I just unpacked those boxes…

My dear readers, please remind me next year that I have 7 meat ladles and 5 dairy ones, 4 can openers, 5 vegetable peelers, 8 wooden mixing spoons, 4 spatulas, 6 basters, 5 rubber spatulas and 7 mixing bowls. Oh, and in case anyone needs needs extra Maxwellhouse Haggadahs — I counted 72.

Since I won’t be back on time to get my column in before Pesach, I’m wishing you all a Zissin Pesach shared with family and friends. Try not to work too hard if you’re home and if you’re jetting off to somewhere exotic, I hope you’re bags are overweight!  Just kidding all of us staying home are happy for you.  Enjoy those jelly candies, while you’re away 

For those of you who are baking, here is a recipe I got from friend last year. Love it! 

Passover Biscotti

Makes about 38

1 cup ground almonds

1⁄2 cup kosher-for-Passover potato starch

1 cup matzah cake meal

3⁄4 cup sugar

1 tsp. kosher-for-Passover baking powder

grated zest of 1⁄2 lemon

3 eggs, lightly beaten

juice of 1⁄2 lemon

1 cup coarsely chopped almonds

Mini chocolate chips optional 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor, process ground almonds, potato starch, matzah cake meal, sugar and baking powder until blended. Add eggs and lemon juice and process just until dough holds together. Turn out onto a board dusted with cake meal and knead chopped almonds into dough. Dough should be slightly sticky.

Form dough into 2 logs about 2 inches in diameter. Place on cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with wet hands.

Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and place logs on cutting board. Slice on the diagonal, about 1 inch thick. Return slices (cut side down) to cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown (about 45 minutes).

Cool on a rack. Store in airtight container.