who's in the kitchen

Pesach panic begins


And so the Passover countdown begins. I have to admit, I do get a little kick out of listening to people panic about preparing for Pesach before Purim even arrives. Every now and then I check into online foodie groups, and I’m amazed at all the people who have eight days of recipes and meals already printed out two months in advance.

Granted I’m a party planner, caterer and personal chef, and I can work almost as quickly as I speak. So I do have an advantage over others who don’t have as much experience, but I still think the mass hysteria is a bit much.

To the person in the foodie group who asked “Is it too early to prepare mashed potatoes on a Sunday for a Friday night?” — yes, yes, yes. It is way too early. Actually, preparing mashed potatoes on a Thursday night for Friday afternoon is too early. Get a grip!

You’re going to survive. Just breathe.

If anyone should panic, it should probably be me. I catered a large party on Saturday night two weeks before Pesach, so I couldn’t do very much before that. I did take a day off from prepping for the party to clean out my pantry and fill it with all the dry goods. I planned on doing a lot of stuff Sunday, the day after the party, but since I hadn’t slept for a few days I decided to rest and go full force on Monday. 

I koshered both of my ovens and switched over the baking section of my kitchen. I bought all of my meats: chickens, veals, ribs, roasts, et cetera. I also bought all of the dairy items except for milk. A little heads up to you people out there: all the cream cheese, butter, cottage cheese and eggs are going to be the same products the day before Yom Tov as they are now. They’re all in your store already, so you might as well buy them now. The only things I have left now are fruits and vegetables.

Did I mention that I usually don’t cater that much over this holiday, because I make Pesach and have lots of sleepover company, so I usually don’t have time to take orders? I did it as a favor two years ago because someone had back surgery and asked if I could cook for them. I felt bad, so I did. Then she told a friend who told a friend and I prepared for three families that year, and said I would never do it again … until last year, when I did.

This year would be different, I told myself. Then a friend called. She was having back surgery, and asked if I could prepare for her. It was months before Pesach, and I could organize my time, so I accepted, but that was it. I would put my foot down if anyone else called.

Fast forward to last week. I was catering a large party two weeks before Pesach, I had to do my own Pesach prep, had a bad bout of sciatica and a scheduled oral surgery. I visited the rheumatologist on Monday who put me on a regiment of prednisone to alleviate my sciatica so I could make it through the party and hopefully Passover. Tuesday I had the oral surgery, Wednesday I spent 10 hours setting up the house where the party would take place. Wednesday night I was up until 5 am preparing assorted mini pastries and cakes. Thursday was more setup and shopping for all the fruits, veggies and other items I would be cooking and prepping — alas, no sleep except for an hour Thursday night. Friday was a whirlwind of cooking, prepping, and transferring lots of food over to the party house.

About two hours before Shabbos my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and almost didn’t pick up. It was a friend of one of the people I was catering for, for pesach. She said she had just found out about me, and was it too late to order some items?

The little voice in my head shouted “No! No no no, you cannot take any more orders! Just say no, you can do it! Put your foot down!”

The voice was right. I was going to explain that I had to turn down any additional orders. But somehow, I heard myself say that I didn’t have the time to talk right now, but I would send her a list of what was available on Sunday.

So much for putting my foot down. I’ll have to see a doctor about it.

So to those of you who are panicking, just think about me, and you’ll feel better.

Here’s a great cake for Passover and year-round. It’s amazing when made with butter and heavy cream, but if you want to make it pareve, margarine is not really the margarine it is year round. Try to make this as one of your dairy desserts. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake



1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter or margarine

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder


1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream or non-dairy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line it.

Melt the chocolate and butter or margarine until both are soft, then stir until chips are fully melted. You might have to return to the heat again to make sure the mixture is smooth.

Add the sugar, then add eggs, and beat till smooth. Lastly, add the cocoa and mix just to combine. Do not beat again. Transfer the batter into the pan.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes. The surface of the cake might crack a bit, but that is normal. It will be covered. Remove it from the oven, and cool for 10 minutes.

Slide a knife around the edges to loosen the cake from the pan and turn over onto your serving plate. Loosen the edges of the pan with a table knife or nylon spreader, and turn it out onto a serving plate.

To make the ganache glaze, combine the chocolate and cream and heat in the microwave or on the stovetop until the cream is very hot, but not simmering or boiling. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the ganache is smooth.

Let cool a bit, then coat the top and sides of the cake.

Cake is ready to serve when the ganache is firm, about 2 hours.