JOLIET – Tzimmes.
Charles Rubovits, rabbi at the Joliet Jewish Synagogue, said there’s at least 56 wonderful variations on this Passover side dish of carrots, potatoes and stewed prunes that he’s loved since childhood.
“And they’re all wonderful,” Rubovits said.
But then, Rubovits said, Passover is built around food and the warm memories it creates. Kim Higgins, store director of the Jewel-Osco on Jefferson Street in Joliet since October 2013, agreed.
That’s why, after Higgins noticed the synagogue was down the street from Jewel, she contacted Rubovits and asked if members needed a local supplier for Passover foods.
When Rubovits said, “Absolutely,” Higgins, with the full support of her district manager Dave Paul, invited Rubovits to bring his PIMA, or “Passover in the Matzah Aisle” program, now in its sixth year, to her store. The last event is Sunday.
“I grew up in Skokie, in a very Jewish area,” Higgins said. “All the stores up north go all out with Passover. I wanted to make sure people here had access, too. We have all the items right up front.”
PIMA, Rubovits said, is his synagogue’s annual community outreach. Members share their knowledge about Passover, direct customers to the kosher food displays, distribute recipes and chat with passers-by, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
“We want to meet Jewish people that are unaffiliated with a synagogue and let them know we are here,” Rubovits said. “We also want to educate people under a different religion to let them know how we serve God, the same God as a Christian God or a Muslim God.”
Central to the eight-day Passover preparation is the elimination of all yeast-containing products (breads, coffee cakes and many commercially prepared desserts) and the introduction of matzo, a flat, unleavened bread, Rubovits said.
This dietary change correlates with the Biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt: they had no time for bread to rise, Rubovits said. Although Passover is the beginning of the Jewish holiday season that leads into Moses receiving God’s commands on Mount Sinai, Rubovits said, people’s fondest memories tend to revolve around food, which each family personalizes.
“My maternal grandmother was an outstanding cook,” Rubovits said. “She was from Russia and so many of the recipes she used were decidedly Eastern European.”
New to Passover? Stop in and get a chance to win at Passover basket at the PIMA. The basket contains a variety of items, including matzo, matzo meal, vegetable and chicken soup, candies, grape juice that’s kosher for Passover and certified kosher pickles.
“All the goodies for Passover,” Rubovits said.
At a loss for a Passover dessert? Try this one from a member of Joliet Jewish Congregation. Additional recipes are available at PIMA.
Chocolate-covered matzo caramel squares
By Arlene Starkman
3 cups crushed matzo
2 cups non-dairy whipped topping
1 cup each: light brown sugar, granulated sugar, honey
1 stick (½ cup) parve margarine
1 tsp. salt
1 T. vanilla
2 bags (12 ounces each) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Optional: chopped nuts, mini chocolate chops, grated coconut, frosting
Sprinkle matzo on the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan lined with greased wax paper; set aside. Combine one cup of the whipped topping, sugars, honey, margarine and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low.
Slowly pour remaining cup of the whipped topping into the sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is medium brown and reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 13 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Carefully pour caramel sauce over matzo and refrigerate until caramel holds it shape, about 12 hours. Cut into squares.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Dip matzo squares with tongs into chocolate to cover. Transfer to a baking pan covered with wax paper. Sprinkle tops with nuts, chocolate chips, coconut or frosting, if desired. Transfer to parchment or wax paper to cool, about 20 minutes. Chill 12 hours or overnight. Servings: 26 pieces
If You Go
What: Passover in the Matzah Aisle
When: 1 to 4 p.m. April 6
Where: Jewel-Osco, 1401 W. Jefferson St., Joliet
Etc: Information, recipes, raffle