Stuffed cabbage and more at JCCSF deli

Many complain that there are “no good delis in San Francisco.” Perhaps what they mean is that they miss Jewish or kosher delis.

At the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, the California Street Delicatessen has taken up residency, and while the food isn’t kosher or even kosher-style (turkey and Swiss or meatloaf and cheddar sandwiches!), there are several Jewish and Israeli dishes on the menu.

Consulting chef Joyce Goldstein worked with opening chef John Beardley to create some classic Ashkenazi comfort foods, like stuffed cabbage and kasha varnishkes. Goldstein has agreed to share her recipes with j. readers.

Goldstein says, “This is a version of Rae Goldstein’s famous stuffed cabbage. My former husband’s grandmother was quite old when I met her and losing her eyesight. I only got to taste this family favorite once before she died. As there was no written record of the recipe, I had to experiment until I got to this version, which, according to family members, tastes just like hers. This is good with lots of rye bread to sop up the juices.”

Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage | Serves 6-8

2 medium green cabbages
1 onion, chopped
2 eggs
1 1/2 lbs. ground chuck
1 cup long grain rice
1/2 tsp. freshly ground
black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 onion, chopped
1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes pureed with their juices
6-8 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup dark brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
With a small sharp knife carefully remove the bottom cores of the cabbages to detach the leaves.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the cabbages and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until the leaves have softened. Remove from the water with two large spoons and place cabbage in a colander. When cool enough to handle, carefully remove enough outer leaves to make the cabbage rolls. If the inner leaves are still too brittle, drop them in the simmering water for a few minutes. Then drain and separate. Place the leaves on a towel-covered work surface.
Puree the onion with the eggs in a food processor. In a bowl mix the meat and egg and onion puree. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the rice.
Place a heaping tablespoon or two (depending upon the size of the cabbage leaf) on the leaf, fold in the sides, then the bottom, then the top of the leaf and spear closed with toothpicks.
In a deep kettle bring the tomatoes, onions, sugar and lemon juice to a boil. Add the cabbage rolls and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer the cabbage for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Adjust sweet and sour balance with more lemon and sugar as needed. Add salt to taste.
This dish is best made the day before and reheated.
As well as being cooked on the top of the stove, the stuffed cabbage can be baked covered in a 350-degree oven for the same amount of time.
Serve with rye bread or mashed potatoes.

Kasha Varnishkes | Serves 6-8

2 cups kasha
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups boiling water
2 Tbs. butter
salt to taste
8 Tbs. butter
2 cups chopped onion
1 lb. mushrooms
8 oz. tiny farfalle pasta, cooked until al dente
Put the kasha in a bowl and toss with the egg to coat. Let the grain absorb the egg.
Add to a 12-inch saucepan and stir over moderately high heat. Stir until each grain is dry and separate. Add the boiling water and shake the pan to distribute the water evenly. Cover and steam over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes until kasha is puffed and tender. Add butter and salt halfway through the cooking.
In a medium sauté pan over medium heat melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add onions and sauté until pale gold. The onions need to cook to become sweet and almost caramelized. In another pan melt remaining butter and sauté the mushrooms until softened. Add both to cooked kasha. Fold in the cooked pasta. Season mixture with salt and lots of pepper.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].