Cook | New York a mecca for heavenly deli, aka Jewish soul food

In preparation for my upcoming annual New York trip, I have been scouring the dining pages of the New York Times to find out about all the new, hot restaurants. Getting reservations is always a challenge. Booking weeks in advance is a must, even before your air tickets are purchased.

But always, my first and last stops in this city of spectacular restaurants are at a New York deli. I’m not sure if it’s the nostalgia, the legendary wait staff or, as some say, the special New York City water that makes that pastrami sandwich heaven between two pieces of bread, but there is nothing like it in my California neighborhood.

One can almost tour all of Manhattan by making a nosh stop at each of my favorites. My dream eating day would consist of a smoked salmon and onion scramble for breakfast at Barney Greengrass the Sturgeon King on the Upper West Side, a lunch of pastrami on rye with pickled green tomatoes at 2nd Ave Deli (no longer on Second Avenue), an afternoon snack of mile-high New York cheesecake at Carnegie Deli in the Theater District and a shopping cart full of Zabar’s takeout for dinner.

Just think, you can have a delicious matzah brie all year-round and blintzes for breakfast at any of the aforementioned places. On my return flight, my husband and I share one of those excellent sandwiches and feel guilty when we get envious looks from passengers eating airplane food.

These are dishes to make your mouth water and certainly stir your soul. This is soul food at its best.


Pickled Tomatoes (Adapted from “2nd Ave Deli Cookbook”)

15 smallish green tomatoes

3⁄4 cup kosher salt

15 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled

1 bunch fresh dill

2 Tbs. pickling spices

6 bay leaves

1 hot dried red pepper

Wash tomatoes. Pour 1 gallon of water into a large stockpot. Add salt and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and allow water to come to room temperature. While water is cooling, wrap garlic in a cloth napkin and crush with back of knife so that skins are broken.

Pack the tomatoes in wide-mouthed jars, add all the other ingredients and pour salted water over them. The tomatoes must be covered completely. Put the lids on, shake to distribute spices evenly, and store in a cool dark place. Do not refrigerate.

Open the jar once a day to skim off foam. In 4 days, the tomatoes will be half sour and may be kept refrigerated several weeks. In 6 days, they will be sour and may be refrigerated for several weeks.


Deli-Style Potato Salad (Adapted from “2nd Ave Deli Cookbook”)

Serves 6

6 medium red skin potatoes, cooked and peeled

1sour pickle

1 medium onion or 2 scallions

1⁄2 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbs. vinegar

1 Tbs. sugar

1 tsp. salt

Cube potatoes and pickles. Dice onion. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add potatoes, pickles and onions and mix well.


Lox and Onion Scramble Barney Greengrass Style

Serves 4-6

2 Tbs. butter

1 small onion, chopped

3 oz. lox, cut into small strips

5 eggs beaten with 2 Tbs. milk or cream

salt and pepper

In a medium skillet, heat butter until foamy. Sauté onions just until golden and stir in lox. Add eggs and stir gently until cooked to desired doneness. Taste for salt and pepper.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Feasts.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected]