Vegetarian though I may be, The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home by Nick Zukin (of Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen) and state court judge/serious amateur baker Michael C. Zusman has been a delight to peruse and take for a spin. Zukin and Zusman serve up the classics — bagels, bialys, blintzes, and borscht — with both reverence for the time-honored standards and creativity with jazzy updates. To the cheese blintz (complete with well-photographed instructions for folding your homemade crepes) they substitute farmer cheese for ricotta and add a fruit compote topping for every season: strawberry-balsamic for the spring, blackberry-lavender in summer, spiced pumpkin (what else) for autumn, and blood orange in winter. But, did you know: before wheat flour became more accessible in the nineteenth century, blintzes were originally made from buckwheat? Zukin and Zusman have that covered, as well, with a choice of potato or smoked salmon filling.
The buckwheat blintzes exemplify the authors’ dedication to connecting informative, well-written cultural and culinary history and theory to each dish. The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home applies the same compliment of tried-and-true with innovation (and the same appreciation for the heritage of each dish) to its repertoire of soups, salads, schmears, and slaws, peppered with profiles of delicatessens across North America, interviews, and the origins of each recipe. Zukin and Zusman unfurl the rich history of the salads and sides nobly sloping behind glass deli cases the country over in writing as compelling as the attending fare. Where else would you find the concept of umami defined in relation to Hungarian mushroom-barley soup or learn the Romanian roots of pastrami — as you make it yourself?
The meat dishes are savory, presented with the same creativity and season-by-season considerations: brisket with leeks and wild mushroom in spring; tomato, fennel, and summer herb in summer; apple cider and butternut squash for fall, and riesling sauerbraten for the winter. They don’t just sound good, either: testing out Zuke and Zusman’s stuffed cabbage against her own traditional (and very tasty) Sukkot recipe, my mother (and her reviewers) found the former much more flavorful, albeit more labor-intensive. So you don’t have to take a lowly vegetarian’s word for it.
- Reading List: The Deli
Recipe: Hungarian Casino Egg Salad
Serves 4 to 6
This egg salad supposedly originated with a chef who cooked for European royalty before a stint at the National Casino in Budapest, Hungary. Odds are you won’t find this delicious dish on any Las Vegas or Atlantic City menu, but it is a sure bet for lunch or at the dinner hour. Butter and sour cream lend a rich foundation, but it’s still lighter than a typical mayonnaise-based egg salad. And the anchovies add a hint of salt and briny depth. This is terrific served with lettuce and fresh vegetables as a salad, or with lettuce and tomato on toast as a sandwich.
6 hard-boiled eggs, halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained and minced
1 tablespoon chopped capers
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion or shallot
Scoop the yolks from the halved eggs and put them in a medium bowl. Add the butter, sour cream, vinegar, and pepper. Whisk together until a creamy, smooth paste forms.
Coarsely chop the egg whites and add them to the egg yolk mixture, along with the anchovies, capers, chives and red onion. Gently fold the ingredients until fully mixed.
Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The egg salad can be made up to 3 days in advance.
From The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home by Nick Zukin and Michael Zusman/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.
Nat Bernstein is the former Manager of Digital Content & Media, JBC Network Coordinator, and Contributing Editor at the Jewish Book Council and a graduate of Hampshire College.