If you’ve ever loved a pastrami on rye with cole slaw and pickles after a bowl of matzo ball soup and before a slice of chocolate babka, you’ve come to the right place. Food writer Michael Zusman and Nick Zukin, co-owner of Portland deli Kenny and Zuke’s, teamed up to publish this collection of the classic homestyle Jewish deli food you crave. Our only problem with borscht is it doesn’t always have giant chunks of meat floating in it.
That wild and crazy Zane Caplansky loves his Montreal smoked meat (even though his deli, Caplansky’s, is in Toronto—go figure). We have adapted one of his updated Jewish deli classics to suit our cycle of seasonal borschts. This beet-free version captures the spirit of autumn, since that’s when those giant heads of cabbage overflow the local markets. The smoked meat (or, outside Canada, nearly identical pastrami) is yummy and available anytime, of course. The quantities of vinegar and sugar called for in the recipe are not typos—don’t be alarmed. This is supposed to be a knock-your-socks-off sweet-and-sour stew that’s a party-size meal in a bowl.
- 1 small green cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
- 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 pound pastrami (or smoked meat), diced
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- Cut the cabbage into quarters lengthwise through the core. Trim out and discard the core from each quarter. Cut the cabbage crosswise into thin slices.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, onion, garlic and salt and stir to coat the vegetables in the oil. Pour in 1/2 cup water and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage and onion are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Stir in the pastrami, tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. Pour in enough additional water to cover the mixture by about 1 inch and bring it to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to maintain a low simmer. Skim the foam that rises to the top of the borscht. Cook, uncovered, until the cabbage is very tender and the flavors come together, about 1 hour. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, covered, for up to 5 days.
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