I have loved bagels for as long as I can remember. They are chewy, convenient, and the perfect vessel for cream cheese. Though these rings of doughy goodness have been in my life for a while, it wasn’t until I moved to New York City that I truly understood “Bagel Culture”. The debate about whether bagels should be toasted or not can get heated enough to end friendships.
The people here also find the way I say “bagel” with my Midwestern accent charming.
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It was also in New York City I first experience the full range of bagel varieties and ideal cream cheese pairings. And, most importantly, where I discovered the everything bagel. The combination of garlicky and savory seasonings with my favorite scallion or lox cream cheese is an aggressive flavor combination that instantly prepares you for all the city has to offer.
Brief Bagel History
Some people will tell you the bagels in NYC are great because of the excellent municipal water. But, as with most foods Americans enjoy today, the history of bagels in the US starts with immigrants. The the very beginning of the 20th century, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were craving the breads from home, and bagels started popping up in bakeries all over the Lower East Side.
It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that bagels were enjoyed by the masses. The broad appeal and the extreme convenience made these doughy rings an easy and enjoyable breakfast for many. Pre-sliced and frozen versions made their way into the homes of many working families, where they remain today.
Spice and Everything Nice
While bagels have been in the US since 1900, the everything bagel didn’t make an appearance until about 1980. Though there is some controversy to the story, it is purported that the everything bagel was created when a bagel shop worker was sweeping out the ovens at the end of a shift, and collected a mixture of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried garlic and onion, and salt that had fallen from the single-seeded bagels baked that day.
Like potato chips and waffle cones before it, this iconic food was created by accident.
Beyond the Bagel
I’ll admit, it is hard to improve upon this perfect food. An everything bagel with scallion cream cheese holds a very special place in my heart. But it is not always practical for a weeknight dinner. Bits of scallion don’t count as a serving of vegetables (or do they?) and, more importantly, it doesn’t pair well with wine.
For this recipe, I broke apart the components of an everything bagel platter and reassembled them into a salad. This everything bagel panzanella is perfect for summer, as there is very little cooking required. I could eat this salad, along with a glass of rosé, every day.
The key ingredient is the everything bagel seasoning. You can find a blend of the seeds and spices at Trader Joe’s or online, or you can make your own. I chose to make my own. This way, I could control the amounts of each seed or spice and tweak according to my tastes. If you are trying to watch your sodium intake, this is a great option as you can also control the salt completely.
Here is how I made mine:
- 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 Tablespoon dried minced onion
- 2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
It made about ¼ cup of seasoning, and for this recipe, you only need 1-2 Tablespoons. I stored the rest in a spice jar like this one to use for later recipes. You can sprinkle this on chicken breasts, avocado toast, or anything you want. If you want to read more about bagels and their humble history, check out The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread by Maria Balinska.
Everything Bagel Panzanella
What You'll Need
- 1 plain bagel diced or torn into bite-sized pieces
- 2 ounces cream cheese diced
- 4 ounces smoked salmon see notes
- 2 tablespoons everything seasoning see notes
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 baby cucumber diced
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
What to Do
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the shallots, tomatoes, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of the everything seasoning. Toss to combine, and set aside for at least 5 minutes.
Spread the diced bagel in an even layer on a sheet pan. Toast the bagel pieces in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Combine the toasted bagel pieces, cucumbers, capers, and salmon to the bowl with the tomatoes and shallots. Flake the salmon into large pieces with a fork or your fingers as you add it to the bowl. Drizzle in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and toss to combine. Season with additional salt, pepper, or olive oil if needed.
Divide the salad between two plates. Top with the diced cream cheese and remaining everything seasoning. Enjoy!
Notes: Any type of smoked or cured salmon will work in this salad! If you don’t like smoked salmon, a fresh salmon filet will work well also. I used this recipe for the everything seasoning: 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds 1 Tablespoon dried minced onion 2 teaspoons dried minced garlic 1 teaspoon salt