Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lox and bagels! With cream cheese!

As I could not be convinced to have my picture taken with a mouthful of this knee-weakeningly delicious Sunday brunch, the exclamation points will have to serve as a means of conveying just how awesome this combination is. The photo helps some, but it must be tried to be believed.

From "A short history of the bagel," by Joan Nathan (author of Jewish Cooking in America):

In the early 1950s, Family Circle included a recipe for bageles (their spelling). The copy read: "Stumped for the Hors d'oeuvres Ideas? Here's a grand one from Fannie Engle. 'Split these tender little triumphs in halves and then quarters. Spread with sweet butter and place a small slice of smoked salmon on each. For variations, spread with cream cheese, anchovies or red caviar. (They're also delicious served as breakfast rolls.)' " Engle, who later wrote The Jewish Festival Cookbook, did not mention the Jewish Sunday morning ritual of lox, bagel, and cream cheese—an American concoction that was just taking off, spurred on most probably by Joseph Kraft's advertising blitz for Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It soon became an American alternative to the other Sunday trilogy of bacon, eggs, and toast. In 1951, the bagel made a big appearance in the Broadway comedy Bagel and Yox, introducing the word bagel into such mainstream magazines as Time. Balinska says that "one of the attractions of Bagel and Yox was the fact that freshly baked bagels and cream cheese were handed out to the audience during intermission."

The preparation is simple compared to most brunches (toast bagel, spread with cream cheese, top with smoked salmon, red onion and capers), but there are a few things you can do that elevate it to rock star status:

1. Warm your plates in the oven. Keeps the bagel warm after it gets toasted.
2. You can use any kind of bagel you want, but I'd cry sacrilege if it were any kind besides everything. Just saying.
3. Don't try to serve everyone all at once. These are best warm and crunchy. As soon as you make a plate, serve it to the first hungry soul within reach. You aren't being rude, you are putting the food first. :)
4. Slather the bagel with butter before adding cream cheese. No particular reason, just better that way.
5. Slice the red onion as thinly as possible. I did not do this and regretted it. Here, to me, onion is an accent piece.
6. LOTS of capers. Use the whole jar if you have to.

So far, the best lox plate I've found in Asheville is at Over Easy Cafe. They call it the 7th Avenue Special. They serve the lox and bagel with the cream cheese on the side so you can decide how much and include a side of scrambled eggs with onion. Go try it, or make your own!


  1. This puts me in a New York state of mind for sure!! mmmmm, delicious!

  2. I am continuously wondering if I'm really Jewish. The food alone is sooooo yummy!


  3. And a Philadelphia state of mind! I think many people in Philly consider it as much simply Philly food as Jewish food. It is certainly as thoroughly appreciated by a good many Presbyterians and Episcopalians of my acquaintance! A deli Sunday brunch of bagels, lox, smoked chub, smoked whiting and all the trimmings is as popular after Mass in my crowd as it is for our Jewish neighbors!