Posted by: Catherine | December 3, 2009

Toasted Bagel, Cream Cheese, Smoked Salmon

My father once told me that the bagel made him proud to be Jewish, and if you’ve ever had a fresh H&H bagel in New York you know what he is talking about. It’s just the perfect density with the perfect outside “crust,” not too chewy, not too light and certainly not too doughy. I used to have one, plain, for lunch almost every single day when I started working in New York–and there was one editor at Mademoiselle I worked with whose daily diet was:  one H&H bagel for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner. She figured that was less than 1,000 calories…and what more could she want?

If you don’t live in New York, you’re basically screwed when it comes to getting a good bagel. Maybe my traffic and comments will go up with this statement—I know several people here in Los Angeles (always playing catch-up with NYC) who say Western Bagel is better than H&H, or some such nonsense. We’ve tried all the bagel places here, to no avail. Even the H&H bagels you can buy at Barney Greengrass here are not fully baked, and when you do it’s just not a real H&H bagel.

When I was growing up in New York, my dad drove down to the lower east side every single Sunday morning to get bagels, nova and smoked white fish. My mom made scrambled eggs to go with the white fish (now, that’s a great combo!!!), and she ALWAYS buttered the bagels before toasting under the broiler (I never knew people ate untoasted bagels with their cream cheese and salmon, and now that I do I don’t have a clue as to why). Buttering the bagel is an absolute must….

The cream cheese (two 8-ounce packages, one brick on top of the other) was on the table, and from a very early age I learned that one spreads it thickly. Not just a bit thickly. Really, really thickly.

Next comes very thinly sliced red onion, then smoked salmon–we never had lox (too salty), only nova. A bit of pepper and a squeeze of lemon finishes it off, and occasionally capers, which I love, but always roll off and are therefore too distracting for me.

As much as I love chocolate…I love bagels, cream cheese and salmon almost that much.We don’t have it that often because, let’s face it, the butter on the bagel (real, sweet butter…no Smart Balance) and the inch-thick wad of cream cheese (no one-third less fat, the real Philadelphia deal) are not exactly what you’d call lite. But when we do, I don’t skimp and I enjoy every single bite. (BTW, if you think I have just one half you’re dead wrong.)



  1. I grew up on these and still love them as much as years ago. There is nothing like a bagel and lox with the fixings.

  2. That buttery golden toasted bagel looks PERFECT.

    What if you added the capers on top of the cream cheese under the onions so they don’t fall off?

    I pile on the cream cheese too!

  3. We have them every Sunday morning! My daughter & I have one just like on your picture, sesame seeds, and my husband has a poppy seed one 🙂

  4. Jonesing for the carbs now!!!!!!

    But alas, I am far from New York.

    And did that Mademoiselle staffer contract a wicked case of scurvy? Hello!!

  5. I so love this delicious & good for you sandwich!! I make these with low fat sheep’s ricotta instead of the cream cheese,…


  6. Catherine, that is THE perfect smoked salmon bagel! I love your philosophy – eat what you like, don’t skimp, but practice moderation. That’s the way food should be enjoyed.

  7. I eat toasted bagels every morning. I grew up on Miami Beach and there were some awesome bagel shops that we frequented on the way to work or on weekends. Reading this post brought back many fond memories. Great post.

  8. That looks so delicious! We have a big package of nova salmon in the fridge right now. I think I need to buy cream cheese and make bagels!

  9. Once upon a time, this was my go-to Sunday meal. Of course, that is when I lived on the upper West side of Manhattan. Now – yeah – I’m screwed. Nothing comes close – so when we go to NYC we get our fill. I sometimes bring back shopping bags worth of bagels – not sure I could do that anymore. The aroma in the plane always made people jealous!

  10. OMG Catherine I really love cream cheese and salmon and this look awesome, look really tasty! xx gloria

  11. This is a treat that I eating a lot.

  12. I am so glad to see someone else who uses lots of butter AND cream cheese – just the way I do! How delicious this looks!

  13. I lived in Columbus, Ohio in the early 90s. Block’s bagels were as good as any I had growing up in NYC. They are still in business, so I’m curious if quality has stayed high over all these years. Never understood H&H’s popularity, they always seem sweet to me.

  14. I eat this all the time! Love it! Sometimes I just use some toasted french bread if I don’t have a bagel.

  15. Oh man, now I want an H&H Bagel, never had it but maybe that’s good because then I don’t pine away for it like I know I would.

  16. That is the perfect bagel sandwich, right there. I never understood ppl who think salmon on bagel is weird. I think just cream cheese on bagel is boring!

  17. so good my jewish family makes these for lunch and stufff….:]

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