By Eileen Goltz
Quick, think of the most dangerous item you have in your kitchen. No, it's not that meat cleaver you never use or the blowtorch you keep on hand for kashering the oven for Pesach. Surprisingly, it's probably one of those bagels you've got stashed away in the freezer. Ok, now that you've stopped laughing you should know that there are probably more emergency room visits for those would be gourmets who've "slipped" and sliced open their hand while trying to cut open a bagel than all other household mishaps combined.
For those of you who live on the moon a bagel (BAY-guhl) is a doughnut-shaped yeast roll with a thick, chewy texture and a shiny crust. Bagels are boiled in water before they're baked because the boiling reduces the starch content and creates a shiny chewy crust. A traditional water bagel is made without eggs and, because it doesn't contain fat, is chewier than an egg bagel. The bagel (the word means bracelet in German) was the everyday bread of the Jews in Eastern Europe. It has, over the past few decades, become the most famous Jewish food in America and standard American bread. Supposedly German in origin, the bagel came into its own and took its definitive form in the Polish shtetl. Because of their shape, no beginning and no end, bagels are supposed to symbolize the eternal cycle of Jewish life. In the old days, they were supposed to be a protection against evil spirits, warding off the evil eye and bringing good luck. For these reasons they were routinely served at circumcision, when a woman was in labor and at funerals, along with hard-boiled eggs. These days we indulge ourselves just because they taste so good.
In the interest of household safety and the need to share some really great bagel recipes (not recipes on how to make bagels but, rather recipes that use them) I'm offering the following guidelines for anxiety free slicing.
HOW TO SLICE A BAGEL
Hold the bagel upright on a cutting surface by forming an arch (a U shape) with your thumb and fingers. Pinch the bagel firmly between the thumb and fingers and hold it against the surface. Place the sharp (make sure it's sharp) knife inside the arch and carefully slice downward toward the table surface using a gentle but steady sawing motion. NEVER, EVER, CUT THE BAGEL BY HOLDING IT YOUR HAND AND SLICING IT TOWARD YOUR HAND!
CHEESE BAGEL BITES
Spread bagels with mustard. Mix remaining ingredients together in a bowl and then spread the mixture to the edges of bagel halves. Set the oven to broil. Broil the prepared bagels about 5 inches from heat until topping is bubbly, about 1 minute. Cut each bagel into 6 pieces. Makes 36 appetizers;
BAGELS WITH LEMON CHICKEN AND AVOCADO SAUCE
Combine the pareve cream cheese, avocado, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, Tabasco sauce, lemon juice and Tabasco sauce in a food processor and blend until smooth. Place the sauce in a bowl and refrigerate until cold. In another bowl combine the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, paprika, lemon zest and garlic. Mix well and shape into 4 patties about 4 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Grill the patties over on the grill or in a grill pan for about 5 minutes per side until no longer pink inside. Arrange the tomato slices then sliced mushrooms over bottom half of each bagel. Place chicken patty on top of the mushrooms and cover it with the avocado sauce and lettuce and the top of the bagel. Serves 4
TEX MEX PIZZA BAGEL
Preheat oven to 425. Spoon 1-1/2 teaspoon pizza sauce on each bagel half.
Evenly top each bagel half with beans onion, jalapeno pepper, tortilla chips
and cheese. Sprinkle with chili powder. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until cheese
is melted and is heated through. Makes 12 halves.
TOMATO BASIL BAGEL BRUSCHETTA
In a bowl combine the oil, tomato, basil and salt. Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes. Toast the bagel in the toaster or under the broiler. While the bagel is still hot, rub the cut surface with the garlic. Spoon the tomato mixture on top. Eat at once. Makes 1 bagel. This can be multiplied as many times as you like The traditional bagel sandwich USUALLY consists of cream cheese, lox, a slice of onion and a slice of tomato. However, bagel sandwiches are so popular these days that bagel shops often have 15 or 20 varieties to choose from and probably 40 or 50 sandwich variations on their menus. Here, courtesy of Philadelphia Cream Company are some really simple (and delicious) ways to make a quick and easy bagel snack.
Strawberry Banana Crunch:
Spread strawberry cream cheese on a toasted bagel.
Top with banana slices; sprinkle with granola.
Spread cream cheese on a toasted bagel. Top with banana slices; sprinkle with peanuts. Drizzle with strawberry preserves.
Apple Cinnamon: Spread cream cheese on a toasted bagel. Top with apple slices and raisins. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Peach Melba: Spread cream cheese on a toasted bagel. Top with peach slices; drizzle with raspberry preserves.
Apple Cinnamon Praline: apple cinnamon cream cheese on a toasted bagel.
Sprinkle with toasted pecans; drizzle with maple syrup.
Health & Nut: Spread vegetable cream cheese on a toasted whole wheat bagel. sprinkle with raisins and toasted sunflower seeds.
Tropical: Spread pineapple cream cheese on a toasted bagel. Top with toasted coconut and almonds or macadamia nuts.