Shabbat Shalom! We are finally getting some warm weather. A Sunday brunch may be ideal for summer entertaining because it’s often a casual, buffet-style meal. It can be put together relatively easily with dishes that can be prepared ahead of time.
Bagels are usually standard fare for most brunches.You can serve bagels with some schmeers or spreads and perhaps some smoked or cured fish. Add a couple of simple salads and some dips and you’re all set!
Hot dishes like frittata or quiche are optional in the summer, but a fruit salad and a sweet nosh like rogelach or babka may be the perfect end-notes for brunch.
I spent part of the Canada-Day, long weekend in Montreal, my hometown. One of the first things I did was make a pilgrimage to St. Viateur Bagel, a legendary landmark in Miles End, Montreal’s old Jewish neighbourhood.
I don’t remember hearing the name Mile End or Le Plateau when I lived there. The whole Park Avenue neighbourhood – it’s now part of a Montreal district called Plateau Mont Royal – has become gentrified and trendy.
But when I was in my twenties, the rents were cheap and the long, bowling-alley-style flats could accommodate many people. One of the houses that I shared was actually a block away from where my grandparents had lived.
In my day there were very few 24-hour restaurants. If you were hungry late at night, you went to St. Viateur Bagel because it was open 24/7. There’s nothing like a fresh bagel, hot from the oven, which was my preferred post midnight snack.
Not everyone can get to St. Viateur Bagel, so instead you can actually bake your own bagels. Why not impress your guests with a batch of home-made Montreal-style bagels? There are several recipes on the Internet.
A good bet may be the one online published by the CBC television network. It’s the winning recipe for Montreal-style bagels from The Great Canadian Baking Show and can be found here: https://www.cbc.ca/life/greatcanadianbakingshow/recipe-montreal-bagels-1.5051491
If you dare, you can also make your own gravlax or cured salmon. Just follow Anthony Rose’s step-by step guideline for Lemon Dill Gravlax. Rose, a Toronto author and restaurateur, also runs Schmaltz Appetizing Purveyors of Fine Fish, a store that specializes in smoked and cured fish, schmeers and bagels.
His gravlax recipe can be found in The Last Schmaltz, the cookbook he co-wrote with food writer, Chris Johns. Rose also offers a variation on his cured salmon recipe – Beetroot Gravlax.
Ah, but what does one put between the bagel and the fish? Rose says he grew up spreading cream cheese on bagels, which is still the most popular option. However, he says he now prefers a well-buttered bun with his smoked or cured fish.
Some people like a flavoured cream cheese on their bagels. Norene Gilletz’s Lox and Cheese Spread would work well for a summer brunch. This simple recipe can be found in both of her processor books – The New Food Processor Bible and the original version, The Food Processor Bible.
MONTREAL BAGELS (The Great Canadian Baking Show, CBC)
1½ cups warm water
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp or 2 8g-packages of active dry yeast
4 tsp honey
1½ tsp salt
Up to 4 2/3 cups flour
1½ cups honey
Preheat your oven to 450° F with a parchment paper-lined baking sheet inside.
Fill a large pot with water. Put it to boil over medium-high heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the water, sugar, oil, yeast, egg and honey. Whisk in salt. Gently stir in some of the flour (approximately 4 cups), one cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a surface and gently knead it until it begins to comes together. Continue to knead, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking, until you have a soft dough that bounces back when you press on it. It should take 10 to 12 minutes.
When the dough is properly kneaded, place it in an oiled bowl, making sure to get a thin coat of oil on dough. Cover it with a towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 16 pieces (about 3 oz each). Keep the pieces covered with a towel while you work.
Roll each piece into a 10 to 12 inch rope. Do not add flour to the surface, unless it is to prevent sticking. Wrap the rope around your four fingers, overlapping the ends on the inside of your hand to make a circle. To seal, roll your hand back and forth, pressing gently to complete the circle. Place the ring on a floured surface to rest and cover with a towel as you work.
Keep the bagels covered as you go. Let them rest about 30 minutes.
Add the honey to the pot of water and bring it to a full boil. Handle the rested bagels gently to keep their shape. Boil the bagels in batches, 1½ to 2 minutes per side. Remove them from the water using a slotted spoon. Place them onto a cooling rack and sprinkle them heavily with seeds.
Place the bagels on the heated pan in the oven and bake them until they become golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Makes 16 bagels.
CURED SALMON (The Last Schmaltz)
1 (2 to 3 lb) centre-cut Atlantic salmon fillet, scaled and pin-boned
2 ½ lb kosher salt
2 ½ lb turbinado or brown sugar
1 bunch fresh dill, divided
Zest of 3 lemons, divided
1/4 cup aquavit or vodka
Ask your fishmonger when their Atlantic salmon comes in and whether they can set some aside for you. You’ve got to start with a fresh and fatty product.
In a large bowl, mix the salt and sugar together thoroughly to make your cure. Spread about a quarter of the mixture evenly in a large casserole dish. Lay the salmon, skin side down, onto the cure.
Sprinkle a small amount of the cure onto the flesh of the salmon, and gently massage it with your hands. Then garnish the flesh generously with half of the chopped dill and the zest of two of the lemons.
Evenly sprinkle the aquavit or vodka over the salmon and then cover it with the remaining cure. You need to make sure that you can’t see the fish anymore. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
Find a nice flat place in your fridge and slide the casserole dish in. This will need to be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days depending on how firm and salty you want your fish. Flip the salmon once daily, and make sure that it’s always covered in the cure.
Once the fish has firmed up to a texture that you like, rinse the cure off with water and dry the salmon with a paper towel.
Garnish the salmon with the remaining chopped dill and the zest of the last lemon and let the fish dry covered in the fridge for another 1 to 2 hours.
LOX AND CHEESE SPREAD (The New Food Processor Bible)
1/2 cup celery, cut in chunks
3 to 4 green onions, cut in 2-inch lengths
1 cup of light cream cheese or pressed cottage cheese, cut in chunks
1 to 2 tbsp milk (if the mixture is too thick)
1/4 pound lox/ smoked salmon
Use the food processor’s steel blade. Drop the green onions through the feed tube while the machine is running and process until the onion is minced.
Add the cheese and process until it is smooth. If necessary add the milk through the tube to soften the cheese.
Add the lox and process with 3 or 4 quick on /offs. Or let the machine run to blend the salmon thoroughly making the mixture a pale salmon colour.
Chill the cheese mixture and serve as a spread with bagels, pumpernickel bread, pita or crackers.