For bridal or baby showers, holiday brunches, and beyond, assemble a Bagel Bar so guests can get creative with their bagel recipe creations. This interactive Bagel Bar is beautiful, customizable, and a cinch to share with a crowd.
1mediumfennel bulbthinly shaved (about 2 cups or 8 ounces)
1mediumred onionthinly sliced (about 2 cups or 8 ounces)
2tomatoesthinly sliced, heirloom tomatoes if possible
Slice bagels and stack on a platter or cutting board. Set up toaster nearby with toaster tongs.
Start by creating some anchor points with any bowls you want to use. Space out dishes of cream cheese, everything bagel seasoning, capers, salmon roe.
From there, you can work outward, using the bowls to support stacks of smoked salmon, hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, fennel, radishes, red onions, and tomatoes.
Fill in the gaps with small piles of fresh dill and fresh chives. Add forks, spreaders, and picks where needed.
Bagels: Plain/white, wheat, sesame seed, salt, poppy seed, garlic, everything; choose one or a mix of all of the above. Buy them from a bakery, or if you're feeling ambitious, try your hand at Homemade Bagels.
Whipped cream cheese: The texture is luscious, silky, and spreadable. If you can only find regular cream cheese, simply use a stand mixer or hand mixer to whip it on high for 5 minutes or until fluffy (see more cream cheese flavor variations below).
Everything bagel seasoning: Buy this pre-mixed, or to make 1/2 cup of your own, combine 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic, 1 tablespoon dried minced onion, and 2 teaspoons coarse salt or flaked salt.
Smoked salmon: Feel free to substitute with lox (salmon that's smoked but not cured) if desired.
Hard-boiled eggs: Buy these at the supermarket to save time, or hard-boil eggs to your desired doneness in a saucepan, Instant Pot, or steamer basket.
Cucumbers: If you use thin-skinned cucumbers, peeling is optional.
Yield: This spread will allow 8 diners to BYOB (build your own bagel). Scale up or down as needed to serve your crowd.
Make ahead: The vegetables can be cut the day before. Store covered in the refrigerator. Eggs can be hard-boiled up to 1 week in advance.
Alternate toasting options: I prefer setting out a toaster so the bagels can be warm and as golden as each guest prefers, but you can certainly toast a batch of halved bagels in the toaster oven or on a sheet pan in your regular oven for a quicker solution if all are dining at once.
Spiff up your cream cheese: To add a couple more cream cheese flavors to your spread, mix up pico cream cheese (whip 8 ounces of plain cream cheese with 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup diced red onion, 1 tablespoon diced jalapeño, plus salt and black pepper to taste) or sun-dried tomato cream cheese (whip 8 ounces of plain cream cheese with 1/4 cup or 2 ounces of chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes).
Sweet Bagel Bar: Craving a sweet rather than savory brunch? Try blueberry, cinnamon-raisin, chocolate chip, or cinnamon-sugar bagels, use plain or honey whipped cream cheese, then set out toppings such as honey, sliced fresh fruit, fresh mint, melted nut butter, chopped toasted nuts, toasted coconut flakes, and mini chocolate chips.