I’ve had many amazing summers in my life, but the summer I turned 17 was a stand-out. Post-SATs and pre-college applications, it’s a time when teenagers really begin to experience freedom. It’s a kind of freedom unique to this period of life, bringing constant excitement without the tethers of real responsibility. I loved every minute of it.
My job that summer, while it didn’t bolster the vibrancy and zest for life I felt, didn’t detract from it either. I worked at a bagel shop. A Long Island bagel shop – the real deal. I learned how to cook a perfect bacon, egg and cheese sandwich (BEC) and slather on just the right amount of cream cheese. I burned myself on many a baking tray and reeked of garlic and onion bagel by the time I left each day. It was the opposite of glamorous, but it left my afternoons and nights free for shenanigans.
The two most valuable and lasting things this job bestowed upon me were 1.) a deep, deep love of coffee and 2.) the self-given right to call myself a bagel connoisseur.
Travelling only reinforces the established fact that good bagels are only found in New York and New Jersey. Of course there are exceptions, but by and large – this is truth.
I selfishly rate a bagel establishment by its ability to produce a perfect everything bagel and a flavorful vegetable cream cheese. That’s my bagel jam.
While I have been able to find good bagels here in Oz (wut up Iggy’s) I have been hard-pressed to find a decent schmear (schmear = cream cheese spread, for those of you not down with Yiddish.)
Good veggie cream cheese can be hard to come by in New York, let alone Australia. Matters, as usual with this sort of thing, have to be taken into my own hands.
This recipe was a ricotta experiment. Hypothesis: I can capture that favorite vegetable cream cheese flavor using ricotta in the place of cream cheese.
Why ricotta? Well, I love the mellow creamy flavor and whipped-like texture AND I bought a big tub that goes off on Sunday…
To call this a schmear, I realize, is all kinds of sacrilege (ricotta! baguettes!) – but probably no more so than some shiksa using the word schmear repeatedly.
And from a connoisseur, it hits all the right spots.
Vegetable Ricotta Schmear
– 1 cup ricotta, strained
– 1/3 cup grated carrot
– 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
– 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, finely chopped
– 2 medium scallions/spring onions, white and light green parts finely sliced
– 2 teaspoons fresh lemon thyme
– salt and pepper, to taste
Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a fork until everything is well combined.
Serve with bagels, baguette, whole wheat toast, or crudites.
Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.