Toasted Bagels with Smoked Fish, Capers, Pickled Zucchini, & Herbs

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I usually go to two Farmer’s Markets a week in order to get the freshest produce available. Believe it or not, I am not the most market-crazed person in my family—my mom is a three-market woman, going on Wednesday and to two markets on Saturday. When we were kids she would tow us just to the Wednesday market, where we tiredly trailed after her cart, delirious from the heat that always seems to bake just that parking lot Downtown, hoping she wouldn’t run into friends and get sucked into a long chat (we hoped in vain). Our consolation prize was a big cheesecake brownie each from one of the bakery booths, long gone now, that was so rich we could never quite finish it.

Despite our less-than rosy experiences at those markets, each one of us grew up to appreciate (and, for two out of three of us, be a little fanatical about attending) the Farmer’s Markets near us. I somehow even inadvertently subjected my husband to the same soporific market experience I had as a kid, as each weekend he trailed behind me in Palo Alto as I called back to him to keep up—if we didn’t get to one booth early we’d miss all the good lettuce, couldn’t he see that? Despite my urging of, “here, take a twenty and buy something you want!” he was still mostly despondent about the whole thing. It’s clear that it’s only fun when you’re the one deciding which of the bounty you’ll be taking home with you (or if you have a toddler to chase around, which always keeps things exciting). Alternatively, make the market even more enjoyable by treating yourself to something from one of the excellent food or bakery stands that each market seems to have, like my mom used to do for us with the cheesecake brownies (truly the only light at the end of the tunnel in those days).

I often grab a chocolate croissant from Companion Bakery’s stand on Wednesdays, pulling the plain bits off for Phoebe to munch on and saving the lines of chocolate-filled pastry for myself. Recently Jonji, Phoebe, and I spent a grey Sunday morning at the Live Oak Farmer’s Market, where I treated myself to a very overpriced but nonetheless delicious bagel topped with smoked cod and pickled zucchini. It felt like an indulgent but relatively healthy breakfast. (If you’re local and haven’t tried the bagels from Holy Roller, a Santa Cruz market celebrity-status bagel stand, please give them a shot! They’re fluffy, perfectly chewy, so tender, and are hands-down the best bagels I’ve ever had. Granted, I have not been to New York, but a friend from there says they might just live up to his NY standards.)

This is my version of that market bagel, which you can make at home for a quarter of the cost but all the enjoyment. I used smoked trout instead of cod—feel free to use whatever smoked fish you’d like. Everything comes together quickly except for the pickled zucchini: make that a few days ahead and you’ll be good to go for a Sunday brunch.

Toasted Bagels with Smoked Fish, Capers, Pickled Zucchini, & Herbs

Serves 2

for the pickled zucchini:
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
3/4 cup plus 1/4 cup water
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 medium-small zucchinis, washed
Note: this pickle recipe will make more than enough for 2 bagels. The pickles will last in the fridge for a couple of months; use them up as you see fit. Go crazy with more bagels or eat them in any sandwich or wrap.

2 of the best bagels you can find (any savory topping will work)
cream cheese
smoked fish, such as trout, cod, or salmon
4 tsp capers, drained and roughly chopped
leaves from 6 stalks parsley and/or cilantro, finely chopped
8-10 ribbons of pickled zucchini

Make the pickled zucchini 3-7 days before you intend to make your bagels. Heat the vinegar, water, 1 tbsp salt, and 2 tbsp sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. Wash two wide-mouthed jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Air dry, then keep the lids and jars upright in a 200°F oven until ready to use (this should kill any bad bacteria).

Using a Benriner (my preference—the blade is so sharp and doesn’t have a bunch of fussy parts like a mandoline), mandoline, or very sharp knife, slice your zucchini as thin as possible (about the thickness of a gold US dollar, if possible). Remove the jars from the oven and layer them in the jar as best you can; I circled mine around each other almost like a rose. You may only need one jar—it all depends on how you layer. Top with vinegar mixture until the zucchini is totally submerged. Screw the lids on tightly and let cool completely before storing in the fridge. The pickled zucchini is ready to eat in 3-7 days.

Once you’ve pickled the zucchini for enough time, toast your bagels in a toaster and, once cool enough to handle, smear each side with as much cream cheese as you’d like (I load mine up). Top with flakes of smoked fish and sprinkle with chopped capers, herbs, and 2-3 ribbons of pickled zucchini per bagel half (I like to twist them so they look a bit more fun and fancy). You can double up the halves and eat it like a big sandwich, or eat each half on its own (my preference—you’re basically getting two for the price of one). Enjoy!

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