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Bagels with sweet-and-spicy chipotle cream cheese

I love bagels, the chewy bread and variety of toppings make for one of my favourite breakfasts. Occasionally on a weekday morning, I would walk down to the bagel store in San Mateo and get my favourite, a poppyseed bagel with spicy cream cheese and scrambled eggs.

After moving to India I have come to learn how bagels are booming here too, but the variety of cream cheese spreads are very limited. I was introduced to Loafer & Co. bagels a few weeks ago and knew that the next time I ordered them I would like to recreate my old favourite.

This is a lovely recipe, the cooked salsa is bold and packed with flavour. The spread is creamy, spicy, smoky from the chipotles and loaded with the subtle hint of spices, Mexican oregano and cumin. With the fresh tomatoes, the spread was delicious. Add some creamy scrambled eggs for a heartier breakfast sandwich.

I met Rick Bayless over 20 years ago before I was cooking seriously at his famed Frontera Grill restaurant in Chicago, still, the best margaritas I have ever had and was discovering the joys of Mexican cuisine. I was fortunate to have dined at both this and the upscale Topolobampo restaurant many a time. I love the complex flavours and his books bring out the flavours in simple no-fuss dishes. rick also steps away from the thrashy Tex-Mex cuisine bringing us traditional recipes alongside stories and history of beautiful culture and cuisine. I have a couple of his books and must admit that I do not cook from them often enough.

For more recipes from this lovely cookbook, click here.


For the chipotle salsa:

1 tablespoon oil

3-4 cloves garlic

1 chipotle chilli, stemmed

1/2 cup water

1 cup cream cheese, at room temperature

2 scallions, finely sliced

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1 tablespoon brown sugar or Mexican piloncillo

salt, to taste

1 tomato finely diced, for garnish

2-3 tablespoons cilantro, minced

2-3 bagels of your choice, halved horizontally and toasted if desired

Heat the oil in a pot and add the garlic cloves and fry on low till lightly golden. Drain from the oil and remove.

Add the chipotle chilli and fry for 15 seconds pressing down on the chilli so the entire surface is fried. Flip and fry for an additional 10 seconds. The chilli should be a dark hue. Drain the oil and remove from the pot.

Add the fried garlic, chipotle and water to a small blender and blitz till very smooth. Add back to the pot and fry till the water evaporates and you have a thick aromatic paste. Very small oil bubbles should indicate that the paste is fried well. Cool well.

Add the cooled salsa to the cream cheese with the scallions, oregano, cumin, sugar and salt. Mix well. taste for salt and spice. and adjust as needed.

Spread the mix onto a bagel and garnish with the tomatoes and cilantro.

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