Having grown up in Miami what I still miss the most after almost 10 years is the food. The variety and sheer proximity of sweets, savories and restaurants representing most of Latin America, the Caribbean and a good bit of the rest of the globe. Sigh, I didn't realize what a culinary blessing that was until I moved 900 miles away and suddenly everything I craved had to come from my own hands. I remember Broadway Bagel, an independent and authentic NY Jewish bagel shop that knocked my socks off the first time I bit into a crusty, chewy, blistered bagel with their wonderful veggie cream cheese. These were not cardboard, mass produced, stone weight bagels. No, these were as close as you could get to the real thing without heading into NY proper.
As a commuter college student, four out of five days involved a stop at Broadway Bagel around 6am to buy a still warm bagel, veggie cream cheese and a snapple lemon iced tea. I'd slather up my bagel in the car and enjoy my hectic drive into Coral Gables much more, simply because I had a honking piece of yum in my hand. Ahhhhhh. These days any bagel worthy of a comparison to that is made in my kitchen and I'm not tooting my own horn. It's not hard to make a good bagel, you just have to have eaten a good bagel once in your life. So whenever the craving hits, I make a batch of bagels and to slather I make this roasted vegetable cream cheese spread I saw Alton Brown make on Good Eats. It's not a replica of the Broadway cream cheese but is in the spirit of my morning college indulgence.
More than a recipe this is a method. Grab any vegetable you have in the fridge that roasts well and pair it with the aromatic veggie base - onions, peppers and garlic. Roast, blend with cream cheese and sit down to enjoy your own little piece of yum. I've used carrots, eggplant, zucchini and I'm sure others work just as well. Little ones tend to love this too. If you like a stiffer spread, use more cream cheese. I tend to like it heavy on the veg so mine tends to be loose rather than cream cheese consistency. It doesn't matter because once you taste the smokey, salty yet sweet roasted vegetables mixed with tangy cream cheese you won't be able to keep away from the bowl.
Roasted Vegetable Spread
adapted from Alton Brown
1 bell pepper, chopped - I tend to use about 2
1 medium onion, chopped - again, I overdue the veggies and use 2 onions
4 cloves garlic, peeled & slightly crushed
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped - my addition and will produce a less firm spread
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Place your roughly chopped veggies onto a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and slightly charred around the edges.
Charred edges, check. Allow the veggie mix to cool a bit.
Throw the cream cheese into the food processor. Well don't throw it or you're likely to paint your backsplash in cheese. Can you tell we've had a very literal week around this house with the preschool set?
Add your roasted vegetables and puree the mix.
Taste then adjust the seasoning. You'll be surprised how much salt and pepper this mix can take because of the sweetness in the roasted vegetables.
Transfer to a storage container and allow to cool in the fridge.
Mmmmm, creamy and savory all in one bite. I think this would be great for a twist on tea sandwiches too. We've been known to have tea parties around here just to have fancy finger food and set up the picnic blanket indoors.