Welcome to the Great Bagel Boom, a series celebrating the vast creative expanses of bagel culture across America—because yes, you can find truly wonderful bagels outside of New York now.
You go to the store and buy six bagels for your home of two. You swear you’ll finish them all within the week so you don’t have to freeze them. Only tomorrow life happens (you want yogurt instead) and the bagels continue to sit on the bench where they transform from platonically chewy spheres into tiny cannonballs.
It’s your call: You could lob those baddies at your enemies, or you could turn them into the cheesy bagel frittata I stumbled upon in Tamar Adler’s The Everlasting Meal Cookbook. Released earlier this year, it has more than 1,500 thrifty recipes that’ll inspire you to make the most of every last bit and bob in your kitchen. You know, like those rock-hard bagels.
The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z
If you don’t freeze them immediately, every bagel has a freshness cliff—a point of no return. “Stale bread can’t be asked to act like fresh bread,” Adler wisely wrote. “It will abstain.” If you accept your crusty old bagels for what they have become, not what they could have been, you can make something totally new and every bit as satisfying. All you need are a few ingredients you might already have hanging around.
Thanks to a quick toss in a buttery pan, your cubed-up bagels will soften into springy little pillows. Herbs and alliums bless the eggy mixture with sweet-savory energy. And a pile of shredded mozzarella bubbles into a golden mess in the oven. Its final form is like a breakfast sandwich meets a savory bread pudding meets the best stale bagel you ever had in your life.
Here’s how to make a bagel frittata:
In a medium or large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt a hunk (about 2 Tbsp.) of butter. Add ½ medium onion, diced, and a big pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is tender and translucent. Stir in a hefty spoonful of chopped tender herbs, like parsley or dill. Add 1 bagel, cubed or torn into pieces, and stir to coat in the butter. Cook until lightly toasty, 1–2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool until warm while you heat the oven to 375°F. Push aside the bagel mixture, and beat 6 eggs in the side of the bowl with a big pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir in a couple of handfuls (about 1½ cups) grated low-moisture mozzarella. Stir to combine.
Coat the surface of your skillet with olive oil and set it over medium-high heat. Scrape in the eggy bagel mixture, then evenly spread it out. Cook until the sides have started to firm up and turn golden. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the top is just set, about 10 minutes. Let it cool briefly in the pan before sliding onto a plate and serving. If you have some extra herbs around, you can sprinkle a few sprigs on top.
Once you’ve got this formula down, anything goes. Limp leek greens and a random shallot work great in place of the onion. No one will be upset if you use a combination of leftover herbs. And garlic, as always, is welcome. The gooeyness of mozzarella is ideal here, but anything melty, like cheddar or pepper Jack, is a fine swap. A seedy everything is particularly flavorful, but any savory bagel works. For stale blueberry or cinnamon-raisins, there’s a nutmeg-spiced bread pudding in Adler’s book, which is yet another reason to snag a copy.
Next time you’re at the store, you can tell yourself that you’d be wasting money by not buying a few extra everythings and accidentally leaving them on the bench for a couple days, until it’s time for another frittata. Lucky you.
Adapted from ‘The Everlasting Meal Cookbook’ by Tamar Adler. Copyright © 2023 by Tamar Adler. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.