From Yom Kippur break fast, or bris and baby naming celebrations, to wedding showers and Sunday brunches, there's a reason a bagel and lox spread is the go-to for countless hosts: it's comforting, crowd-pleasing fare, it satisfies cravings for a little salt, a little sweet, and it's easy to prepare. (Done right, you can even avoid cooking altogether!) Whether you're feeding 5 people or 50, read on for a great do-ahead menu, shopping tips, and all-important information... on calculating how much food you'll need to feed your hungry guests.
01 of 10
Mango Nectar or Orange Juice
Set out juice glasses and a pitcher of cold mango nectar or orange juice, so your guests can enjoy a little pick-me-up as soon as they arrive. Keep the glasses small -- you want to perk up your guests, not fill them up.
How much to buy: 4 to 6 ounces of juice per person should suffice. (Get an extra 1/2 gallon or 2 if you'd like to serve juice at the table as well.)
02 of 10
Crunchy on the outside, chewy and dense on the inside, fresh bagels are the ultimate foil for silky, salty lox, cream cheese, and veggies. If you've got a good local bagel shop, make a special trip for your break-fast bagels -- they'll be far tastier and more satisfying than the commercial brands. Or, if you're feeling ambitious, you can try your hand at making your own homemade bagels. (Note that if any of your guests have celiac disease, many supermarkets now carry gluten-free... bagels. They're not exactly the real thing, and definitely benefit from toasting, but it's a nice gesture to pick some up for those who need them.)
How much to buy: Many bagel shops allow 1 1/2 bagels per person when they're making catering platters, so that's a good rule of thumb to follow.
03 of 10
Cream cheese is a classic bagel topper, as perfect on its own as it is loaded up with smoked fish and capers. Bagel shops tend to offer the tastiest cream cheeses, but if you're shopping in the supermarket, look for a brand with as few fillers or stabilizers as possible. (Organic Valley or Trader Joe's brands are good choices.)
Need a lactose-free option? Many bagel shops offer tofu-based cream cheeses, and Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese is widely available at most supermarkets.
H...ow much to buy: Get 1 to 1 1/4 pounds of cream cheese per dozen bagels. Offer a selection; plain, veggie, and scallion are popular flavors. Preferences vary for block versus whipped cream cheese, so consider buying some of each.
04 of 10
Lox, Nova, Belly....no matter which you prefer (or what you call it), any sort of smoked salmon you serve is going to disappear, and fast. Connoiseurs may prize it hand-sliced paper-thin, but I've never seen anyone balk at less-than-translucent slices. If you don't have a great bagel or appetizing shop (or you need a large quantity at affordable prices), Costco and BJ's often sell kosher-certified sides of smoked salmon. For smaller quantities, Whole Foods tends to be a good source.... Capers and lemon slices are nice accoutrements.
How much to buy: Allow an absolute minimum of 4 ounces (1/4 pound) per person, but keep in mind that lox lovers will happily devour more, especially after a 25-hour fast. 6 ounces per person wouldn't be unreasonable, and if you can afford it, you might even want to get extra. You can always freeze the leftovers -- if there are any.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
While salmon may win the smoked fish popularity contest, whitefish has plenty of devotees. A whole smoked whitefish makes an attractive centerpiece, while whitefish salad is a well-loved -- and affordable -- alternative.
How much to buy: 2 to 3 ounces per person if you're serving a whole smoked whitefish, or 3 to 4 ounces per person for whitefish salad.
06 of 10
Cheese is a nice option for guests who don't eat fish, and it tends to be a kid pleaser, too. Offer a variety of bagel-friendly sliced cheeses such as cheddar, havarti, Swiss, and pepper jack.
How much to buy: 2 to 3 ounces per person should be plenty.
07 of 10
Offer a platter of sliced raw veggies so everyone can customize their sandwiches. Cut the tomatoes thick, the onions thin, add some cucumber rounds and pepper rings, and your bases should be covered!
How much to buy: For every dozen bagels figure 2 large tomatoes, 1 large onion, 1 large cucumber, and 2 bell peppers.
08 of 10
Fresh Melon or Fruit Salad
Hydrating and refreshing, melon is a great counterpoint to salty smoked fish. If you prefer more variety, a fruit platter or fruit salad is a colorful, delicious cap to the meal. Emphasize juicy fruits, such as mango, pineapple, grapes, and berries.
How much to buy: A large watermelon will serve at least 10 to 12. Smaller varieties, such as sugar baby melons, will serve 4 to 6. For fruit salad, you'll need about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of fruit for every 10 guests.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Sorbet or Granita
If you'd like to serve more than just fruit for dessert, but don't want to bake, sorbet or granita is a nice option. Serve it solo, or with purchased cookies alongside it.
How much to buy: A pint of sorbet serves 4, a quart serves 8.
10 of 10
Water, Iced Tea, Hot Tea, and Coffee
Add lemons, limes or cucumber to large pitchers of cool water to add flavor and a classy touch; seltzer or unsweetened, decaffeinated iced tea are great options, too.
Offer a selection of teas, along with regular and decaf coffee. Don't forget to offer sugar, honey, and milk or cream.
How much to buy: Thirsty guests are likely to pour large drinks, so set our at least 2 large (80 to 90-ounce) water pitchers per 10 guests, and be prepared to refill! Each liter of seltzer serves 4 to 6; if you... have a Sodastream, you may want to keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge so you can refill the bottles and fizz away!
For a small group, brewing up a pot or two of coffee will generally suffice; if you're expecting a lot of guests, you may want to the coffee urn route. For tea, a vacuum press pot or a second urn dedicated to hot water only is a good option.