It is one of my favorite nights of the year: the Oscars. And even when the viewing party consists of just myself in leggings on the couch, I still like to put together some sort of festive food spread. The goal here is finger foods that you can nosh aimlessly while you count down the seconds until host Jimmy Kimmel speculates about Oprah’s presidential run. We’re also looking for items that can sit out for three hours and be no worse for it. And of course, a cocktail to get things going.
The Shape of Sparkling Water
Set a moody blue tone that pays homage to Guillermo del Toro’s romance between a woman and a water creature with this cocktail that gets its fizz from sparkling water and its color from smashed blueberries. To make, combine 1 part honey and 1 part water in a small saucepan. For this recipe, go with at least 1/4 cup of each. (You can make more if you want, and save it for other things.) Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool. Meanwhile, in the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle about 20 blueberries and 1 rosemary sprig stripped of its leaves. Add 2 ounces lemon juice, 2 ounces gin or vodka (or omit the alcohol; this works as a mocktail, too) and 2 ounces honey syrup. Fill shaker with ice, then shake, covered, for at least 10 seconds. Strain into two glasses filled with ice, then top each glass with at least 1/4 cup sparkling water but no more than 3/4 cup. Strip 2 more rosemary sprigs halfway, then thread a couple of blueberries onto the stripped parts. Use this as garnish for the drinks.
Get Out, but Leave the Guac
Keep it really simple here. And make sure to plan ahead a bit: Buy your avocados a day or two before you’re going to make this, and be sure on the day of they are soft to the touch but not mushy. Wash and halve lengthwise 4 or 5 avocados, then remove the pit and scoop out the green flesh into a medium bowl. Grate 1 large garlic clove into the bowl. Squeeze the juice of 2 limes into the bowl. Finely chop some fresh cilantro, about a handful, and add it to the bowl, too. Season with salt and pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes if that’s your thing. Mix really well, mashing the avocados until you have a smooth but still kind of chunky mixture. Serve with something salty — crackers or tortilla chips — and a medley of veggies: baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, sliced red peppers. And hope that Jordan Peele’s genre-defying Get Out racks up the many awards it deserves.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread builds to an odd and suspenseful climax that revolves around food, namely a buttery omelet and some choice mushrooms. We’ll leave the eggs for breakfast, but we’re embracing the mushrooms here in this crostini recipe. To make, melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a skillet. Add 1 pound shiitake mushrooms (or a mushroom blend of your choice), stems discarded and caps sliced. Cook over medium heat for 7 minutes. Add 1 thinly sliced shallot and 2 minced garlic cloves and cook for a couple more minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth), 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh or dry thyme and 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir to combine and set aside. Thickly slice a baguette or other hard bread into at least 12 pieces, slather with olive oil, then toast in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and spread 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese on each toast slice. Divide the mushroom mixture among the 12 crostini, drizzle it all with some olive oil, then top with fresh chopped chives and serve. Recipe adapted from Food and Wine.
Lady Bird Food
All hail Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, one of the best movies ever about mother-daughter relationships, especially the specific experience of shopping at a thrift store together. I think Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson would prefer this snack mix over the communion wafers she and her BFF eat at Catholic school. Start with popcorn. Add 1/4 cup canola oil to a large pot set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, pour in 1/2 cup popcorn kernels, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon salt. Shake the pot a bit to coat the kernels with oil, then cover and let it pop. Listen carefully; when the frequency of popping slows down to several seconds between pops, remove from heat. Pour into a large bowl. To the bowl, add 1 cup original Chex cereal, 1 cup pretzels (place in a zip-top bag before adding and crush them a bit) and 1 cup nuts of your choice. Mix to combine. In a small saucepan, add 4 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and salt and black pepper to taste. Cook until butter is melted, then stir to combine ingredients well. Pour sauce over popcorn mixture in bowl and immediately toss well to coat the snacks with the sauce. Serve with the dramatic flourish of a teenage drama student.
Call Me by Your Tartlet
If anyone would like to talk about the extreme amount of feelings they felt after watching Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer fall in love in Luca Guadagnino’s exquisite Call Me by Your Name, please get in touch. If you haven’t seen it, that’s okay. This mascarpone-peach tart will also make you feel things. Mascarpone, the sweet Italian cheese used in cannoli, nods to the movie’s Italian setting. To make, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice 3 or 4 peaches (you can leave the skin on) and place in a saucepan. Stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Stir well and cook for another 10 minutes until peaches have softened and sugar is caramelized. Remove saucepan from heat and aside. Roll out 2 store-bought pie crusts on the counter with a bit of flour. Cut out 12 (3-inch) squares of crust and place them gently in a muffin tin coated with cooking spray. Cook crusts for 10 minutes, then check to see if they’re done and lightly browned. If not done, cook for 5 more minutes or until done, then remove from oven and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix 8 ounces mascarpone with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon honey and a pinch of salt. Remove crusts from muffin tin and place on a serving platter. They should be like little cups. Spoon mascarpone mixture into the crusts, dividing mixture among all 12. Divide peach mixture among the shells. Sprinkle some freshly chopped mint on top of the tarts and serve.