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  • Matthew Mead / The Associated Press

    Here are three great toppings for crostini, clockwise from top left: cannelini and celery root hummus with fried capers and sage; roasted cauliflower tapenade with romano and almonds; and pickled onions and kumquat relish with goat cheese.

  • Matthew Mead / The Associated Press

    Pour something bubbly, alcoholic or not, with these teriyaki chicken lettuce wraps at your Oscar party on Sunday. The red carpet show starts at 4 p.m. on ABC.

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  • Teriyaki chicken lettuce wraps

    Prep time: 20 minutes

    Cook time: 10 minutes

    Serves 8


    1/4  cup low-sodium soy sauce

    1/4  cup honey

    1  tablespoon grated fresh ginger

    teaspoon garlic powder

    teaspoon hot sauce

    1  teaspoon fish sauce

    medium carrots, cut into chunks

    1  small yellow onion, quartered

    11/2  pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

    2  tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

    1  tablespoon cornstarch

    2  tablespoons cool water

    1  head Boston lettuce, separated into leaves (or similar broad, tender lettuce)


    In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic powder, hot sauce and fish sauce. Set aside.

    In a food processor, combine the carrots and onion. Pulse until finely chopped.

    Add the chicken, then pulse several times to begin chopping the chicken.

    Add the sauce, then continue pulsing just until the chicken is well chopped, but not ground. The pieces should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

    In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil.

    Add the chicken and cook, stirring often and breaking up any clumps, until cooked through, about 8 minutes. In a small glass, stir together the cornstarch and water, then add to the skillet. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

    Transfer the chicken to one side of a serving platter. Arrange the lettuce leaves on the other side.

    Diners help themselves by spooning the chicken into individual leaves, using the leaves as they would a sandwich wrap.

    Per serving: 190 calories; 60 calories from fat (32 percent of total calories); 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 70 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 18 g protein; 460 mg sodium.

  • Roasted cauliflower tapenade with romano and almonds

    Prep time: 15 minutes

    Cook time: 30 minutes

    Serves 12


    head cauliflower, cored and cut into chunks

    tablespoons olive oil, divided

    Salt and ground black pepper

    1/4  cup finely chopped cherry or Peppadew peppers

    1/4  cup grated romano cheese

    1/4  cup chopped toasted almonds


    Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Working in batches in a food processor, pulse the cauliflower chunks into small pieces, about 1/4 inch.

    Transfer the cauliflower to a medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and a sprinkle each of salt and black pepper. Spread on the prepared baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes. Return the cauliflower to the bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil, the chopped peppers, cheese and almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

  • Cannelini and celery root hummus with fried capers and sage

    Prep time: 10 minutes

    Cook time: 16 minutes

    Serves 12


    tablespoons olive oil, divided

    2  tablespoons capers, rinsed and patted dry

    fresh sage leaves

    2  cups diced celery root (also known as celeriac)

    One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

    tablespoons sherry vinegar

    Salt and ground black pepper

    1/2  cup roasted red peppers, patted dry and cut into strips


    In a small skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the capers and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crispy. Transfer the capers to a plate, then add the sage leaves to the pan and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until crispy. Transfer the sage to the plate with the capers, then scrape any remaining oil from the skillet and drizzle over both.

    Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the celery root and simmer until tender. Drain well and transfer to a food processor. Add the beans and sherry vinegar and purée until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper. Spoon into a serving dish, top with the roasted red peppers, fried capers and sage, then drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

  • Seared maple kielbasa with raisins and sunflower seeds

    Start to finish: 15 minutes

    Serves 12


    8  ounces kielbasa, finely diced

    1/4  cup maple syrup

    Pinch of red pepper flakes

    1/4  cup chopped golden raisins

    tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds


    In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sear the kielbasa until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the maple syrup and red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Stir in the raisins and sunflower seeds. Spoon into a serving dish.

  • Broiled herb ricotta

    Start to finish: 20 minutes

    Serves 16


    2 cups whole milk ricotta

    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano

    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme

    2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

    1 egg, lightly beaten

    Salt and ground black pepper


    Heat the broiler.

    In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, oregano, thyme, scallions and egg. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture into a shallow oven-safe gratin dish. Broil for 5 minutes on the oven’s middle shelf (about 8 inches below the heat), or until hot and golden.

  • Pickled onion and kumquat relish over goat cheese

    Prep time: 10 minutes, plus cooling

    Cook time: 5 minutes

    Serves 16


    2  large red onions, diced

    1/2 cup cider vinegar

    1/3  cup maple syrup

    1  teaspoon salt

    tablespoon whole-grain mustard

    sprigs fresh tarragon

    1  cup chopped kumquats, seeds removed

    8  ounces soft goat cheese


    In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the onion, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, mustard and tarragon. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

    Remove from the heat and discard the tarragon sprigs. Stir in the chopped kumquats and allow to cool.

    Place the goat cheese on a serving platter and spoon the relish over the top.

  • Smoked salmon tartare

    Prep time: 20 minutes

    Serves 12


    8  ounces smoked salmon

    Zest and juice of 1 lime

    Zest and juice of 1 orange

    1/2  English cucumber, seeded and finely diced

    tablespoons chopped fresh chives

    tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

    1/2  teaspoon ground coriander

    Salt and ground black pepper


    Place the salmon in the freezer for 10 minutes, or until very cold. Dice the salmon using a very sharp knife.

    In a medium bowl, combine the citrus zests and juices, cucumber, chives, cilantro and coriander. Mix gently but thoroughly, then mix in the salmon. Season with salt and black pepper.

What’s Cooking: Refined finger food for Oscar party

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 - 12:00 am

An Oscar viewing party should be the culinary antithesis of a Super Bowl gathering. Where the latter focuses on big, bold, messy flavors tied together with a whole lot of fat, the Academy Awards call for a more refined dining experience (even if both events are spent on the same couch in front of the same television).

So let’s reverse engineer this. To help you get in the mood, you’ll want to drink something with bubbles. Sparkling wine is the obvious choice, though don’t forget the sparkling cider for those abstaining. But you don’t have to sip them straight up. Sparkling wine and cider are delicious when doctored.

For either, consider puréeing watermelon, then pouring the purée into ice cube trays and freezing. Drop one cube into each glass, then top with the sparkling beverage. Or for something more wintery, grab a jar of amarena cherries, an Italian treat of sour cherries packed in syrup. Drop one into each glass, then fill and sip.

With the drinks sorted, we need something that works with bubbles. Fried food is perfect, but who wants to deep-fry at home?

So for our refined fare, we opted for an array of crostini. We created toppings that can be spooned, scooped or smeared onto whatever bases you like. Assemble the toppings, offer up an assortment of breads, crackers and crisps, then let guests help themselves while you focus on the awards (and the cocktails).

To make your party prep even easier, all of these toppings can be assembled up to a day ahead of time. Many of them take 30 minutes or less to assemble. The flavors will be better if you let the toppings come to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

The other happy companion to bubbles is Asian food, such as a simple teriyaki chicken that is served in lettuce wraps. The recipe comes together quickly, but has wonderful savory, yet light, flavors that work perfectly with your cocktails.

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