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  1. Arts & Entertainment
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Celebrate the Oscars with this spread of award-worthy party snacks

We’ve got food ideas for some of the 2020 Best Picture nominees.
 [LISA MERKLIN  |  Tampa Bay Times]
[LISA MERKLIN | Tampa Bay Times]

Anytime my two loves of cinema and cuisine collide, it is worthy of great celebration. Like this weekend, when the 92nd Academy Awards are on and I can use it as an excuse to make a bunch of themed food. If you are also excited to watch movie stars in fancy attire give long-winded speeches about their agents, here’s some inspiration — a recipe idea for each Best Picture nominee. Well, almost. Joker and Jojo Rabbit did not inspire whimsical party bites, but let us know if they do for you.

1917

If this movie taught me anything, it’s that when you’re on a really dangerous World War I mission, sometimes you’ll need to use the water in your canteen to clean out your wound after you get your hand caught on a gnarly piece of fence, so carry as much water as you can! Same goes for your party. Fill your largest vessel with water, ice cubes, and a couple of things the 1917 boys definitely did not have in their canteens: slices of fruit like strawberries or peaches, and a handful of fresh mint or basil. Voila, infused water.

Ford v Ferrari

We’ve got the Italian side of this covered in the next movie, so let’s go with something classically American. No, not Matt Damon. An ice cold Coca-Cola! Ford v Ferrari is about American car designer Carroll Shelby (Mr. Damon) and British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale, for once not under gallons of prosthetic makeup) and how they join forces to create a race car for Ford Motor Co. that can beat the reigning Ferrari vehicles. It’s all very jolly and zippy and exciting, and so American that it would be wrong not to clink a cold cola in its honor, much like Damon and Bale do after a particularly tense moment in Bale’s front yard. Get those vintage-looking glass bottles for maximum authenticity.

The Irishman

Don’t be fooled by the title: Made by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, The Irishman is one of the most Italian movies ever. You know how I know this? Within the first 20 minutes of the 3-hour-plus movie, DeNiro and Pesci’s characters are sitting in a white-tablecloth restaurant, dunking pieces of bread into their glasses of wine. This is an iconic old-school Italian habit (probably inspired by a Catholic practice called intinction), one I’d watch my Sicilian great-grandfather do at his Bronx duplex all the time, right after he lectured us about the proper way to eat a slice of pizza (folded in half, you animals!). Here’s another Italian classic: meatballs. Make these, let them simmer in a red sauce on the stove, and make sure to put out plenty of bread and red wine for all that dipping and sopping.

Meatballs

1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

1/2 cup milk

1 large egg

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground meat, such as beef, pork, turkey, chicken, or veal, or a mix

1/2 cup finely chopped onion (or grated on the large holes of a coarse grater)

1 clove garlic, minced

Marinara sauce, storebought or homemade

Combine the milk and breadcrumbs. Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl, pour in the milk, and stir to combine. Set aside while preparing the rest of the meatball mixture. The breadcrumbs will absorb the milk and become soggy.

Whisk the egg, salt, pepper, Parmesan, and parsley. Whisk the egg in a large bowl until broken up. Add the Parmesan, parsley, salt, and a generous quantity of black pepper, and whisk to combine. Add the ground meat. Add the meat to the egg mixture. Use your hands to thoroughly mix the egg mixture into the ground meat.

Add the onions and soaked breadcrumbs. Add the onions, garlic, and soaked breadcrumbs. Mix them thoroughly into the meat with your fingers. Try not to overwork the meat; pinch the meat between your fingers rather than kneading it.

Form the meat into meatballs. Have a rimmed baking sheet ready. Pinch off a piece of the meat mixture and gently roll between your hands to form 1 1/2-inch meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each). Continue shaping until all the meat is used, placing the meatballs on the baking sheet so that they are not touching.

Bring a marinara or other pasta sauce to a simmer in a large pot and add as many meatballs as will fit comfortably in the pot. Cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes. The meatballs are done when they’re cooked through and register 165 degrees in the middle on an instant-read thermometer.

Source: Adapted from thekitchn.com

Little Women

One of the most memorable food scenes in Greta Gerwig’s lush adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel is when the March sisters are sitting down to a bountiful Christmas breakfast and learn of a young family in a nearby shack who’s barely getting by. They load their baskets with the goodies and bring them over to their less fortunate neighbors in a sweet show of generosity. Let some mini scones dotted with chocolate chips work as the sweet note on your food table.

Little Chocolate Chip Scones

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled

2 cups mini chocolate chips

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

Sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut the cold butter into pats, then use a pastry cutter or 2 knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles crumbs. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Add the cream to a pitcher, then whisk in the vanilla and egg. Pour the cream mixture into the flour mixture; stir gently with a fork just until it comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and lightly press it together until it forms a rough rectangle (the mixture will be pretty crumbly). Use a rolling pin to roll it into about a 12-by-7-inch rectangle, 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Use your hands to help with the forming if necessary. Use a knife to trim into a symmetrical rectangle, then cut the rectangle into 12 symmetrical squares/rectangles. Next, cut each square/rectangle in half diagonally, to form 2 triangles. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until the scones are light brown about 18 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Source: Adapted from Food Network

Marriage Story

“The knife scene” is probably not what you think it is, but it’s just as horrifying in this domestic drama from Noah Baumbach as in a horror flick stabfest. In it, Adam Driver’s character Charlie is preparing for a visit from a social worker who will observe him and his son as part of his ongoing divorce with Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole. To flex his parenting skills, he’s making a home-cooked dinner, when one stroke creates a bloody mess. Put your knife skills to the test (try to be more careful than Charlie) by preparing a crudite platter, aka. raw vegetables that have been cut into nice pieces, ideal for dunking into something dippy.

Vegetable Platter with Garlicky Dip

An assortment of raw vegetables, like carrots, zucchini, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt

1/4 cup olive oil

2 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream

Toss vegetables with lemon juice and a pinch of salt until coated. Arrange nicely on a plate or platter.

Heat the olive oil, scallions, garlic and red pepper flakes in a small pot over medium-low heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until everything is sizzling. When it is, remove from the heat, and let cool almost all the way. Stir in some salt and pepper to taste.

Combine the yogurt or sour cream and lemon juice in a small bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle garlic mixture on top, then gently mix everything together. Serve with vegetables.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood

In true Brad Pitt fashion, his character has some iconic food moments in this Quentin Tarantino movie set in 1960s Hollywood. Pitt plays Cliff Booth, stunt man and best friend to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton. Pitt spends his non-working hours in a trailer, where he hangs with his dog and eats boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese straight out of the pot. It’s the antithesis to this movie’s more glamorous settings, like Dalton’s mansion in the Hollywood Hills or Musso & Frank Grill, a long-standing Hollywood Boulevard eatery. It’s where we see Dalton’s character suck down a couple whiskey sours, his go-to cocktail in the movie. So let’s go high-low here. Make some mac and cheese balls, and whiskey sours for your group, and do your best to channel the old timey vibes of this vintage L.A. romp.

Mac and Cheese Balls

1 pound elbow macaroni

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk, warmed, plus 2 tablespoons for egg wash

1 pound grated Cheddar

1 pound grated smoked Gouda

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs

3 cups seasoned bread crumbs

Vegetable oil, for frying

Marinara sauce, for serving

Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour into the butter and stir it with a whisk. Cook for 2 minutes. Whisk the warmed milk into the flour mixture, working out any lumps. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the cheeses and stir until melted and smooth; season with salt and pepper. Fold the cheese sauce into macaroni. Pour the mac and cheese into a shallow pan and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

Shape the cold mac and cheese into meatball-sized balls and place them onto a waxed paper-lined tray.

Beat the eggs and 2 tablespoons milk together to form an egg wash and pour it into a shallow bowl. Put the bread crumbs into another shallow bowl. Dip the balls into the egg wash then into the bread crumbs.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or a deep skillet set over medium-high heat, to 350 degrees. Fry the mac and cheese balls until they are golden brown and center is hot, about 5 minutes.

Source: Food Network

Whiskey Sour

2 ounces bourbon

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup

Maraschino cherry (for serving)

Combine bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.

Strain cocktail into an old-fashioned or rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with cherry.

Serves 1.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Parasite

Parasite has a couple notable food moments, both of which cannot be talked about much without spoiling the movie, which I absolutely won’t be doing here. In one, someone prepares a dish referred to as “ram-don,” actually a word created by the movie’s English subtitles translator that merges “ramen” and “udon.” It seems to be a play on a Korean food known as jjapaguri. In Bong Joon-Ho’s thrilling Korean masterpiece, expensive sirloin steak is added to a dish of instant noodles. Not to wade into the movie’s fraught class issues, but we’re going to ditch the noodles and keep the steak for our purposes, and make steak skewers.

Steak Skewers

For the marinade: 1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons Dijon

1 tablespoon garlic

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

For the steak: 1 3/4 pounds sirloin steak, cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces

1 large red onion diced into chunks (about 1 1/4-inch)

Olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

10 wooden skewer sticks soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients. Place steak into a gallon size resealable bag. Pour marinade over steak then seal bag while pressing out excess air and massage marinade over steak. Transfer to refrigerator and allow to marinate 3 to 6 hours.

Preheat a grill to about 425 degrees, or heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

To assemble kebabs, layer steak and onion onto skewers in desired order.

Brush grill grates lightly with oil. Place kebabs on grill and grill until center of steak registers about 140 to 145 degrees for medium doneness, turning kebabs occasionally, about 8 to 9 minutes.

Or, coat skillet with olive oil and place as many skewers as you can in the skillet, making sure the steak and veggies have contact with the skillet. Cook 5 minutes, then rotate and cook another 2 minutes on each side until steak is cooked through.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

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