Oscars Night Nibbles

Sunday night’s the big night in Hollywood -- and in living rooms across America. I say, if we’re gonna be glued to the tube all night, we may as well be eating in style. Readers got the conversation started in last week’s chat, sharing their thoughts on how to tie Oscars-viewing snacks to their favorite nominated films. With just 48 hours left ‘til the festivities, let’s chew on more ideas and get this Oscars party started.

I have one confession; I’ve only seen one of the five films up for Best Picture -- "Slumdog Millionaire," which also happens to be a shoo-in for best in culinary inspiration! I can hardly resist an excuse to make Indian food, so you can imagine what I’m fixing Sunday night.. But let’s hear from you and what you’re dreaming up.

And the nominees are….
"Slumdog Millionaire"

The scene: Mumbai, along the western coast of India.
Chaat is the Hindi word for snacks, which means I’ve got veggie pakoras on the brain, plus the pav bhaji (veggie Sloppy Joes) featured earlier this week. The pakoras would need to be fried just before showtime, so time this accordingly. But the pav bhaji can be made a few hours in advance and reheated throughout the evening.

I take a chaat cue from D.C.-area writer Monica Bhide, who’s recommending Cilantro-Lemon Corn Pops, her spicy-zesty take on plain ol' movie popcorn. The recipe, which is featured in her upcoming book, “Modern Spice,” is a six-minute snap to make, makes the house smell wonderful and will get you dancing Bollywood style in no time. Recipe details below.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

The scene: New Orleans. Theme: Reverse aging.
And the timing is impeccable, as Mardi Gras is next Tuesday. Consider a King cake made from cinnamon rolls (featured in yesterday’s blog space) or another creole classic -- chicken and andouille sausage gumbo.

For the reverse-aging theme, what about some kind of cocktail made with pomegranates, the mother lode of disease-fighting antioxidants?


The scene: 1970s Washington, D.C.; Theme: Political scandal.

One reader had the brilliant idea of former First Lady Pat Nixon’s meatloaf. Others suggested retro ‘70s dishes, such as Jell-o molds or Chicken Kiev. I’m thinking beef Wellington would be good here, or what about a tuna noodle casserole, for old times’ sake? Do we play on the word “Frost” and dish up ice cream? An appropriate topping might be Trix cereal, for our late commander in chief Tricky Dick.


The scene: San Francisco in the late ‘70s. Theme: The theater of politics; being openly gay.

California cuisine was well underway, with restaurants like Chez Panisse, Greens and Stars showcasing fresh, seasonal ingredients, a departure from the aforementioned noodle casserole. I’m thinking mixed greens, like mizuna and arugula, tossed with California citrus or avocados, and a California olive oil (of course), washed down with a California chardonnay or Chablis – or wait! What about a kir? So ‘70s.

"The Reader"

The scene: Post-World War II Germany.

Is it me or is the idea of eating German food to go with a film about Nazi war crimes difficult to swallow? Maybe we could find out what leading lady Kate Winslet likes to eat, or dish up budget, “wartime” fare, a la beans and rice or a pot of lentil soup?

Sweet note: Celebritologist Liz Kelly, who’s hosting an Oscars night chat with movies minx Jen Chaney, confessed that she's hankering for red velvet cupcakes as a nod to one of her favorite parts of the evening: the red carpet.

Cilantro-Lemon Corn Pops
From "Modern Spice" by Monica Bhide

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup popping corn kernels
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I substituted equal amounts of lime juice)
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1/2 cup roasted peanut (I substituted equal amounts roasted cashews)

In a deep sauce pan with a lid, heat oil. As soon as it shimmers, add cumin, chile powder, turmeric and salt. Add pop corn and stir to mix well.

Partially cover pan, leaving a small gap for steam to escape. Shake pan a few times during cooking process, and cook until kernels have stopped popping, 4-5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add onion, lemon juice, cilantro and nuts, and toss to combine. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Meant to be eaten as soon as it is prepared, as popcorn will get soggy over time.

Makes three quarts.

By Kim ODonnel |  February 20, 2009; 7:40 AM ET Entertaining
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The cilantro-lemon popcorn looks great! Lately I've been thinking of adapting the Union Square Bar Nuts mixture for popcorn to see if it's just as tasty ('cause popcorn is less expensive than nuts).

So, what're you drinking with all of your themed food? Anything special? And, how lucky are you to be watching the Oscars on PST, so you aren't up late waiting for Best Picture to be announced?

Posted by: CentreOfNowhere1 | February 20, 2009 8:42 AM

Centre, popcorn is a blank slate, so I say go for it! Monica's popcorn has nice heat, and I love the cilantro in there. Nice herbal touch. Re: bevvies: Still up in the air. Depends on the size of our tv-viewing crew. Might be a nonalcoholic eve.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | February 20, 2009 11:59 AM

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