Appetizing oscar night

It will be a night of glitz and glamour, surprises and speeches. From red carpet hits and misses to backstage interviews with the winners, the Academy Awards is Hollywood’s biggest night. Celebrate the 83rd Oscars on Feb. 27 with an award-worthy viewing party.

Whether you invite 10, 20 or 30 guests, the real key to any fabulous event is to have a great mix of friends and delicious foods. Feel like a star chef by keeping your Oscar party food simple — serve a variety of hors d’oeuvres and movie snacks.

While at lunch with chef Bruce Marder, owner of Capo, Cora’s, Brentwood and House restaurants, he mentioned that he was planning a comfortable Oscar party at home this year with his wife and eight friends. The Marders have a family area with a large television screen adjoining the kitchen, where guests can watch the Oscars and sample an assortment of delicious food.

His menu of favorite finger food includes a Yogurt Dip served with spears of Persian cucumbers, Blue Fin Tuna Ceviche Crostini and a panini filled with cheese and green onions that is grilled until the cheese is oozing out the sides.

Chef Jason Ivener, owner of Artful Foods Catering, also shares two of his favorite crostini recipes, which would be perfect for an Oscar party. The first, Mushroom Crostini, features a combination of button and oyster mushrooms sautéed and spooned onto slices of French baguette, which is then topped with cheese and heated in the oven. The other, Charred Vegetable Crostini, is a mixture of charred vegetables accented with balsamic vinegar, currants and sun-dried tomatoes.

Two of my favorite appetizers are: Tiropita, a filo dough pastry filled with Monterey Jack and Swiss cheeses, and Gougère, light pastries made with gruyere cheese. (Both can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer on baking sheets. Simply defrost and bake just before serving.)

Nothing says “the movies” quite like popcorn. Savory Popcorn tossed with grated Parmesan cheese and homemade Caramel Popcorn are the perfect munchies for Oscar night. They’re simple to make, going together in minutes.

Also, be sure to set up an open bar area, where guests can select from white or red wine, a large pitcher of champagne punch and soft drinks.


From Judy Zeidler

1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups finely shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Place milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and scald.

In a medium bowl, knead butter, salt, pepper and mustards together. Add to milk, and blend with a wooden spoon. Bring to a rolling boil. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously, until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan clean.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Blend until the dough is shiny and smooth. Add 1 cup shredded cheese; blend well.

Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with the plain round tip. Place a silicone mat onto a baking sheet and pipe gougère in mounds 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and a few drops of milk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Bake in a preheated 400 F oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until well puffed and golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Makes about 24.


For this recipe, Bruce Marder likes to use FAGE, a thick Greek-style yogurt, which is available in many local supermarkets.

8 ounces Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon coarsely grated black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced lengthwise into sticks

In a bowl, mix together yogurt, dill, garlic, salt and pepper. Add olive oil and mix well. Transfer to a bowl and serve with cucumber spears.

Makes about 1 cup.


From Bruce Marder

Blue fin tuna ceviche crostini

1/2 pound blue fin or sushi-grade tuna, chopped
1/3 cup minced white onion
1 tablespoon Japanese yuzu or lemon juice
1 teaspoon wasabi
1 tablespoon minced chives
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, onion, yuzu, wasabi and chives. Add salt and olive oil and mix well. Spoon onto toasted baguette slices.

Makes about 24 crostini.

Have a Ball With Your Soup

The woman who brought to the Shabbat table dishes such as
sweet pea kreplach and honey-and-pecan-crusted chicken with apricot chutney is
tampering with tradition again, just in time for Passover.

Sue Fishbein, author of “Kosher by Design” (Mesorah
Publications, 2003) has released a new recipe for tri-colored Maverick Matzah
Balls, which joins her repertoire of other variegated victuals, including
salmon/dill/traditional gefilte fish, chocolate lovers truffle brownies and
two-tone sweet pea and carrot soup served in a pumpkin shell bowl.

As she has done in many recipes, Fishbein adds a modern
flair to traditional fare with these matzah balls, and does so without upping
the patchke factor (messing around in the kitchen) by too much.

Fishbein uses matzah ball mix from the package, than adds
puréed spinach for green, turmeric for yellow and tomato paste for orange.

“Kosher by Design’s” Passover section already has a recipe
for stuffed matzah balls, and in addition to Passover recipes such as tzimmes
soufflé, lemon meringues and flourless chocolate torte, Fishbein includes a
two-page list of adjustments and substitutions to make other recipes comply
with Passover restrictions.

Concerned as much with presentation as with taste (see above
for her tri-color fetish) Fishbein’s Passover section also includes ideas for
the seder table and a sample menu.

Maverick Matzah Balls


 Spinach Matzah Balls

2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup matzah ball mix (usually 1 bag out of a box)

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade,
process the spinach until pureed.

Add 10 tablespoons of the puree into the egg mixture. Whisk
to incorporate.

Sprinkle in the matzah ball mix. Stir in with a fork, mixing
as little as possible. Don’t overwork it.

Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile bring a pot of water or chicken stock to a boil. 

Wet your hands in a bowl of cold water. Using your hand, and
manipulating as little as possible, scoop out a pingpong ball size of the
mixture. Form it into a ball with your fingertips, using no real pressure. Turn
the water down to a simmer. Drop the balls into the water. Cover the pot and
simmer for 20 minutes.

Makes six large matzah balls.


Tumeric Matzah Balls

2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 cup matzah ball mix (usually one bag out of a box)

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil.

Add the turmeric into the egg mixture. Whisk to incorporate
to an even yellow color.

Sprinkle in the matzah ball mix. Stir in with a fork, mixing
as little as possible. Don’t overwork it.

Complete recipe as above.

Makes six large matzah balls.

Tomato Matzah Balls

2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup matzah ball mix (usually 1 bag out of a box)

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and the oil.

Add the tomato paste into the egg mixture.  Whisk fully to

Sprinkle in the matzah ball mix. Stir in with a fork, mixing
as little as possible.  Don’t overwork it.

Complete recipe as above.

Makes six large matzah balls.  

Seder Yummies From Chicken to Chocolate

Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday, and although cooking for Passover requires a lot of preparation, I look forward to it each year. It is a time when our family and close friends join together to share thoughts and exchange ideas as we participate in the seder.

I have a regular routine that begins my preparation for the Passover holiday. The first thing I do is check last year’s guest list with my husband, so we won’t leave anyone out, and then we add friends who will be alone during the holiday. Next, I review my files that are filled with Passover recipes and select the dishes I want to prepare for our seders.

Over the years we have added Passover food traditions from other cultures that are different then what we normally serve, and they have become an important part of our seder menu.

In the past we traditionally dipped sliced spring onions in salt water as the first vegetable of the season, and now we also serve steamed new potatoes dipped in salt.

The children love the idea of including scallions, a symbolic food that the Sephardic Jews use during their seder. They represent the whips used to beat the Jews when they were slaves in Egypt. The children reenact this event during the seder by going around the table and gently hitting the participants with the raw scallions.

The charoset, bitter herbs and matzah are part of the Passover meal, and during our Seder we taste several types of charoset from around the world. Each guest is served a plate with six different charoset and we identify the country that each represents. Oh yes, the next day I roll the leftover charoset into balls and dip them in chocolate to serve as a special treat during the remaining days of Passover.

Dinner usually begins with homemade gefilte fish, but this year I plan on making a Gefilte Fish Terrine.

It is not as time-consuming to make, and the taste is the same. It is baked the oven, in a mold, and does not require poaching in a fish stock.

This is followed by an intensely flavored chicken soup with matzah balls, and it is the one dish I cannot change because it is everyone’s favorite.

Roast turkey is the main course, as well as chicken breasts that are filled with Grandma Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing, rolled and baked. The combination of sautéed vegetables, matzah meal and sweet raisins is delicious, and I always double the recipe, and bake the remainder of the stuffing in a casserole, because there is never enough to satisfy everyone. The glazed apple slices are easy to make and are a perfect accompaniment to serve with the chicken and turkey.

Dinner is always served buffet style and everyone helps themselves to their favorite Passover dishes.

For dessert, the table is set with an assortment of sponge cakes, cookies and chocolate-covered nuts and fruit. The walnut torte sponge cake looks extra-special by simply layering it with a preserve filling and then spooning a chocolate glaze on top.

Wine is an important part of the seder. In the past, sweet Concord grape wine was always served during Passover, but today dry Passover wines have gained in popularity, and the availability, and varieties are remarkable. These wines come from California, France, Italy and Israel, and, at our seder, we provide both sweet and dry wines, as well as grape juice, to satisfy everyone’s taste.

Rolled Chicken Breasts with Grandma Molly’s Passover

Vegetable Stuffing (pictured above)

Grandma Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing

8 chicken breasts (4 whole,

boned and cut in half)

1/4 cup oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

3 carrots, thinly sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup dry white wine

Prepare Grandma Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing and cool.

Place a chicken breast, skin side down, on a sheet of wax paper, cover with another sheet of wax paper and using a mallet or tenderizer, gently pound the breast until desired thickness.

Spoon stuffing in the center and roll up the chicken breast, encasing the stuffing and tie with string. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Line a baking pan with foil, brush with oil and arrange onions and carrots on top. Place stuffed chicken breasts on top, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Add stock and wine and bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, increase the heat to 425 F, and bake about five minutes more, or until chicken is tender and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and slice on the bias.

To serve, arrange sliced chicken breasts on plates and spoon any juices from pan that remain.

Serves 8.

Grandma Molly’s Passover

Vegetable Stuffing

1/2 cup raisins, plumped in 1 cup Passover Concord grape wine

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 stalks celery, finely diced

6 medium carrots, peeled and grated

1 parsnip, peeled and grated

2 medium zucchini, unpeeled

and grated

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

2-3 tablespoons matzah meal

2-3 tablespoons matzah cake meal

2-3 tablespoons Passover cereal

or potato starch

1/4 cup dry red wine

Salt and freshly ground black

pepper to taste

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft, about three minutes. Add the celery, carrots, parsnip, and zucchini, and toss well. Cook for five minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Drain the raisins and add them to the vegetables with the parsley. Stir in 1 tablespoon each of the matzah meal, matzah cake meal and potato starch. Add the red wine and mix well. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients, a little at a time, until the stuffing is moist and soft but firm in texture. Season with salt and pepper. Cool.

Makes about 12 cups.

Chocolate Farfel-Pecan Clusters

16 ounces Passover semi-sweet chocolate

1 1/2 cups toasted matzah farfel

1 cup toasted, chopped pecans

In the top of a double boiler over simmering water or in a microwave, melt the chocolate. Pour the melted chocolate into a large bowl. Add the matzah farfel and pecans and mix thoroughly.

Spoon this mixture onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet or ruffled paper candy cups. Refrigerate until set.

To serve: peel the clusters off the waxed paper and place on a platter or serve in candy cups, along with Passover sponge cakes and cookies. Makes about 30 to 40 clusters