Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar-Worthy Appetizers

In addition to the gorgeous gowns and Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin's amusing act last night, what better way to take in the Academy Awards than with some good apps, great friends (and a killer cocktail or two)? My apartment may be a studio, but the spacious kitchen is well-used (well, spacious for an NYC studio at least!). Always loving an excuse to cook and invite friends over, I threw together a small Oscars soiree and made 'studio apartment entertaining' chic, flavorful and balanced -- with a healthful and indulgent line-up of dishes. Here's a few of the evening's standouts for your viewing pleasure:

A chic, simple cocktail to start off the night...a perfect pairing with Sandra Bullock's stunning gold gown and her Best Actress win and Tom Ford's dashing, perfectly-refined presence.

“The Oscar”
serves 2
2 oz vodka
2 oz St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
Splash of fresh lemon juice
Champagne or prosecco
2 large pieces of lemon peel

Fill two martini glasses with ice and cold water, cool glasses for 1 to 2 minutes and discard ice and water.
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add vodka, St. Germain and lemon juice and shake well. Pour mixture into martini glass and top it off with Champagne or prosecco.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel a good-sized piece of lemon peel for garnish.

A little ethnicity and color turns out a lot of healthful flavor without a ton of calories. Perfect with Maggie Gyllenhaal's vibrant printed dress...
Lettuce Wraps with Shrimp & Thai Dipping Sauce
makes 10 to 12

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp jalepeno, minced
Juice of 1 lime

Lettuce wraps
1/2 cucumber, sliced into thin matchsticks
1/2 mango, sliced into thin matchsticks
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into thin matchsticks
1-2 scallions, diced1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp jalapeno, minced
*crushed peanuts and extra whole mint leaves for serving
10-12 full leaves of Butter or Bibb lettuce

Dipping sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp mirin (rice wine vinegar)
1 1/2 tsp agave nectar (or 2 tsp sugar)
1/2 tsp Asian chili sauce
2 tsp scallions, chopped
Juice of 2 limes

Marinate shrimp for about 30-60 minutes.
On a grill or in a grill pan, grill shrimp over medium-high heat about 2 minutes on each side until done.
Combine cucumber through jalapeno for lettuce wrap filling and toss to mix well.
Arrange lettuce leaves on a large serving platter. Place 2 to 3 shrimp in each leaf and top with cucumber-mango mixture. Sprinkle each wrap with crushed peanuts and top with a whole mint leaf for garnish. Whisk all dipping sauce ingredients together and set aside in a small bowl to place with serving platter.

Up the indulgence factor just a tad. These small bites pack in a ton of flavor, but their size will keep calories in check (just be careful, they're addictive -- 2 or 3 and you're good to go!). Well-paired with Demi Moore's seriously haute peachy-pink dress and sculpted arms.
Bacon Wrapped Dates with Manchego
Makes 18 dates

18 pitted Medjool dates
18 thin pieces of manchego cheese, cut into 1/2 inch by 1 1/2 inch slivers
9 thin slices of applewood smoked bacon, cut in half
18 toothpicks

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Stuff dates with manchego and wrap each with a slice of bacon. Secure with a toothpick.
Bake for 5 to 7 minutes on each side until crispy.

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