Oscar Night: 5 Finger Foods To Eat While You Watch

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Kathy's chunky Oscar guacamole. (Kathy Gunst for Here & Now)
Kathy's chunky Oscar guacamole. (Kathy Gunst for Here & Now)

For Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst, Oscar night means preparing finger foods, getting into comfortable pajamas and watching the show. Kathy shares some of her favorite Oscar-night treats with Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson.

Ginger-Maple Cocktail Or Ginger-Maple Soda

A simple ginger-infused syrup makes a great non-alcoholic drink or cocktail. Add a few tablespoons of the syrup to a tall glass of seltzer water, or add to prosecco (or champagne) or a glass of rum and lime juice.


  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped, about 1/4 cup


  1. Mix the water and sugar together in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the maple syrup and ginger and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer vigorously for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until somewhat thickened and flavorful. If the syrup doesn’t taste super gingery, cook another 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and let steep 15 minutes. Strain and place in a covered glass jar. The syrup will last about 10 days refrigerated. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Chunky Oscar Guacamole

This is not your ordinary mashed guacamole. This elegant version uses cubes of ripe avocado with fresh lime juice, grated lime zest, cilantro, chile pepper and olive oil. If you can find fresh pomegranates sprinkle the top of the guacamole with pomegranate seeds. Serve with salsa, sour cream and taco chips or warm tortillas and raw sliced vegetables like radishes, fennel, carrots, peppers, etc.


  • 4 ripe but not too soft or mushy avocados, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped and seeded Serrano or jalapeño pepper, or several shakes hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest (use the same limes you will juice)
  • Juice of 2 large limes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro


  1. In a medium bowl gently mix all the ingredients.
  2. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, olive oil or lime juice as needed. Serves 4.
Kathy's ricotta tartine. (Kathy Gunst for Here & Now)
Kathy's ricotta tartine. (Kathy Gunst for Here & Now)

Ricotta, Lemon And Honey Tartine With Salted Pistachios

A tartine is a slice of bread (or toast) with sweet or savory toppings. This one is very California (darling). It’s sweet, crunchy, creamy and takes only 5 minutes to put together. Look for creamy, fresh ricotta cheese, local honey and good salted pistachios.


  • 4 to 8 slices crusty bread, depending on the size, such as a baguette, ciabatta, sourdough etc.
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest (rind)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup shelled and coarsely chopped salted pistachios or almonds
  • About 1/3 cup honey


  1. Lightly toast the bread. Cut each piece, depending on the size, into two or three pieces.
  2. Mix the ricotta, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. Divide the cheese mixture between the pieces of toast and spread with a butter knife; sprinkle with some of the pistachios and drizzle lightly with honey and then sprinkle with some of the pistachios. Top with sea salt and a grinding of pepper. Serves 4.

Popcorn: Three Variations On A Theme

Popcorn may be the ultimate movie food. But it doesn’t have to be the same old same old. In these flavored popcorns, I try to introduce some flavors from countries highlighted in the news these days. Dukah? Aleppo peppers? Try any of these flavor combinations and then think up your own variety.


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ cup white or yellow popcorn
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Flavor toppings (see below)


  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over low or medium-low heat for about 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add popcorn kernels in a single layer on the bottom of the pot, stir well and cover with just a small crack open to allow air to escape, but not the popcorn kernels. Let cook until the corn starts popping.
  3. Once the corn is popping, shake the pan back and forth so that the kernels are evenly distributed. Cook until the kernels stop popping. Meanwhile prepare one of the flavorings listed below.
  4. Remove the popcorn from the pot and place in a large bowl. Toss in the flavorings while the popcorn is still hot, and put the lid from the pot over the bowl; toss the popcorn well to incorporate the flavoring throughout all the popcorn. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Flavor Variations

Add any of the following to the hot, just-cooked popcorn:

Middle Eastern Spiced Popcorn: Using a mortar and pestle, crush 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a pinch of ground nutmeg and a pinch of Aleppo pepper if you have it.  If you don’t have a mortar and pestle simple mix 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper (from a pepper mill) with the other ingredients. (If you don’t have a pepper mill you should buy one — invaluable!) Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over low heat. Add the spice mixture and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add to warm popcorn and toss well.

Spicy Turmeric Butter and Sharp Cheddar: Melt 4 tablespoons butter with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon mild chile powder and 1 teaspoon ground turmeric. Cook, stirring, until the butter turns a gorgeous yellow and has a spicy flavor. Pour over the hot popcorn and toss thoroughly with 1/2 packed cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Cheese, Thyme and Pepper: 1/4 to 1/3 cup grated Parmesan (or your favorite hard) cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoon dried crumbled thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped), sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Kathy's salted caramels. (Kathy Gunst for Here & Now)
Kathy's salted caramels. (Kathy Gunst for Here & Now)

DIY Salted Caramels

Find some good caramels, a bar of dark chocolate, and sea salt and wow your Oscar crowd with these super fast chocolate-dipped caramels dusted with coarse sea salt. You can also dip dates or dried apricots.

The idea for this recipe came from my daughter, Emma Rudolph, a food writer, editor and recipe developer in San Francisco.


  • 8 to 10 caramels, if they are big cut in half so they are about 1 inch by 1 inch
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate
  • Coarse sea salt


  1. Melt chocolate in small saucepan over very low heat until melted; remove from the heat.
  2. Place caramels on a toothpick or skewer and dip them in the warm chocolate coating them on all sides. Place on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper until dry. (You may need to place them in the refrigerator to really firm them up.)
  3. Sprinkle with sea salt when still wet and warm. The caramels can be made several hours ahead of time. Serves 4 to 8.

If you're looking for something heartier, you can also try cheese fondue.

This segment aired on February 23, 2017.

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Kathy Gunst Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.



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