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Crostini toppings - 10 easy recipes for setting out a stunning spread for an Oscars party

This Jan. 27, 2014 photo shows, from top clockwise, balsamic marinated mushrooms, artichoke caponata and smoked salmon tartare in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

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This Jan. 27, 2014 photo shows, from top clockwise, balsamic marinated mushrooms, artichoke caponata and smoked salmon tartare in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

An Oscar viewing party should be the culinary antithesis of a Super Bowl gathering. Where the latter focuses on big, bold, messy flavours tied together with a whole lot of fat, the Academy Awards call for a more refined dining experience (even if both events are spent on the same couch in front of the same television).

So for our refined fare, we opted for a crostini party. We created 10 toppings that can be spooned, scooped or smeared onto whatever bases you like. Assemble the toppings, offer up an assortment of breads, crackers and crisps, then let guests help themselves while you focus on the awards (and the cocktails).

To make your party prep even easier, all of these toppings can be assembled up to a day ahead of time. Many of them take 30 minutes or less to assemble. The flavours will be better if you let the toppings come to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

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SMOKED SALMON TARTARE

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 12

8 ounces smoked salmon

Zest and juice of 1 lime

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1/2 English cucumber, seeded and finely diced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt and ground black pepper

Place the salmon in the freezer for 10 minutes, or until very cold. Dice the salmon using a very sharp knife.

In a medium bowl, combine the citrus zests and juices, cucumber, chives, cilantro and coriander. Mix gently but thoroughly, then mix in the salmon. Season with salt and black pepper.

Nutrition information per serving: 30 calories; 10 calories from fat (33 per cent of total calories); 1 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 4 g protein; 150 mg sodium.

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BALSAMIC MARINATED MUSHROOMS

Start to finish: 2 hours (15 minutes active)

Servings: 12

1 pound small cremini or button mushrooms

Salt and ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Halve or quarter the mushrooms to be small bites. Heat a skillet over medium-high and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to release their moisture and brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, olive oil and rosemary, then cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Cover and let sit for 2 hours.

Nutrition information per serving: 35 calories; 20 calories from fat (57 per cent of total calories); 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 1 g protein; 45 mg sodium.

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ARTICHOKE CAPONATA

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 12

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped shallot

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large red onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, diced

2 medium carrots, finely diced

1/3 cup chopped green olives

2 tablespoons chopped capers

14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Salt and ground black pepper

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the shallot, garlic and onion, then saute until tender and beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and cook for another 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the olives, capers, artichokes, vinegar, honey, lemon zest and juice, and oregano. Lower the heat to medium and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring gently. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 25 calories from fat (36 per cent of total calories); 3 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 2 g protein; 350 mg sodium.

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER TAPENADE WITH ROMANO AND ALMONDS

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 12

1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into chunks

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and ground black pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped cherry or Peppadew peppers

1/4 cup grated romano cheese

1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds

Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Working in batches in a food processor, pulse the cauliflower chunks to small pieces, about 1/4 inch.

Transfer the cauliflower to a medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and a sprinkle each of salt and black pepper. Spread on the prepared baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes. Return the cauliflower to the bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil, the chopped peppers, cheese and almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition information per serving: 80 calories; 60 calories from fat (75 per cent of total calories); 7 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 2 g protein; 120 mg sodium.

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CANNELLINI AND CELERY ROOT HUMMUS WITH FRIED CAPERS AND SAGE

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 12

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and patted dry

8 fresh sage leaves

2 cups diced celery root (also known as celeriac)

15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper

1/2 cup roasted red peppers, patted dry and cut into strips

In a small skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the capers and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crispy. Transfer the capers to a plate, then add the sage leaves to the pan and fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until crispy. Transfer the sage to the plate with the capers, then scrape any remaining oil from the skillet and drizzle over both.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the celery root and simmer until tender. Drain well and transfer to a food processor. Add the beans and sherry vinegar and puree until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper. Spoon into a serving dish, top with the roasted red peppers, fried capers and sage, then drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Nutrition information per serving: 80 calories; 45 calories from fat (56 per cent of total calories); 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 8 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 2 g protein; 105 mg sodium.

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BUTTER-ROASTED RADISHES WITH DILL, FETA, AND WALNUTS

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 12

2 tablespoons butter, melted

3 cups radishes, trimmed and quartered

Salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 400 F.

In a medium bowl, toss together the butter and radishes until thoroughly coated. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt and black pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned. Spoon onto a serving plate and sprinkle with the dill, feta and walnuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 60 calories from fat (86 per cent of total calories); 6 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 2 g protein; 90 mg sodium.

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SEARED MAPLE KIELBASA WITH RAISINS AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS

Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 12

8 ounces kielbasa, finely diced

1/4 cup maple syrup

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/4 cup chopped golden raisins

2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sear the kielbasa until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the maple syrup and red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Stir in the raisins and sunflower seeds. Spoon into a serving dish.

Nutrition information per serving: 80 calories; 35 calories from fat (44 per cent of total calories); 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 8 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 3 g protein; 230 mg sodium.

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BROILED HERB RICOTTA

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 16

2 cups whole milk ricotta

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

1 egg, lightly beaten

Salt and ground black pepper

Heat the broiler.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, oregano, thyme, scallions and egg. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture into a shallow oven-safe gratin dish. Broil for 5 minutes on the oven's middle shelf (about 8 inches below the heat), or until hot and golden.

Nutrition information per serving: 60 calories; 40 calories from fat (67 per cent of total calories); 4.5 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 4 g protein; 60 mg sodium.

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PICKLED ONION AND KUMQUAT RELISH OVER GOAT CHEESE

Start to finish: 10 minutes, plus cooling

Servings: 16

2 large red onions, diced

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

2 sprigs fresh tarragon

1 cup chopped kumquats, seeds removed

8 ounces soft goat cheese

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the onion, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, mustard and tarragon. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the tarragon sprigs. Stir in the chopped kumquats and allow to cool. Place the goat cheese on a serving platter and spoon the relish over the top.

Nutrition information per serving: 80 calories; 30 calories from fat (38 per cent of total calories); 3 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 3 g protein; 180 mg sodium.

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SOFT-BOILED EGGS WITH BEET GREENS AND APPLES

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 16

4 eggs

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon olive oil

Black truffle salt (found in specialty stores)

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 cups baby beet greens (or other baby green, such as kale)

1 large tart apple, cored and finely chopped

Place the eggs in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then cover, remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 9 minutes.

Drain the eggs and transfer them to a bowl of ice water to cool. Once the eggs are cool, carefully peel them. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, a hefty pinch of truffle salt and pepper. Add the beet greens and apple, then toss to coat. Arrange on a serving plate. Cut the eggs into quarters and arrange over the top of the greens. Finish with another sprinkle of truffle salt.

Nutrition information per serving: 30 calories; 10 calories from fat (33 per cent of total calories); 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 2 g protein; 70 mg sodium.

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