Entertaining is big at Cookin’ and Shootin’, a food photography and recipe blog the two of us started in an attempt to break out of our professional roles as food photographer and stylist. We’re especially adamant believers in cooking with and for friends, and we do our best to keep our menu options fuss-free, so that we can enjoy the company as much as the food.

Our main tips? Have fun, use good ingredients, and season like you mean it. And in the coming weeks, check back here for plenty of spirited cocktail ideas. We’re actually on our second cocktail book (check out our first, Winter Cocktails!). Because you can do better than chips and jarred salsa and the vodka soda same-old. Much better.

WATERCRESS AND PISTACHIO PESTO
Serves 4
This is an unfussy but unexpected dip you can serve in lieu of the usual hummus or chips-and-salsa. Go ahead and go green.

  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ cup shelled roasted pistachios
  • 4 cups watercress
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated zest plus 1 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Crudités for serving
  • Warm naan for serving

In food processor, pulse garlic, feta, and pistachios until they form a paste. Add watercress, lemon zest, and lemon juice and pulse once again until a paste is formed. With mixer running, slowly pour in olive oil and process until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with crudités and warm naan.


Olives-photo by Tara Striano-styling by María del Mar Sacasa

CRUSTED OLIVES
Serves 4 to 6
A little bit retro, but one of the first things to fly off the table. These pair remarkably well with martinis or chilled Lillet.

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1½ teaspoon za’atar spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 24 to 30 small pitted olives, such as Manzanillas
  • Green olives
  • Peppadew peppers

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In large bowl, stir together cheese, butter, lemon zest, and za’atar until thoroughly combined. Add flour and incorporate with hands until a dough is formed. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Scoop out 1-teaspoon portions of dough and, using palms, roll into balls. With fingertips, flatten out into 1½-inch circles. Place 1 olive on each disc, wrap around olive, and, once again roll between palms. Transfer to baking sheet and, once circles are finished, refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with green olives and peppadew peppers.


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SURPRISE MINI-GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES
Makes 36 finger sandwiches
These melt-in-your mouth sandwiches are a cross between a buttery crouton and a grilled cheese.

  • 30 slices thin white bread (like Pepperidge Farm Original White), crusts removed
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and finely chopped
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Adjust oven rack to upper middle and lower middle positions and preheat oven to 325°F. Brush both sides of each slice of bread with butter; set aside. In medium bowl combine hearts of palm, cheddar, mayonnaise, onion, mustard, zest, and cayenne. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread about 1 tablespoon cheese mixture on 24 slices of bread. Arrange 1 slice of cheese mixture-coated bread on a second slice of cheese mixture-coated bread, then top that slice with one of the remaining buttered slices. Gently press the triple-decker sandwiches down to adhere, and cut each into 3 pieces. Arrange sandwiches on two baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes, carefully flipping the sandwiches with a spatula halfway through baking. Transfer trays to cooling racks and cool about 5 minutes before serving.


MARIA DEL MAR SACASA and TARA STRIANO are the founders of Cookin’ and Shootin’, a food photography and recipe blog with content generated by their cravings and what they find at markets and local shops.