For a long time, I thought a lot about finger food.
I ran these huge afternoon teas during my senior year in college where I cooked for 400 hungry students. The two days leading up to the events were blurs of grocery trips and cookie dough and clean-up. In the weeks between events, I’d meditate on ingredients and combinations. Should the sausage in the pastry half-moons be spicy or sweet? Could I pull off frying crepes during the party? Were deviled eggs worth the trouble of boiling and peeling five dozen eggs?
These days, I make less finger food. When I throw dinner parties – for far fewer than 400 people, mind you – I usually spend my energy and money on the main course and dessert. I either skip appetizers all together or ask a friend to pick up some hummus and crackers. Not the kind of hors d’oeuvres that occupy your imagination for days in advance, which is precisely the point.
Happily for my imagination, this main course-centric approach expires right about now. With the holiday season approaching – from Halloween (so soon!) to Thanksgiving (my fave) and then off to Christmas and Hanukkah – cocktail parties will push dinner parties aside. Nothing beats the air of festivity that small bites and drinks lend to a party. Besides, who wants to be in the kitchen basting turkey and mashing potatoes when you could be mingling with your guests over canapés and other little bites you prepped hours ago?
I love how there’s a lot of make-ahead finger food out there. But not all of it is elegant. Enter Athens Foods and their Mini Fillo Shells. The shells are made of phyllo and come already baked into the shape of mini muffins, which means you don’t have to deal with finicky phyllo as you’re straightening the apartment and getting dressed. They’re the perfect vessel for your favorite filling, a filling which, I should mention, the shells will render elegant even if it’s as comforting as onion dip or ham and cheese.
For today, I’ve sought inspiration from Greece, land of phyllo dough. To make these Shrimp Phyllo Cups, I tossed cut-up shrimp (I bought them pre-cooked to save time), with a raisin-sweetened dill-and-almond pesto and some tangy, salty feta. The pesto is as pretty as it is delicious, turning the little phyllo shells into gem-like little bites. A squeeze of lemon brings the shrimp together with the sauce and the cheese – and the flaky crusts.
I wrote this sponsored post in partnership with Athens Foods, in order to spread the word about how awesome their Mini Fillo Shells are for entertaining. And they are! I only ever share sponsored content when I really love it. (You can read my affiliate disclosure here if you’re interested.) Athens is also offering readers $1 off a box of 15 Mini Fillo Shells: click here to claim. Thanks, Athens!
Mini Shrimp Phyllo Cups with Dill Pesto and Feta
Makes 30 bites
30 Athens Mini Fillo Shells
10 ounces medium peeled and deveined shrimp (about 24 shrimp), cooked*
1/2 cup Dill-Almond Pesto (recipe follows)
1/2 cup crumbled feta
juice of half a lemon
Dill for garnish
*If you are not buying pre-cooked shrimp, simply bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the shrimp for 3-5 minutes, until they’ve turned pink. Drain and immediately transfer shrimp to an ice bath or place the colander under very cold water until the shrimp are no longer steaming hot.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the phyllo cups on a baking sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes, just until golden all over and very crisp.
Cut each shrimp into 4 to 5 pieces–small enough to fit in the crisps.
No more than an hour before you’re going to serve the cups, toss together the shrimp and the dill pesto. Gently toss in the feta and squeeze on the lemon juice. Spoon the filling into the crisps until overflowing and garnish with little dill sprigs.
Makes about 1 cup
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1 1/2 cups baby spinach, cleaned and torn into small pieces (about half of a 5-ounce container)
1/2 cup dill leaves
1 heaping tablespoon yellow raisins soaked in hot water for 15 min and sqeezed dry
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine the garlic and salt in a mini food processor. Pulse to pulverize the garlic. Add the almonds and pulse until they’re ground. Now add the spinach, dill, and raisins, and pulse to turn into a paste. Start adding the olive oil if you’re having trouble. Then keep adding the olive oil until the pesto is smooth and thin. Taste for salt, adding any extra if needed.