The holiday season is upon us and we are busy decorating and planning/attending parties. One, go to appetizer, I serve during the holidays is Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Torta. It is excellent!
It is a real buffet centerpiece with brilliant layers of red, white and green alternating to create a beautiful and impressive hors d’oeuvre. Don’t be intimidated, this is an easy recipe to make.
Another plus to the recipe is that it tastes better if you make it a day ahead, or if you can, make and freeze up to one month! It’s always well received with guests and has great presentation on your holiday table! The recipe for making your own pesto is provided or buy your favorite brand!
A good pairing for the torta is Herb Garlic Crostini. They are spicy, garlic-laden little crisps and they are addictive! They are a snap to make and keep well. They are also very versatile. If you don’t like spicy omit the red chili flakes.
Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Torta and Herb Garlic Crostini
Sun-Dried Tomato Layer
15 servings (if you have leftovers, freeze for another time)
1 1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes, drained
Tip: You can use dry-packed sun dried tomatoes (usually a brighter red color & less expensive) add them before measuring place in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with water and microwave on high for 60 seconds. Let the tomatoes rest in the water for about 15 minutes. Drain well and are ready to use.
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup cream cheese,softened
Pesto Layer (or buy your favorite brand)
1 1/3 cups lightly packed basil leaves (3-4 bunches)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 tsp fresh lemon juice (never use that awful stuff in the green bottle)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan chesse
1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
Cream Cheese Layer
1 1/2 (total of 12 ozs) of cream cheese, softened
4 oz (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
Basil or fresh greens to garnish
Line a large mixing bowl, mold, springform pan, or any attractively shaped 2 qt. container. Line you container well with plastic wrap (make sure wrap extends 3-4″ overhand (this will help your remove). The torta retains the shape of the mold you use.
Prepare tomato layer
Place sun-dried tomatoes in the food processor and pulse to chop (if doing by hand make sure you do a fine chop). Add the tomato paste and 2 tbsp of the cream cheese and process to a fairly smooth consistency. Add the remaining cream cheese and process until well mixed. Some tomato bits are fine. Set mixture aside.
Prepare pesto layer (if purchasing skip this step)
Rinse basil leaves and remove stems and any discolored leaves. Dry leaves thoroughly. Put leaves, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in food processor. Pulse to puree the basil and nuts completely. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to mix thoroughly. Set aside.
Prepare cream cheese layer
Put cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on slow speed. When the butter has been completely mixed into the cream cheese, beat in the salt and pepper.
Put 1/2 cup of tomato mixture in the bottom of your container. Tap gently on counter to spread.
Put the pesto mixture into a pastry bag (or zip lock bag and cup off tip of a corner) and gently pipe a solid layer in a tight spiral approximately 1/2″ thick.
Repeat this process with cream cheese mixture.
Tap container on counter, gently, as you fill to eliminate air pockets between layers. Alternate layers of red, green, and white until you have filled the bowl. Smooth the top layer with a spatula and fold over the corners of the plastic wrap to cover. Wrap lightly with another sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at LEAST 24 hours.
After selecting your platter, make sure you have at least 6″ border after torta. Remove plastic wrap. Fold back the inner wrap and use the corners as handles to gently loosen the firm torta from sides. After loosening, invert your platter on the container and turn right side up.
This is good with crackers or Herb Garlic Crostini
Herb Garlic Crostini
about 40 crostini
1 (1/2 pd sourdough baquette
3/4 cup chopped garlic
1 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp (4 tsp total) red chili flakes
Preheat oven to 325F (165C). Slice baquette as thinly as possible. For a crispy crostini spread the slices out to dry for 1 to 2 hours before topping and baking.
Blend all ingredients in a food processor to an oatmeal texture. Makes 2 1/4 cup.
Brush the topping lavishly on the baquette slices.
Place on an ungreased sheet pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until crisp and golden. Let cool completely on rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to a week.
The crostini is excellent as an hors d’oeuvre on a tray with olive and nuts. They can also be served with any pate, or thin slices of French sausage.