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Saving Summer: How to Make Torta
Submitted by Pam on Fri, 08/21/2009 - 17:46
In many Northern European cultures, preparations for the winter holidays often begin during the late summer and fall harvest season by laying aside or preparing traditional foods to be enjoyed at special holiday meals. This is the first in a series of posts sprinkled throughout the coming harvest season featuring a special recipe using fresh fruits or vegetables harvested and preserved to serve at holiday celebrations. My secret pesto torta recipe revealed! You are going to love this colorful, savory, yummy spread for crackers or baugette rounds. My friend Heidi and I make torta together every August. You might remember Heidi - we made Gingerbread houses together last November and she is the genius who came up with the idea for the mini pinatas. I thought it might be nice to introduce you to Heidi. She isn't a blogger so I am sharing this photo I took when she married her handsome husband Michael on May Day 10 years ago! (I told you she thinks outside the box! Just look at those adorable bright red shoes. Colorful shoes are becoming quite popular now, but back then it was unheard of!) The bouquet is NOT the one ordered for the day (to match her shoes of course!) She is holding the bouquet Mike picked from the church garden when her florist failed to show up. Heidi and Mike grew the basil for our torta this summer! When I asked Heidi how they managed to grow such beautiful basil without any help from pesticides, she pointed to the carnivorous plants in the photo above and mentioned that they had full bellies! PESTO TORTA makes enough to fill 6 1 cup containers (or use two or three larger containers for parties). I often double the recipe to ensure I always have a torta available for unexpected visitors! Pesto layer 1 1/2 cups basil leaves (pack tightly when measuring) 4-5 cloves garlic 1/4 cup pine nuts 1/4 cup olive oil (scant) 1/3 C finely grated Parmesan cheese salt to taste a squeeze (about 1 tsp) fresh lemon juice (optional) Cream Cheese layers 3 8 oz. packages cream cheese (softened) 3/4 cup butter (softened) 1 - 2 cloves garlic very finely minced salt and pepper to taste Sun dried tomato layer 1 1/2 cups sun dried tomatoes packed in oil and herbs 1/2 6 oz can tomato paste (experiment with different brands of sun dried tomatoes and tomato paste until you find brands that deliver a very bright tomato flavor). Cream cheese layer Begin by placing the softened cream cheese, butter, and minced garlic in a mixer bowl and beating until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Pesto layer Pull basil leaves from stems, wash, spin dry or dry between towels. Drop garlic cloves, one at a time, into food processor while it is running. Garlic will be instantly minced! Add basil leaves about a fourth at a time and process just until each batch is chopped. Add pine nuts and cheese and process until basil, nuts and cheese are finely chopped. Add salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice to brighten the flavor if desired. With the processor running, pour the oil through the feed tube. Process until well mixed. Cover and set aside. Note: When I make pesto for pasta, I usually use a little more oil. For this purpose the pesto should be a little drier. Tomato layer Squeeze the oil out of the tomatoes and place them in processor. Process until chopped. Add the tomato paste and process until well mixed. ASSEMBLY! Spray a little PAM into your containers and then line with plastic wrap as shown. You will want to use pieces of plastic wrap large enough to allow the ends to be folded over the top to seal. Place the tomato layer in the bottom of the container and smooth the surface. Next cover the tomato with a layer of cream cheese, smoothing the top surface. Then add a layer of pesto. Add another layer of cream cheese smoothing the top. Fold the plastic carefully over the top to seal. Snap on the container lid. Place in freezer. I have stored mine in the freezer for as long as 8 months with no loss of quality. Before serving, remove the wrapped torta from the container while still frozen. Then remove the plastic wrap and set on the serving plate. Be sure to do this while the torta is still frozen. (Don't worry - those ugly grooves will disappear) Cover with a clean sheet of plastic wrap and allow to defrost in the refrigerator for a few hours. (In an emergency, the frozen torta can be unmolded and defrosted in the microwave. Just be vigilant and use the defrost setting.) Serve with an assortment of crackers or lightly toasted baguette slices. This torta is very similar to a pesto torta served by a local caterer at many of the weddings we photographed. In fact, I loved it so much that we would often trade out torta for advertising photography! When the caterer decided to sell his business, I just had to figure out how to duplicate that torta!. I found this recipe in one of my Bon Appetite magazines several years ago and adapted it. Locals! Good news! I understand you will be able to sample the torta at a little restaurant in Gresham owned by one of Heidi's friends, Carla. The restaurant named Trufflehunter is located at 225 W. Powell Blvd. Phone: 503-674-5499. Home made pies and home made breads! According to Heidi, everything on the menu is "extremely delicious"! ______________________________________________ Quick Note on Comments: Unfortunately, we're having some server issues with this blog at the moment, and we've had to turn off Comments while we work on the problem. So, please feel free to email me: Pam AT gingerbreadsnowflakes DOT com. I love hearing from you!