Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Love at First Bite: Sun-dried Tomato & Pesto Torta

-     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -     -
     Hi there! I’m Matt, one of Katie’s oldest friends and I’m obsessed with food. I write a blog about food, sustainable agriculture, and food policy called Green Eats Blog, and I’m excited to be starting a new column here at Love Is Everywhere called Love at First Bite. I’ll share recipes and tips for easy, healthy dishes that even a kitchen novice could make. Check back most Wednesdays for a new recipe!

This was by far the most popular appetizer that I served at my recent wedding (yes, I catered my own wedding, I know I’m nuts). The recipe could not be simpler, all it takes is a little time to assemble the layers and a food processor to blend the ingredients. Everyone who entertains should keep a copy of this recipe on hand! This tastes better after it has had time to sit, so I would recommend making it at least one day ahead, but preferably two or even three.

Sun-Dried Tomato & Pesto Torta
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit, Dec. 1999
     4 tbsp pesto (store-bought or homemade)
     2 2/3 cups cream cheese (room temp)
     1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
     1 1/3 cups drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
     1/3 cup tomato paste
     3/4 cup butter (room temp)
     fresh basil sprigs (optional)
     toasted pine nuts (optional)
     toasted baguette slices
     Nonstick vegetable oil spray
     plastic wrap
     6-cup souffle dish (or similar-sized, straight edge dish)
1.    Add 1/3 cup cream cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 4 tbsp pesto to food processor. Using on/off turns, process just until blended. Transfer to medium bowl and set aside.
2.    Coarsely chop tomatoes in processor. Add tomato paste and process until mixture is almost smooth. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and blend well.
3.    Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
4.    Spray 6-cup soufflé dish with nonstick spray. Line with plastic wrap, extending plastic over sides. Spread 3/4 cup cream cheese-butter mixture evenly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with half of tomato mixture, then 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, then half of pesto mixture. Repeat layering with 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, remaining tomato mixture, 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture and remaining pesto. Top with remaining cream cheese-butter mixture. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
5.   Invert torta onto platter. Peel off plastic. Garnish with basil sprigs and toasted pine nuts. Serve with baguette slices.