Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Torte
Varietal: Syrah, Chardonnay (Unoaked), Lemberger, or Rosé
Serves 16 to 20 as an appetizer
This flavorful, easy-to-make appetizer makes a beautiful plate presentation that will be perfect for entertaining friends and family around the holidays. For red-wine lovers, pair the luscious, boldly flavored torte with Syrah or Lemberger; white-wine lovers will prefer an unoaked Chardonnay, while a dry Rosé is another intriguing option.
Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced garlic
7 ounces homemade basil-based pesto, one 7-ounce container refrigerated basil-based pesto, or one 6.35-ounce jar basil-based pesto
One 8.5-ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, well drained and minced
2 fresh basil leaves, for garnish
12 cherry tomatoes, for garnish
1 baguette, cut into 1/4-inch slices, for serving
1. One or two days before you plan to serve, line a 5-cup mold or medium mixing bowl with pieces of plastic wrap long enough to hang out over the sides (the long pieces will be used to wrap the torte). Place the cream cheese, Parmesan, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until well blended.
2. Spoon one-third of the cream cheese mixture into the bottom of the mold and smooth the top. Spoon the pesto evenly over the cream cheese layer. Spoon half of the remaining cream cheese mixture over the pesto and smooth the top. Evenly cover the second layer of cream cheese mixture with the sun-dried tomatoes. Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes and smooth the top.
3. Carefully strike the filled mold on the countertop to pack down the layers. Bring the long ends of plastic wrap up and over the top of the torte to cover completely. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld.
4. Just before serving, unwrap the long pieces of plastic wrap, place a serving platter over the mold, hold the platter, and carefully flip the mold and platter. Remove and discard the plastic wrap. Garnish the torte with fresh basil leaves and cherry tomatoes and serve with the baguette slices.
Cook’s Hint: You can make this torte up to 2 days ahead of time to allow the flavors to develop even further. You can also vary the flavor of the torte depending on the type of pesto choose. Use your own homemade version or various other varieties, such as arugula or cilantro.
Recipe reprinted from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.