Saturday, May 15, 2010

Torta Schmorta

That is what you will say once you make one of these babies, and all your guests are ooo-ing and ahhh-ing at it. You will know inside your head that this little wonderous appetizer is actually quite easy to make!

On Thursday evening I headed off to Whole Foods in Buckhead for a little cooking demo by the fine ladies at Bella Cucina. Let me first say that both of these stores know how to do a demo. Food samples AND wine pairings AND gifts at the end? Yes, please.

Some of you asked what a torta even is. The simple answer is, it is an Italian cake that has layers of cream. But a torta can also take the form of a savory appetizer -- it can be anything with layers! Bella Cucina showed us both types. After trying all their recipes that evening, I can honestly say I had no single favorite. They were all fabulous!

Note to the foodies: I have included recipes at the end of this post!

All three tortas had a base of mascarpone cheese, which seems to have the consistency of a stiff cream cheese. They suggested dipping the spatula into hot water to help spread it around.

First up: the Basil and Tomato Layered Mascarpone Cheese Torta. Check out the pretty red, green and white layers -- just like the Italian Flag!

Next they showed us the Smoked Salmon and Preserved Lemon Torta. This would be fantastic for a brunch buffet, or maybe at a wedding or baby shower! This one uses Bella Cucina's preserved lemon, capers, and dill.

The final torta that Bella Cucina shared with us was the Strawberry Shortcake Dolci Torta. A more classic example of the definition of torta, this one is made from fresh Preserved Lemon Pound Cake. If you skip making the pound cake from scratch and use store-bought or ladyfingers instead, you are just missing out. The preserved lemon flavor makes this entire torta.

All in all, I learned a lot, and can't wait to try out some of the items I picked up! The Lemon Cream is insanely good -- I have mixed it (per directions on the jar) with whipped cream as a topping for fresh berries. Add some basil sprigs on top, and there couldn't be an easier and more elegant dessert for company.

Thanks Bella Cucina and Whole Foods! Great demo and can't wait to try your products more!

Recipe: Basil and Tomato Layered Mascarpone Cheese Torta

8 oz. mascarpone cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup Bella Cucina Fresh Basil Pesto
1 cup Bella Cucina Sundried Tomato Pesto
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts

With a hand mixer or wooden spoon, blend softened cheeses until smooth. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with dampened cheese cloth with overlap on the outside of the pan. With a moist spatula, spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture in the pan until evenly covered. Top with the basil pesto. Top with 1/3 more of cheese mixture, then the sundried tomato pesto. Cover with remaining 1/3 cheese mixture, being careful to not blend the layers. Fold cheesecloth over top, wrap in foil, and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours. To serve, invert onto a serving platter, and top with pinenuts and basil. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

Recipe: Smoked Salmon and Preserved Lemon Torta 

8oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
2 quarters of Bella Cucina preserved lemon, rinsed and chopped fine after removing pulp
2 tbsp. capers, rinsed and dried
4 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
Garnishes: lemon oil, chopped fresh dill, capers, more preserved lemon.

Combine cheeses with mixer, and add lemons and capers. Line 12 oz loaf pan with dampened cheesecloth, and layer half the cheese into pan. Layer on top the smoked salmon, followed by the remaining cheese mixture. Cover with overlapping cheesecloth and wrap loaf in foil. Let sit in refrigerator overnight with a weight on top to compress the form. To serve, invert onto platter, top with garnishes, and serve with crackers. 

Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake Dolci Torta


Lynn @LynnATL said...

Yum. Thanks for sharing the recipes. I was unable to make the cooking demo - and with your post I have the write-up and the recipes. Thank you,Kat

Katherine Malone said...

Lynn - I am so glad! Let me know how your tortas turn out, if you try any of the recipes!

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