Easy Yet Impressive: Cheese Torta
I originally saw this recipe over 15 years ago on the Food Network. I watched it, remembered the ingredients and technique and made it my own. The result when I make it for guests, they cannot believe that something so pretty can be so easy.
Now bear with me while I attempt to give you my haphazard ingredients and technique. Then you too can make it "your own" by switching the layers of cheese and spread as you see fit.
Important to prepare at least eight hours before serving - even better to prepare the night before serving. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
16 - 20 ounces of soft garlic and herb cheese (Brands: Alouette, Boursin, or Philly) Note: you can make your own flavored cheese with plain soft cream cheese and/or goat cheese. Add your garlic powder and Italian-type herbs to taste if using plain cheese. Once I also used a few tablespoons of Ranch dry dip-salad dressing mix into the plain soft cheese. It was really tasty.
1/4 cup (or more) each of at least two choices of the following spreads: basil pesto, olive tapenade, sun-dried tomatoes or sweet red peppers packed in oil (blended into a spread). An artichoke spread would also be tasty. But again, you only need two spreads. More than two choices will confuse the palate.
Vegetable cooking spray
1. Line a small shallow dish or bowl (no matter the shape - round, oval, or square) with plastic wrap. Make sure there is plenty of wrap that exceeds the bowl. Coat the wrap evenly with vegetable spray. At the bottom of this lined dish, this is your once and only opportunity to make an impression as this will be the top of your torta. Do you place leaves of basil in a design, perhaps some sliced olives or strips of dried-tomatoes? It's okay if you wish to skip this part and add some accents after the torta is unmolded.
2. Layer your first choice of one of the two spreads. Will it be an olive tapenade? Pesto? Or sun-dried tomato spread?
3. Now layer and smooth half of your soft herbal cheese. Spread the soft cheese evenly.
4. Layer your second choice of spread. Smooth evenly.
5. Spread the remaining cheese on top of the spread. Cover the top of the bowl well with plastic wrap. Let chill in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
6. When ready to plate, remove the plastic wrap from the top of the bowl. Place a serving plate over the bowl and invert the bowl. Hold on to the edges of the wrap to release the cheese torta. Remove the plastic wrap.
Garnish the top with nuts, strips of dried tomatoes or basil leaves. Serve with sliced baguettes or favorite hearty crackers.
As you can see by the various photos there is no right or wrong way - as long as it's delicious - that's all that counts.