Photo by Judith Hausman
The layered, sweet-tart spread I came up with is flexible and fast and makes an impressive contribution to a party. I used a “lean” formula with Neuchatel cheese (low-fat cream cheese) and thick Greek yogurt, but you can easily ratchet up the richness by replacing the cream cheese with fresh goat cheese and the Greek yogurt with mascarpone or sour cream. I finished the torte with a thin layer of rhubarb jam from the pantry, thinned with just a little sherry vinegar. I love these multiple, contrasting flavors.
If you like, the fillings and glazes can be fancier and more elaborate. Instead of pesto, use a red pepper relish inside, such as the Hungarian ajvar, and hot pepper jelly spread thinly on the top. Or, layer sliced fresh figs on top of the pesto before the final covering of batter. The sweet counterpoint can then be fig jam thinned with a little balsamic vinegar. Do the same with oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, and drizzle thickened, reduced balsamic over the top of the torte before serving. A lemon or orange marmalade would be a perfect topping if you replace the pesto with black olive tapenade.
The thin crust underneath can be varied, too. I used seasoned breadcrumbs, but crush up any crackers with a little texture to them (so that they don’t turn to mush). In fact, this is a great way to use up any crackers that have gone a bit stale, since you bake and toast the crust first. Thin slices of baguette are best for spreading, but the torte is firm enough to serve in small slices as an appetizer as well. Bonus: I now feel free to refill my jam and pesto stashes!
Servings: 6 to 8
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup dried, seasoned breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
- 8 ounces Neuchatel cheese (light cream cheese)
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup basil (or other herb) pesto
- 1/4 cup rhubarb jam
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (depending on thickness of the jam)
Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil a small baking dish.
To make the crust, use a fork to mix the olive oil into the breadcrumbs. Season, to taste. Press the mix into the baking dish, pushing it up the sides a bit. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly browned and firmed. Cool briefly.
Beat yogurt, cheese and egg until smooth. Season, to taste. Pour half the batter into the baked crust. Dollop the pesto over the batter, and spread carefully into a layer. Pour remaining batter over the pesto layer. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown. Cool to at least room temperature.
To serve, stir together the jam and vinegar. Thinly glaze the torte with this mixture.
Slice, and serve as an appetizer.
You might also enjoy these Locavore Recipes: