Flash back to the 90's when sun-dried tomatoes were all fancy - along with whole roasted bulbs of garlic - and that sun-dried tomato basil torte was everywhere. While that torte was good, it seemed to adorn every single party table until the sight of it made me queasy. lol
Fast forward to THIS torte, I've been making it for over a decade and it continues to be one of my most asked for, most requested appetizers in my career as a chef. The combination of a bright and surprising mint pesto, earthy fig jam, and delicate shallot flavored goat cheese is nothing short of memorable. Mario Batali's recipe was the initial inspiration, although like the sands of time, the original has slipped through the hourglass revealing a version you won't forget.
Goat Cheese Torte w/Mint Pesto & Fig Jam
Chef Heather Mader
I use a vintage, scalloped edged copper mold approximately 3.5 inches tall by 6.75 inches wide but you will simply need any mold or terrine of similar dimensions or size.
2 packages cream cheese, room temperature
8oz fresh goat cheese
1 stick European butter, room temperature
1 small shallot, finely minced
sea salt and fine ground pepper
1 9oz jar fig jam (or homemade fig jam if you like)
1 1/2 cups packed fresh parsley leaves
2 cups fresh packed mint leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup nuts, toasted (I like almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seeds for those who have nut allergies)
buttery crackers, crostini or bread and fresh fruit garnish
Line your mold, bowl or loaf pan loosely with plastic wrap, making sure to press into all the crevices of your mold; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese, then goat cheese in batches, and beat until well combined and no lumps of butter remain. Beat in minced shallots. Season with salt and pepper to taste; beat until well combined and smooth.
Combine parsley leaves, mint leaves, lemon juice and zest, sugar, salt and nuts in the small bowl of a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Drizzle olive oil in a thin stream through the feed tube while machine is running, scraping occasionally, just until a very thick coarse paste forms. If too much oil is added, pesto will be too thin to set up in torte. If this happens, you can add more nuts to thicken.
Divide goat cheese mixture into 4 equal portions. Using oiled hands, carefully dollop then spread one portion of the goat cheese mixture in a thin layer over the bottom of the prepared mold; top with half the pesto, spreading evenly to cover all the way to the edges. Carefully spread a second portion of goat cheese mixture on top of the pesto, careful not to disturb the pesto. Then top with all the fig jam, spreading evenly to cover. Top with third portion of goat cheese mixture and repeat with remaining pesto and final goat cheese layer; cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to refrigerator and chill until very cold and firm, overnight is best.
To serve: Unwrap the plastic wrap and prepare the platter. Overturn the mold onto the platter and very gently remove the plastic wrap stuck to the torte. This torte serves 12-15.