Friday, September 3, 2010

Romance is in the air...or is that Patchouli?

I have a lot of stuff to do this weekend, and nothing at all - I realize that sounds ridiculously impossible, but it's true. It's labor day weekend, and we never make plans....neither one of us likes crowds, and since most people like to GO SOMEWHERE on holiday weekends, we figure staying home is "meant to be". Cutting firewood is one focus, working at a funeral lunch another, and making sure we are prepared for Tuesday will also be on the list.

My youngest son's best friends are getting married Tuesday afternoon (Congratulations Kira & Joey!), and are bucking convention at every turn. They made their own invitations, which were creative and lovely, the ceremony will be in a garden, sans shoes, and the dinner is potluck. I love the idea of a potluck reception - food cooked with love to share in a celebration of the same, but the only thing that threw me is that everyone was asked to bring a specific COLOR of food. I've reached crunch time and still am not sure what I'm going to color is what I can only describe as "coral", and as I assume there will be cake, dessert ideas are out.

Salmon has come to mind, and I've thought about making a salmon spread w/cucumbers and crackers, but not sure if I can attain that color without artificial means. So I'm still thinking. But I do have a delish recipe for a "Torta", which is a formed savory spread for crackers or veggies that would totally make a great appetizer...if only the cranberries were replaced with something coral colored. But you can make it, and it's a SNAP....and it was totally stolen from Rising Sun Farms, who used to sample their sun dried tomato torta at the Beaverton Farmer's Market when I was working a booth for Mike and Debbie's. They have quite a variety you can buy online, but are ridiculously expensive and I had everything to make this one so it's become a favorite of mine.

I loved this on crackers, then once used an errant celery stick that escaped from a crudite platter to scoop some up and now I like to serve it with both - childhood memories of licking the cream cheese, peanut butter and cheese (from those tiny jars we used for drinking glasses) out of celery stix makes me lonesome for the days when my guilt didn't make me eat that green, stringy "U" of crunchy grossness. So give it a try, and skip the celery if you want - I promise I won't judge you, only if you don't at least try a LITTLE bite before you lick it clean and stuff it between your sister's couch cushions.

Cranberry, Hazelnut & Gorgonzola Torta

2-8oz. boxes cream cheese, softened
3 T. butter
1/2 can pear halves, drained and chopped (approx. 1/2 Cup)
2-4 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (It can get strong - how much do you like gorgonzola?)
1/2 Cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts (you could also use pecans)
1 to 1.5 Cups dried cranberries

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Put chopped pears on several layers of paper towels, fold or roll up and squeeze as much juice out as possible. Fold pears and gorgonzola into cheese/butter mixture. Line a round cake pan with two layers of plastic wrap in an "X", pressing wrap against the sides of the pan and making sure that the whole inside of the pan is covered. Sprinkle nuts over the bottom evenly, then sprinkle cranberries over that until you can no longer see the bottom of the pan. Carefully (once you drop a blob, you can't really move it) drop blobs of the cheese mixture evenly all over the nuts and cranberries until it's all in there. Use the spatula to gently press the blobs together into an even layer covering all the nuts/cranberries, then put another sheet of plastic over the top and press down carefully with your hands to pack it evenly and with no air gaps over all. Fold all the plastic edges over the top, make sure it's covered completely and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When you are ready to put it out for guests, unwrap the top, folding all plastic back and away from the top, then center your serving plate over the top of the pan, and while holding both the plate and pan together, carefully flip it over and remove the pan. Carefully peel the plastic off the torta, peeling from the outside to the center, and wipe any drips that may have occured from edge of plate. It should look like a beautiful cheesecake with jewel-like cranberries all over the top - it really is a thing of beauty! Serve with bigger crackers that will hold a butt-load without breaking, and some celery sticks from the INSIDE of the bunch that you cut diagonally about the length of your ring finger. Well, unless you're Wilt Chamberlain-ish, or perhaps had a farming accident that involved a milking machine, your ring finger and a cow now called "Hannibal".

My boss suggested that I add an index to my blog so if someone was looking for a particular category of recipes that it could be more easily found. And since I was already wondering if I could do that, and am pretty sure she didn't ask so she did not have to suffer the indignity of reading stupid posts she has no interest in, I figured out how all by myself and made it happen. Not sure if it works....guess I should have tried it before yammering on about it, but anyone who knows me came to the realization long ago ago that trying to shut me up is fruitless. So check it out, I will when I'm done and will issue an apology if it doesn't work...I refined that particular skill today at work. SOB emails.

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