Some foods are beautiful but don’t taste like much. Some foods aren’t so pretty to look at but send you to heaven when you eat them. Then there are those special foods that are treats for both the eye and the palate.
Earlier in the summer our friend Anita invited a bunch of us over for a luncheon of Smorgastortas, a specialty of her native Sweden. Smorgastortas, as the name suggests, are a happy marriage of the Swedish notion of smorgasbord (from smorgas meaning bread and butter, and bord, meaning table = a buffet meal featuring a variety of dishes) and the universal impulse to layer foods, as in a torta (any of various layered savory dishes, often containing a creamy cheese, herbs, etc., according to Yourdictionary.com). Smorgastortas are both gorgeous and tasty, and now that the days are cooler it’s time to consider making one.
In terms of cooking they are easy to make, because you don’t have to actually cook anything. But in terms of preparation I imagine they require time-consuming and fussy work. Anita served us two. One was fish based:
She cut and layered bread with fillings of shrimp salad and salmon salad, forming a large rectangle. Then she ‘frosted’ the whole with cream cheese and decorated with smoked salmon slices, cucumbers, small pink shrimp, tomato and lemon slices.
The other was meat based:
Either of these dishes alone would be impressive, but the two together on the table took our breath away – especially since there were only eight of us present.
You can make your own smorgastortas from whatever you have on hand. They are dense and quite filling, so try to use a bread that is not too heavy to begin with, but yet is strong enough not to smush down into a gummy layer. Then let your imagination run wild; the more the better in terms of toppings – as long as they’re beautifully arranged. Here’s a recipe from Epicurious using egg salad, smoked salmon salad and a cream cheese filling. They don’t cover the torta with cream cheese, though, and their decorations (chopped herbs only) seem very pedestrian to me after seeing what Anita did with hers. I recommend the Anita approach – let your inner food artist run amok!