Posts Tagged 'Real Simple'

Potato, Leek, and Feta Tart

Last night, I fed Dr. O the last meal he would eat as a member of a certain age group.  (That age group will not be disclosed.)  If I had thought about our Thursday night meal this way when I was menu planning for the week, I might have planned an old favorite to mark the occasion.  Thankfully, what I did plan – Potato, Leek, and Feta Tart from Real Simple – was elegant, delish, and night-before-big-birthday-worthy.

To start, I preheated my oven to 375°F and then prepped my veggies and herbs.  I cut two small zucchini into half-moons (about 1/4-inch thick), chopped two tablespoons of fresh dill, and thinly sliced 2 red potatoes (about 8 ounces total) using the thinnest slice option on my mandoline.  (I have a cheap one from  I also cut the white and light green parts of two leeks into thin half-moons.  Leeks require a few rounds of rinsing to remove all the grit; if you’ve never worked with leeks before, I’d recommend reading my Tomato and Leek Frittata post.

Once the veggies were prepped, I heated 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  I added the leeks, the zucchini, 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and cooked the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Next, I stirred in 2 ounces of crumbled feta cheese and the chopped dill. Finally, I added the sliced potatoes, tossed everything to combine, and removed the skillet from the heat.  (At this point, the cheese will not be melted and the potatoes will not be cooked – don’t worry!)

On a piece of parchment paper, I rolled 1 store-bought 9-inch pie crust to a 12-inch diameter.  I moved the paper (with the pie crust) onto a baking sheet and spooned the potato mixture onto the pie crust, leaving a 2-inch border.  I folded the edge of the pie crust over the edge of the potato mixture and baked it until the pie crust was golden brown and the potatoes were tender (55 minutes).  (I did tent mine with foil at the 45-minute mark to prevent the crust from getting too dark.)  I served the tart in wedges with salad on the side.

Potato Leek and Feta Tart

I was nervous about this one since there wasn’t exactly a finished filling to sample before everything went into the oven, but I ended up pleasantly surprised.  The amount of salt and pepper was just right; the saltiness of the feta definitely added to the overall flavor profile.  The pie crust was flaky and not at all soggy, the vegetables were tender, and the cheese was browned on top but melted inside.  It was pretty yummy overall.  My only issue with this recipe is that the potatoes that were exposed on top of the filling ended up a bit chewy while the potatoes underneath were just perfect; next time, I’ll nestle the potato slices beneath a layer of leeks and zucchini.

The baking time is long but the prep work was pretty easy…  I would definitely make this again for any night when dinner needs to be simple but special.

Recipe link: Potato, Leek, and Feta Tart

Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

We finally finished off the remnants of the holiday sweets I had in the freezer last week, so naturally, it was time to make some more. 🙂

I signed up for Real Simple’s “Cookie of the Day” e-mails for the month of December, which is where I found today’s recipe – Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies.  I absolutely adore peanut butter (even more when it’s paired with a great berry jam), so these cookies had an irresistible draw.  I’ve also never made peanut butter cookies with Rice Krispies in them; I was super curious to find out how the cereal would affect the cookie texture.

Click here for the full recipe.  Here are my notes on the process of making the cookies:

  • I used unsalted peanuts in the cookie dough.  (The recipe didn’t specify.)
  • I used my 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop to portion the dough.  The recipe suggested a result of 4 dozen cookies; I only got 31.
  • I lined my baking sheets with parchment.
  • I made half of the cookies with jam and half without.  Although the recipe had a suggested baking time of 12 minutes, the cookies without jam were done in 9 minutes and the cookies with jam were done in 10 minutes.

Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

These don’t take the “new favorite cookie” prize, but they’re pretty tasty little treats.  I would say they’re far more crispy than crunchy, though.  I think of “crunchy” as a “chomping with your molars” kind of characteristic.  With the Rice Krispies (mostly air), the cookies were exceptionally light; they were also moist without being chewy.  In terms of flavor, I noticed the saltiness of the cookies far more in the “plain” ones (without jam); people who are big fans of sweet and salty flavors together (like kettle corn) would probably enjoy them.  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is one of my favorite treats, though, so I have to say the cookies with jam were my favorite.

Putting the dough together was exceptionally easy and the baking process resulted in minimal mess.  (And believe me, folks, I know how to make a mess.)  You could easy churn out a batch of these cookies in 30 – 40 minutes.  I plan to make this one of my “go to” recipes when I need crowd-pleasing treats in a pinch.

Recipe link: Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

Broccoli and Gruyère Gratin

I most certainly love my green veggies, but doesn’t a healthy helping of cheese (almost) always sweeten the deal?

I made today’s recipe – Broccoli and Gruyère Gratin from the November 2009 issue of Real Simple – for the first time over Thanksgiving.  Since it serves a crowd, can be made up to a day ahead, and is absolutely delicious, though, it’s perfect for entertaining in any situation.

To make a full recipe, I started by roughly chopping 12 cups of broccoli.  (The recipe suggests this is two large bunches, but I ended up getting just over 2 cups from each smallish bunch I was able to buy at my grocery store.  I chose to use just the tops since I didn’t feel like peeling the stems, but feel free to use the stems if you like.)  I have a pasta pot with a steamer basket, so I put an inch of water in the pot, brought it to a simmer, put the steamer basket of broccoli in the pot, and then covered the pot with its lid.  (A regular steamer basket that sits inside a pot will do just fine, too; if you use this method, go with 1/2 inch of water instead of a full inch.)  I steamed the broccoli until it was just tender (4 minutes) and then transferred it to a large bowl.

Next, I made the cheese sauce.  In a medium saucepan, I melted 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter over medium heat.  I added 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour and cooked it, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Switching from a spoon to a whisk, I whisked in 2 cups of whole milk and simmered the mixture until it was slightly thickened (4 minutes for a full recipe; about 2 minutes and 30 seconds for a half recipe).  Although the recipe didn’t specifically say to do this, I whisked my sauce constantly to prevent the bottom from burning and a skin from forming on the top.  Once the sauce had thickened, I removed it from the heat and stirred in 1 cup of grated Gruyère cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper.

I tossed the cheese sauce with the broccoli and transferred the mixture to a shallow 3-quart baking dish.  I sprinkled the broccoli with another cup of grated Gruyère and baked it at 375F until it was bubbling and golden brown (40 minutes).  I let the dish stand 10 minutes before serving.

Broccoli and Gruyere Gratin

As a child who loved broccoli drizzled with Cheez Whiz (the things my parents would do to get us to eat vegetables!), I’m seriously digging this grown-up, sophisticated version of broccoli with cheese.  The broccoli becomes tender but not the least bit mushy, and I love the cheesy crust on top.  The dish is fairly saucy if you eat it after the 10 minutes of standing time; I think it sat for almost 30 minutes before we ate it on Thanksgiving and the sauce thickened considerably.  I liked it both ways.

This time, I served the gratin with panko-crusted chicken cutlets and Chardonnay (perfect winter meal!) for just the two of us, but I’ll definitely use this recipe for Christmas entertaining or fall/winter dinner parties.  Anything that can be made ahead with results this delicious gets filed as a “keeper.”

TIPS:  I would strongly suggest having all the cheese sauce ingredients measured and ready to go before you start cooking.  That way, you can just toss and pour them in without having to stop stirring or whisking.

Also, if you haven’t worked with Gruyère yet, you may be interested to know (1) it’s a bit pricey, and (2) it’s pungent.  In other words, you’ll pay a bit more than you’re used to in order to bring home a pretty stinky cheese.  It mellows considerably when baked, though, and it really is delicious.  If you don’t like Gruyère, try substituting Swiss or cheddar cheese.

Recipe link: Broccoli and Gruyère Gratin

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