I never thought I’d ever say this, but just between you and me, I’m all fooded out.  It’s not just the indulgences of Christmas, but of my birthday, friends’ birthdays, my grandmother’s birthday. It seems like half the people I know were born around Christmas, and the last couple of weeks have been a non-stop party in my mouth. It’s been a good time–a fabulous time. But really. Sometimes too much is too much.

And it’s not over yet. With New Year’s around the corner, a break from the kitchen is still a way off. I know what some of you are thinking. What!? A break from the kitchen! You don’t need a break from the kitchen. Ever. You adore cooking and do it every chance you get. You cannot survive without creating something ravishing in the kitchen on a daily basis. Sorry to say, but I am not of your ilk.

Don’t get me wrong. I love cooking–except when I don’t. I’m not sure why this is. Sometimes I think it’s my terminal aloneness that is to blame. It gets too easy to eat Cheerios for dinner when no one is waiting for you at home (remember Jerry Seinfeld’s cereal boxes?). Sometimes a part of me agrees with my friend G., who once proclaimed, “Cooking for yourself is lame.”

The great thing about food blogging, though, is that every meal is a photo op, an idea for a post. Although only a small fraction of what I cook and eat makes it into this space, I’ve learned to be creative when putting together quick meals and in this puff pastry has been my greatest ally.

I haven’t worked my way up to making puff pastry myself yet, but I often have a roll of the store-bought stuff in the freezer. It’s perfect for whipping up little appetizers or free-form tarts like this one. The leeks, fresh cheese, and dash of herbs give it a touch of elegance. Serve it at a party and your guests will never believe how easy it is to make. I often eat this tart with a salad for a weekend lunch, but it could be cut into bite-sized squares for your next soiree.

Happy New Year!

Quick Leek & Fresh Cheese Tarts

Ingredients:

Makes 4 tarts

2 sheets puff pastry

1 egg

3 large leeks, sliced, white parts only

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons water

herbs de Provence

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 package Boursin cheese *

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400F.  Cook leeks in butter and water, covered, until the leeks are soft and have abosrbed the liquid, about 20 minutes.

2) Roll out puff pastry. Cut each piece in half. Make borders for the tarts by cutting thin slices of the pastry from the sides of the squares and placing them on top. Brush with egg.

3) Spread pastry squares with leeks. Crumble cheese over top. Sprinkle with herbs and a bit of salt and pepper if necessary.

4) Bake until pastry is golden brown on the edges and cheese is melted, about 20-25 minutes.

* Boursin is a fresh herb cheese with a soft and crumbly texture that is available at most grocery stores and cheese shops. It may be substituted with goat cheese; a herbed cheese tastes best with this tart.

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