Friday, November 24, 2017

Crusty Baked Shells & Cauliflower

I tend to think I don't really like pasta, but I think that's because I equate pasta with red sauce or heavy cream sauces, which probably isn't fair to pasta.

This dish is delicious; it's layered with several different flavors, none of which are too overpowering. Serve with a salad, and TA-DA, you've got a pretty impressive dinner.

And, one more bonus, it can be made ahead and then just thrown in the oven. I love that.

  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 3/4 pound medium shells, such as Barilla
  • olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds cauliflower, cut into small florets (1 large head)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained 
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 2 cups Fontina cheese, grated and lightly packed (10 ounces with rind)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 cup panko 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, minced 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil. 

Add pasta and cook until al dente, according to the instructions on the package. 

NOTE: Pasta will be cooked later, be careful to not overcook it!

Drain pasta and pour into a large bowl.  

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add half of the cauliflower in one layer and saute for 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the florets are lightly browned and tender. 

Pour the cauliflower, including the small bits, into the bowl with the pasta.  

Add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil and cook remaining cauliflower in the same manner and then add to the bowl.  

Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl and stir carefully.  

Stir in the Fontina. 

Transfer half of the mixture to a 10 x 13 baking dish. 

Spoon rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and top with remaining pasta mixture.  

Combine panko, Pecorino, parsley, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly on top of pasta. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until browned and crusty on top. 

Source: Ina Garten 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Home Fries

Perfectly cooked breakfast potatoes can be tricky. Back in the day, my sisters and I thought our "potato bits" were pretty much the best things ever and we made them often on make-your-own nights in the Porter household. They were not good; just tiny bits of almost burned potatoes improved only by large quantities of ketchup.

These home fries, however, are pretty close to perfection.

The key is this: don't mess with them. Get the potatoes situated in the pan and then leave them be, only tossing gently every 4-5 minutes.

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, with skins on, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil  

Mix salt, pepper, paprika, garlic power, and onion powder in a small bowl and set aside. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Simmer potatoes for 6 minutes, or until slightly tender. Drain potatoes and set aside while the pan heats up.  

Add vegetable oil to a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.  

Note: A cast iron skillet is great here, but a good non-stick pan works well too. 

When the oil is heated, spread the potatoes in a single layer and then let them sit and cook for about five minutes. DON'T TOUCH THEM. Just leave them be.   

Turn potatoes every 4-5 minutes.

After the potatoes have crisped up a bit, add half of the seasoning and mix gently to combine. 

Continue cooking the potatoes, turning them every 4-5 minutes, until you've reached your desired crispness. 

Don't forget to add the remaining seasoning a few minutes before they're done. 

Source: Macheesmo

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Homemade Marshmallows

Whenever I come back from the states, I bring a stash of goodies with me. Random things that are hard to find here. Clothes and school stuff, of course, but I also stock up on food items as well. Kosher salt, red wine vinegar, vanilla. And marshmallows. Marshmallows are a hot commodity in these parts. So, it's super helpful to have the option of making my own. And, honestly, they're so much better made from scratch and really not too difficult. These little babies are delicious on top of s'mores brownies, dipped in chocolate, or slathered with Nutella.


  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin 
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar 

Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup. 

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  

Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 24o degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.  

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin.  

Turn the mixer to high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. 

Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.  

Generously dust a 9 x 13 nonmetal dish with powdered sugar.  

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more powdered sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until the marshmallows dry out.  

Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them in squares.

Source: Ina Garten

Friday, April 22, 2016

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

My dear friend Stephanie taught me how to make these yummy summer rolls. She's a cooking genius and has taught me a few of her mad skills over the last few years. I'm so glad I had the chance to learn from her before she moves to Beijing in a few short months. (Insert sad, crying face here.)

I like to serve these rolls with this peanut sauce and feel the need to point out and emphasize how kick-ass it is. Seriously. Every time I make it I'm pretty impressed with myself. And thankful to Ina Garten for being another cooking genius.

You can also play around with what goes inside. Other options could include: shrimp, tofu, avocado, red pepper, cabbage, lettuce.


Chicken Marinade
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (or lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
Summer Rolls
  • rice paper 
  • rice vermicelli (or bean thread noodles) 
  • cucumber, seeded and cut into long matchsticks 
  • carrots, grated
  • Thai basil leaves
  • mint leaves
  • cilantro leaves 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lime (or lemon) 

Whisk garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, sesame oil, and pepper together and pour over chicken in a shallow dish. Let marinate for 20 minutes or longer. 

While chicken is marinating, soak noodles in hot water for 10-15 minutes or until soft, but still chewy. When noodles have reached desired softness, drain and cut strands into smaller chunks.

Saute chicken in large sauce pan over medium heat until cooked through. Remove from pan, leaving marinade behind. Let chicken cool and shred, 

Add noodles to remaining marinade and stir fry. Add sesame oil, soy sauce, and lime juice. Taste and add more sesame, soy, or lime juice, until sufficiently flavorful. 

Add hot water to a shallow pie plate.  

Dip and spin rice papers until softened. 

Lay rice paper on wooden paper and fill with noodles, chicken, cucumber sticks, carrots, basil, mint, and cilantro. 

Roll and seal tightly. 

These are best eaten soon after making, but can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. I use parchment to separate the rolls so they don't stick together.  

Serve with room temperature peanut sauce or other dipping sauce of choice.

Source: Stephanie Moy   

S'mores Brownies

These little brownie bites are very similar to this recipe, but I've updated things a bit with a homemade brownie recipe (my favorite one to date) and used actual marshmallows instead of making a frosting. These are easier, but equally delicious. They are best when served right after roasting (broiling) the marshmallow, but are still pretty tasty for 2-3 days. If you're eating them a while after the inital broiling, you might want to zap it in the microwave for 5 seconds or so to reheat the marshmallow.

I like to make these in mini muffin tins, but you could also make them in a 9 x 13 baking pan.

makes about 36 mini brownie bites 

Graham Cracker Crust 

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, melted and cooled 
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 36 marshmallows 


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line mini muffin tins with cupcake liners. 

In a medium bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. 

Pour in butter and mix until well combined. 

Place a tablespoon or so of crumb mixture in the bottom of each cup and use a tart tamper to flatten out.  

Bake for 15-20 minutes. 


Change oven temperature to 350 degrees.  

In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour and salt. Set aside. 

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan on low-medium heat. Stir until smooth.  

Set chocolate aside to cool for 8-10 minutes.  

Whisk sugar and vanilla into chocolate.  

Add one egg at a time to chocolate mixture, mixing well after each addition.  

Fold in flour mixture until just combined. 

Pour batter into prepared muffins tins, even dividing batter among 36 cups.

Bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean with some moist crumbs attached.  

Turn the oven to broil.

Place one marshmallow on top of each brownie and place under the broiler for about 1 minute. Watch closely so you don't burn the marshmallows! Unless, of course, you like them that way.

NOTE: You can make the crust and brownies ahead of time and then broil the marshmallows right before serving so they are warm and gooey and de-lish.

Sources: The Kitchn (crust), The Blonde Buckeye (brownies)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Chia Seed Breakfast Pudding

I'm always looking for breakfast ideas and this is a good one. The recipe is versatile and you can play around with different fruits, nuts, yogurts, milks, sweeteners.

  • 1 cup vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, plus 4 teaspoons for serving
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 pint strawberries, chopped 
  • 1/4 cup sliced or chopped almonds (optional) 

In a medium bowl, gently whisk almond milk, yogurt, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt until just blended.

Whisk in the chia seeds and let stand for 30 minutes. 

Stir to distribute the seeds if they have settled. 

Cover and refrigerate overnight.  

Toss berries with remaining maple syrup and mix in almonds. 

Top pudding with berries/almond mixture.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mint Brownies

Mint brownies are nostalgic for me. My mom used to include them on her Christmas cookie platters growing up. And since I love brownies and frosting, they were a favorite of mine. My freshman year of college, she sent me a box of them for my birthday and I blew through them embarrassingly fast. And, a few years back, one of my favorite co-workers brought these to school for treat day Wednesday and it reminded me of how much I love them.

So, it only feels right that I document such a classic recipe. This homemade brownie recipe is my fave thus far in life and I purposely wanted a good brownie to frosting ratio. This looks about right to me.

Tip for Cutting: In order to get a good, clean cut, I refrigerate the brownies and then use a knife that I have run under hot water. Clean the knife after each cut.


  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs 

Mint Frosting
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) butter, room temperature 
  • pinch salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mint extract
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 4 drops green food coloring (optional) 
Chocolate Layer
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Prepare a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper. Leave a few inches hanging over the side so the brownies can easily be lifted out after baking. Spray parchment with cooking spray. 

In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour and salt. Set aside. 

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan on low-medium heat. Stir until smooth.  

Set chocolate aside to cool for 8-10 minutes.  

Whisk sugar and vanilla into chocolate.  

Add one egg at a time to chocolate mixture, mixing well after each addition.  

Fold in flour mixture until just combined. 

Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread evenly.  

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean with some moist crumbs attached.  

Allow brownies to cool completely (1-2 hours) before frosting.  


In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until combined.  

Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition to make sure there are no lumps and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  

Add peppermint extract. 

Add milk or cream, amount will depend on desired consistency.  

Add food coloring, if using.  

Spread evenly on top of cooled brownies. Place in refrigerator while next layer is prepared.  


Heat chocolate and butter on low heat in a small saucepan. Stir until melted and smooth.  

Pour over mint frosting and use an inverted spatula to gently spread evenly.  

Chill in refrigerator for several hours, until chocolate is set.  

Cut while cool, but serve at room temperature.  

Sources: The Blond Buckeye and Thayne Orgill