Dani Goes South.

Dinners

Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato + Walnut Pesto, Lemony Basil Pesto, & Herbed Anchovy Breadcrumbs

Dinners, Pasta, SaucesDani ColombattoComment
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Currently, I’m sitting in my parents’ backyard in Boise with a prime view of some very cute duck families. I took a little “just because” trip to see my parents, sister, niece, and nephew, and it’s been lovely. Idaho is beautiful this time of year, and I’m just doing a lot of relaxing, eating the good foods, and drinking the good drinks. The Lord’s work, they call it. Just kidding.

On another note, I’ve mentioned my love of my little garden here before, but truly, it’s the best hobby I’ve ever started as an adult. When our tiny tomato seeds started to sprout, I was super skeptical about them turning into full, blossoming plants. Joke’s on me because they are getting crazy-tall, and sprouting tomatoes all over the place. I believe, at last count, I had 45 little, green tomatoes. That little garden ended up being so much more than we bargained for in the best way possible. It inspires me to be less of a plant/life skeptic and get in touch with my inner-optimist. One of the many great uses for a bounty of tomatoes is one of the two sauces we’re talking about today. That’s right, not one but two versions of pesto in one pasta because I can’t seem to leave well enough alone. These two sauces are so simple to throw together, and compliment each other perfectly. They’re also both amazing on chicken, fish, bruschetta, and more.

First, we have a roasted tomato and walnut pesto, which is a recipe I slightly tweaked from Bon Appetit and has been a top-tier favorite of mine since I saw it in one of their issues in 2016. It’s super fresh, and the walnuts lend this creamy factor that takes this pesto to the next level. This sauce stands alone, but I felt like giving it some extra herbaceous oomph. Tomatoes and basil have always been a great couple, why break ‘em up now? Our second pesto couldn’t be simpler, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in brightness. Tons of fresh basil, lemon zest and juice, toasted walnuts, and the usual pesto suspects, garlic, parm, and of course, EVOO get all blended up for one delicious basil pesto with the perfect amount of fresh acidity.

The spaghetti gets tossed in the creamy roasted tomato and walnut pesto, then gets studded with dollops of the basil pesto, and topped with toasted, herbed anchovy breadcrumbs. Don’t bristle at the anchovy portion of the program (unless you’re veg, in which case, bristle away)- it really just lends a savory level of, for lack of a better term, umami. If you’re not into that, just toast them up with the butter and herbs, and finish with a good sprinkling of sea salt. Let’s get up to our eyeballs in pesto, shall we? Was that appetizing?

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Preheat your oven to 375, and to a sheet pan, and halve all but some of your cherry tomatoes (I usually leave the ones on the smaller side whole). Drizzle with olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, until tomatoes have released some of their liquid, and the skin is beginning to blister. Add your walnuts to a dry pan, and toss over low heat until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.

While your tomatoes are cooking, make your breadcrumbs. to a food processor, add 2 slices of good bread, and pulse until coarse crumbs are formed. To a small frying pan, add 1 tbs olive oil + 1 tbs butter and heat over medium-low heat. Add 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, and 2 inches of anchovy paste to your pan, and combine with the butter/oil. Add your breadcrumbs, along with your chopped thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Toss over medium-low heat until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to trap excess oil.

Make your basil pesto. Add 1/3 c of your walnuts, along with the garlic to a blender or food processor. Pulse until the walnuts are very pulverized and beginning to release their oils. You’ll be able to tell, because they’ll start to slightly stick to the side of the bowl. Then, add your basil, lemon zest and juice, and a good pour of olive oil to get everything started. Pulse to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl/blender as needed. Once the mixture begins to combine, leave the blender/food processor running, and stream in olive oil until the pesto becomes a homogeneous mixture. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Pour into a bowl, and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Set aside until ready to assemble.

To make the roasted tomato-walnut pesto, we combine the garlic, the lemon zest, anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, and parmigiano in the blender. Pulse to combine. Then, add in all but about 1/2 cup of your roasted tomatoes, including their liquid in the pan, along with all but a couple tablespoons of the toasted walnuts (we are reserving a few to top our pasta), and blend to combine. Add in about a 1/3 c of olive oil, and blend until just combined. Set aside.

To a large pot of salted, boiling water, add your spaghetti, and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of your cooking liquid.

To a large pan, add your spaghetti, along with your roasted tomato and walnut pesto, tossing to combine, and coating with small amounts of the pasta cooking liquid as necessary, until the sauce coats all of the strands of spaghetti. Add your reserved roasted tomatoes, and toss once more. Add to the serving bowl of your choice, and top with tablespoon-sized dollops of your lemony basil pesto. Next, add a generous sprinkle of parmigiano, your reserved toasted walnuts, and torn basil leaves.

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The way the roasted tomato and walnut pesto coats the al dente spaghetti is downright luxury. The sweetness of the tomatoes really comes out when you roast them, and the other elements in the sauce lend the perfect savory compliment. The basil pesto makes the flavor of the tomatoes even more pronounced, and crunchy, herb-y breadcrumbs in every bite make this pasta incredibly hard to stop eating.

Here’s hoping your weekend plans include pasta. Mine include Disney movies with my niece (Fully have the “Gaston” song from Beauty & The Beast stuck in my head RN. Which, side-note, I heard someone say on a podcast is the song they sing to get “pumped up” which really made me laugh). We are also making a sartu di riso with my mom and sister. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a breadcrumb-coated bundt of risotto, partially filled with a really delicious tomato sauce and cheese. Essentially, arancini in bundt form. I’m very into it.

ANYWHO.

Make one, or both of these pesto beauties. They’re amazing alone, together, and on countless other dishes (Hot tip: they’re SO good on pizza). Make them ahead, place plastic wrap on the surface of sauce, cover, and freeze them. Then, thank yourself on an exhausting Monday later. Jar them and refrigerate for up to a week for a quick dinner or appetizer addition. You get the idea. Versatile sauces always win the day.

Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato + Walnut Pesto, Lemony Basil Pesto, + Herbed Anchovy Breadcrumbs

(4-5 servings)

Roasted Tomato + Walnut Pesto (Inspired by Bon Appetit)

1 lb spaghetti

2 dry pints cherry tomatoes, all but some halved

2/3 c, plus 2 tbs walnuts

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbs lemon zest

3” anchovy paste, or 2 oil-packed fillets, finely minced

2 tbs, plus 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

1/2 c parmigiano reggiano, finely grated, plus more for serving

1/2 c pasta water

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemony Basil Pesto

1 1/3 c basil

1/3 cup walnuts

1 clove garlic

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tbs lemon juice

1/3 c parmigiano reggiano, finely grated

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Herbed Anchovy Breadcrumbs

2 slices good bread

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2” anchovy paste

1 tbs butter

1 tbs oil

1 tbs freshly chopped thyme

Super Creamy, Super Easy Garlicky White Bean Hummus With Mediterranean-Style Salad + Grilled Chicken Thighs

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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I’ve been thinking a lot about heritage lately- mostly because of food, but a little bit because I’m aging- HA AREN’T WE ALL?! I find the older I get, the more questions I have about where I come from. In my case, unfortunately, things tip slightly more toward the side of questions than answers, but that is fully okay! That’s how it is for so many of us. My grandpa on my dad’s side was a first-gen immigrant from Northern Italy, and I have SO much information about this! Which, would be incredible, except for the fact that my dad was adopted by my grandpa Joe. While, he was the MOST amazing grandpa who absolutely shaped my life, and his life story is beyond epic, I can’t really use any of that genetic information, ya feel me? My mom’s side is super Portuguese, hailing from the Azores (Looks incredible, and also, incredibly hard to get to). I brought up to my mom the fact that we basically live for Northern Italian cooking, and growing up, I was immersed in that culture so much, and yet, we really have never delved a ton into the Portugal of it all, so to speak. Over the next few months, a goal of mine is to start really getting into this side of my background, culinarily, and otherwise. After a trip to the Austin Public Library, which is amazing BTW, I came home with a bunch of cookbooks. My goal was to find some good Portuguese ones, but I came up empty-handed. This means, I basically checked out every Mediterranean cookbook they had, as there are subtle through-lines in Italian, Portuguese, and general Mediterranean cooking. This is all to say, after said research, I was left majorly craving some Mediterranean food, and that’s one problem I can solve myself immediately. Lawd knows not all problems are that solvable!

This is a one-stop, scoop-it-all-on-your-plate-from-one-vessel kind of dish. It all begins with a base of whipped-to-perfection, garlicky, lemony, white bean hummus. Chicken that’s been marinating in a rosemary vinaigrette, then grilled gets nestled into that aforementioned hummus bed, along with some grilled pita. Then, an incredibly simple-yet-delicious salad of tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, green onions and herbs gets piled on. Kalamata olives and crumbled feta are the finishing tough to bring a briny, salty vibe that is very much welcome here. Let’s start with that marinade, shall we?

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In a glass measuring cup, mix together your red wine vinegar, garlic clove, sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, EVOO, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Season your skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs with salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and za’atar. Rub into each side of chicken and add thighs to a large zip-top bag, along with your marinade, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, but up to 24.

While the chicken is getting all delicious, make your hummus. In a food processor, combine your drained can of white beans with your tahini, lemon zest + juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, za’atar, and turn food processor on. Slowly, with the machine running, pour in your extra virgin olive oil. Allow the machine to run for 3 minutes. This sounds like a long time, but it’s seriously worth it for a perfectly smooth hummus. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. Run the machine for 30 seconds more. Cover and chill until ready to plate.

This salad couldn’t be easier, and is a riff on the green salad my mom, grandma, and aunts made growing up, and us grown up kids seem to make for every get-together. I’ll be real: It’s a total eye-baller. Halve your cherry tomatoes, and add to a large bowl with a sprinkling of salt to get the tomatoes to release some of their juices. Peel and seed half of a cucumber, and chop into roughly 1” pieces. Cut an avocado into roughly 1” chunks as well, and add to your bowl, along with a good handful of freshly chopped parsley. In a small glass measuring cup, whisk together your red wine vinegar, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Wait to dress the salad until you’re ready to plate.

Heat your grill to 375, and grill your chicken thighs over direct heat for about 9 minutes per side until internal temperature reaches 165. Cover, and allow to rest prior to serving.

To assemble, pile (or swoop) your hummus onto a platter, and line your chicken thighs along one side of the hummus, along with the pita. Spoon your salad down the center of the platter, and top with chopped kalamata olives, and crumbled feta.

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This is one of those meals where you walk away feeling better after you’ve eaten, but also, like you really treated yourself. An easy, all-in-one easy enough for a weeknight, but good enough for company.

Super Creamy, Super Easy Garlicky White Bean Hummus With Mediterranean-Style Salad + Grilled Chicken Thighs

(Serves 4-5)

For the Hummus

1 15 oz can cannelini beans, or great northern beans

1 cup tahini

1 grated, plus 1 smashed garlic clove

Zest + juice of 1 lemon

3 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp za’atar

3/4 cup good olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Chicken Marinade

2 tbs freshly chopped rosemary

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp sriracha

1 grated garlic clove

To Season Chicken

Generous sprinkling salt and pepper

2 tbs za’atar

1 tsp granulated garlic

For the Salad

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Half 1 cucumber, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1” chunks

1 avocado, cut into 1” chunks

3 green onions, sliced on the bias

Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped

For the vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

To serve

1/2 c kalamata olives, halved

3/4 c crumbled feta

Extra vinaigrette, for drizzling

Lemony Grilled Pork Chops With Herbaceous Vinaigrette, + Bacon & New Potato Salad, + Kale Salad With Crunchy, Wholewheat Breadcrumbs & All the Parm

Dinners, SaladsDani ColombattoComment

Hi, hi, HI-YA (Anyone remember that from Heavyweights? Just me?)! Indeed it has been a moment, if the measure of time is 1 year = 1 moment. Oof! What to even begin to fill you in on? Random tidbits, OF COURSE. I’ll briefly catch you up on that portion of the program, as I really can’t wait to tell you all about this ridiculously delicious pork chop/two salad combo.

5 RANDOM TIDBITS:

Uno! We started a garden in our backyard, and may or may not have gotten really eager with the seed distribution for our little 3 x 5 planter. We planted rainbow chard, green onions, rosemary, tomatoes, chives, and arugula, and drum roll, please… THEY. ALL. GREW. ALL. CAPS. NECESSARY. Every evening, Ben and I go out back, examining our plants like the newborn children they are. Ben usually plucks a green onion and chomps away like a farmer with a piece of straw, almost always developing a light southern accent for the time we are back there, which always cracks me up. We just used up the last of the rainbow chard, and I’m quietly mourning the loss of my most colorful produce bb.

Due! My first tangible, hold-it-in-your-hands magazine article and recipe were published in Edible Austin’s May/June issue. I cried a little, picked up many-a-copy, and hope it won’t be the last time I say I was published. Confession: I’m a bit of a food mag hoarder (see: cleverly stashed stacks in my TV cabinet), and I may or may not have just checked out no less than 6 cookbooks on my first trip to the Austin library. If you’re local, I really, really, hope you grab a copy, learn about alliums, and make a delicious cauliflower leek soup (recipe will be posted here soon as well).

Tre! I picked up my guitar for the first time in oh…8 years?! Face palm emoji. It took a little bit to get through that initial, painful first week or so of majorly bruised fingertips, but it’s back to being a daily thing in my life. I forgot how happy it makes me.

Quattro! In January, I turned 30. Not gonna lie…I was slightly nervous about feeling a certain way about this. However, the rumors are true: you don’t need to have it all figured out the moment you hit your 3rd decade of life. I feel a quieter, truer, confidence slowly developing that I never felt in my 20s. Time, space, and listening to myself, turns out, all good things.

Cinque! I have been cooking my ass off. For fun. In the last year, I found myself making so many dishes that have become staples in our home, and I am chomping at the bit like a Clydesdale to share them. These pork chops with 2 salads are one dinner we’ve made constantly.

Now, let’s talk chop, shall we?

Loaded Cold Soba Bowls with Salmon, Mustard Greens, Watercress, Snap Peas, Sesame Vinaigrette, & All The Herbs

Dinners, Salads, Lunches, SeafoodDani ColombattoComment
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Hello, you. I hope you're feeling fresh-faced, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed. May I be so bold as to real-talk-backslash-attempt-to-encourage you for a moment, before I attempt to woo you with cold noodle bowls (haha)? Cool, thanks a bil!

Today I posted a little something on my Instagram stories about May being Mental Health Awareness Month, and yesterday being the 2 year anniversary of losing my brother, Kevin. Allow me to backtrack a teeny bit, before getting to my point. This space is special to me. I knew for a long time that I needed to start it, but really did not know what shape it would take. I knew when I started it, that if I didn't stop deliberating over every little detail, color, template, etc., then I would never do anything with it at all. I decided to just pull the trigger, and get moving. Now I'm a few months into doing this little solo mission, and I find myself confronted with a new set of struggles. Let me be the first to say, food is kind of everything to me. It's probably number 3 in the top 3 things I care about (1 and 2 being family/friends, and health), and that is said with zero exaggeration. However, sometimes, in light of events that have occurred in my life over the last 3ish years, and hell, I'll say it- the general climate of the world, food can seem, well, trite. Not that important in the grand scheme. At least, that's what the little troll voice in the back of my mind creeps in to say every so often. Do you have one of those? I call mine Madge... She has zero social graces, and she loves an elastic jean short/croc pairing.

Allow me to attempt to bring this home: I think that as creatives, in any capacity, we have the ability to give so much of ourselves and our spirits to anything we are working on. Not only can this be depleting, but it can also be a cause of internal conflict. After I lost my brother, I ended up taking what added up to a year off of social media. I was having the hardest time reconciling the "need" to post content out of fear of never getting another job, and/or becoming irrelevant, in the midst of trying to care for myself during an extremely difficult time. I made the decision that once I re-entered this space, I would do so with authenticity. For me, this doesn't mean posting every day with some sort of explanation of what was happening inside. The goal was more to be at peace and truly okay with the silences...with my lack of explanation. To know that things can be both/and: I can still be struggling with grief, battling depression, and yet, still be cooking, styling, and shooting up a storm, and have more moments than not of total happiness. I want this very space to be both/and (a phrase I fully stole from my former therapist, who happens to have an amazing podcast now). A space for fun, vibrant food, adventures in styling, this new city, and a very much needed dash of earnest honesty. At least, for this girl, it's a much needed dash. I can't speak for others, but I've heard rumblings I'm not alone.  

Life is complicated. We can be sad, and still swoon over gorgeous floral arrangements. We can harbor intense emotional pain from trauma, and ugly-laugh at a good cat video. We can have moments of questioning our worth, and make a salmon soba noodle salad packed with veg, because at the end of the day, we know we owe it to ourselves to practice a little love and care. How's THAT for a segue?!?!? So graceful, like slowly tripping down stairs, am I right? Onto salmon and carbs, because I know that's really why you're here. Thanks for hanging in, and allowing me to dupe you with my emotions for a few.

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I love a throw-everything-into-a-bowl situation- especially, when it leaves you feeling light, and totally fulfilled at the same time. Something about the combination of sesame-sambal glazed salmon, spicy greens, fresh snap peas and cucumbers, light soba noodles, and bright vinaigrette just keeps me coming back for more. Toasted, chopped peanuts, lime juice, and fresh basil, garlic chives, and cilantro are welcome additions to this guest list and just set things over the top. Frankly, the ways you can customize this baby are infinite. A great totally veg option would be to swap the salmon for sambal-marinated mushrooms, and maybe grill up an avocado to throw in there. When I typed that last part, I became instantly regretful I hadn't thought of that in the moment for this, because that would be next-lev. 

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Preheat your oven to 375F, and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Make your vinaigrette: whisk together your rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic clove, 1/2 your lime juice, honey, and sesame oil. Taste for seasoning, and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Cook your soba noodles until tender but still al dente, drain, and add to a large bowl. Add about 1/3 cup of your vinaigrette to your soba noodles, and toss together. Reserve in the refrigerator until you're ready to assemble your bowls. 

In a small bowl, whisk together your sambal, hoisin, soy sauce, lime juice, allspice, and sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chop your veggies, adding your snap peas to a small bowl, and seasoning with a scant drizzle of sesame oil, and sprinkle of salt. 

Season your salmon with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and drizzle over your marinade. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until salmon is just barely cooked through.

Here's what I added to our salmon soba bowls:

  • 1 cup each mustard greens, and watercress

  • 1/2 a cucumber, cut into 3" matchsticks

  • The reserved snap peas

  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts

  • 1/2 cup each chopped basil and cilantro

  • 4 garlic chives, minced (you can totally sub regular scallions)

  • A healthy drizzle of the reserved vinaigrette

Again, like I said before, these are so customizeable. You do you, boo!

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Well, friends...This little site is about to get a lot more both/and-y, and maybe even a little re-brand-y. Additionally, this probably will not be the last time I weave a seafood recipe into an unsolicited emotional pep talk, so I hope you're on board. If not...Something about plenty of fish in the sea? *shrugging girl emoji* 

Have a beautiful day. 

Salmon Soba Bowls

For the salmon:

1 lb. salmon vilet

1 tbs sambal olek

1 tsp hoisin sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

Juice of 1/2 a lime

Dash allspice

1 tbs sesame oil

Salt to taste

For the bowls:

1 package soba noodles

1/2 a cucumber, cut into 3" matchsticks

1/2 cup toasted chopped peanuts

1 cup snap peas

1 cup each mustard greens and watercress

1/2 cup each chopped fresh basil and cilantro

For the vinaigrette:

1/3 cup rice vinegar

2/3 cup sesame oil

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1/2 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp honey

1 garlic clove, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Springy AF Broken Lasagna with Sausage, Fennel, Rainbow Chard, Mushrooms, Peas, Lemony Pan Sauce, and Parm

Dinners, PastaDani ColombattoComment
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Tis the season where the veggies all seem to have an Oprah voice. Chard is poppin' off, sweet peas are earning their namesake, and fennel has taken the throne as spring's official mascot. I love this season so much. The air is sweeter, and everything is in bloom. It just makes me want to take a big, fat, deep breath before my hair is all, "Hai, humidity!". This is the season that made me fall in love with Austin- I can't believe I'll have been here a year this month! Truly, fastest year of my life. 

Since I've been frequenting Agua Dulce Farms - AKA - the thing I can't shut up about, we've been #blessed with all the greens we could hope for. Honestly, I look like a total zombie in that greenhouse because I'm just all heart eyes emojis over lettuces. That being said, we've been throwing them in everything humanly possible. We also got some really delicious fennel from them, which immediately makes my mind go to Italian sausage. This pasta comes together in about 30 minutes, and is packed with nutrient-dense veggies. It's equal parts hearty, light and herbaceous, with extra chopped fennel fronds, micro arugula greens, and a simple basil oil that isn't mandatory, but highly recommended. You could even go fully veg, and forego the sausage, which I guarantee would be equally delicious. 

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat a scant amount of olive oil on medium-high, and add your sausage. Allow to brown for a couple minutes before beginning to saute. Add your mushrooms, and chopped thyme, and cook until golden brown and sausage is fully cooked through. Season with a sprinkle of salt, and spoon onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil, and set aside. 

Add your broken lasagna to your boiling water, and cook until al dente. 

Heat the skillet you cooked your sausage in on medium. Add your butter, and once melted, your fennel. Saute until translucent, and add your garlic. Deglaze your pan with your lemon juice, and add your chicken stock. Allow to simmer for about 3 minutes. While this is simmering, grab a second skillet, add a tablespoon of butter, and a drizzle of olive oil, and heat on medium. Add your swiss chard, snap peas, red pepper flakes, salt, and saute for just a minute or so. 

After your sauce has simmered for about 3 minutes, cut the heat, and taste for seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. 

Add your pasta directly from the pasta water to your sauce, along with your sausage and mushroom mixture, and your chard/snap pea mixture, tossing to coat everything. 

To serve, top with chopped fennel fronds, and any microgreen you can find! I happened to get some arugula micros from the farm, and they were such a great addition. Imagine the spiciness of arugula packed into a tiny vehicle so it's intensified. I'm v into it. If you can't get your paws on those, some freshly chopped parsley would be perfect. Lemon zest for extra tartness, and as mah girl Ina Garten would say, so people know what's going on inside the pasta, is an excellent choice. Basil oil is delicious, and easy, and everyone should just make some and throw it in their fridge because...self care? I don't know, just do it. Simply grab a handful of basil leaves, drizzle in about 1/2 a cup of olive oil and blend the hell out of it with some salt and pepper. It's like the bright lipstick of this pasta. Necessary? No. But it really makes your eyes look pretty, so we do it. Extra parm is the obvious final move for serving, because isn't pasta just a parmigiano vehicle? 

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I don't know why lasagna has always been this like, one-purpose pasta. Sure, those lasagna roll-ups that have been circling the internets look downright delicious, but why isn't it used more in just every-day pasta applications? The texture is amazing, it has great surface area, and it kind of automatically makes whatever you're pairing it with somehow heartier. I'm into it. That being said, all of these things would make one helluva delicious spring lasagna. I'm a complicated lady. 

Broken Lasagna with Sausage, Fennel, Rainbow Chard, Mushrooms, Peas, Lemony Pan Sauce, and Parm

(Serves 4)

1 box lasagna, broken into about 2" x 3" pieces

1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed

1 bunch swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves roughly

1 cup snap peas

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds chopped

1/2 lb. container of mushrooms (I used baby bellas)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped 

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 cup chicken broth

Juice + zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, to serve

Basil oil, to serve (optional)

 

Let's Eat Outside Pt. 3: Tomato-Basil Orrechiette Salad with Capers + Pine Nuts / Tiny Ciabatta Sandwiches with Roasted Eggplant, Peppers, Prosciutto, + Pesto Aioli

Dinners, Lunches, Salads, SandwichesDani ColombattoComment
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Sun's out, portable carbs out! Not really. It's currently raining and I'm wearing a sweatshirt that looks downright Christmassy. No matter! I'm a big-picture gal, and I love makin' plans. So let's plan our 3rd and final picnic (for now) in this little "Let's Eat Outside" series. Ready? The plan is there's no plan. There are easy sandwiches and a make-ahead pasta salad involved, but that's about all the planning this requires. Scratch that- you'll want to plan on finding some supah-crisp wine or beer to take on this little shindig. Not exactly a tall order, I know. 

I'm such a sucker for an Italian sammie. I don't know what it is, but Italians really love saying the phrase "good bread". Any occasion to insert this phrase into conversation, AND eat carbs, they are into it. I can say this because my dad was adopted by a 1st generation Italian immigrant when he was 2, so I was raised by the "good bread" people. In this application, said excellent carb is the base for caramelized roasted veggies, salty prosciutto, nutty provolone, spicy arugula, tart pickled onions, and herbaceous pesto aioli. Really, there isn't a vehicle you could put the aforementioned goods on top of and have it not come out amazing. Hell, have it deconstructed for all I care. Whatever you do, promise to have it alongside a simple tomato-basil pasta salad with toasty pine nuts, fresh parsley, and all the lemony vinaigrette. It's not a demand, just a gentle nudge in the "living your best life" direction. Let's hop to it, because this one's so easy, it'll be over before it begins! 

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Preheat your oven to 375F, and combine your sliced eggplant, and halved baby bell peppers on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15-17 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. While your veggies are roasting, make your pasta, and your pesto aioli, adding your aioli to the refrigerator once done. Whisk together your lemon vinaigrette, and set aside. 

Once your pasta is done, drain, and add to a bowl, immediately tossing with your lemon vinaigrette so it absorbs into the warm pasta. Add your cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and capers, tossing together once more. Wait to add your freshly chopped basil and parsley, and shaved Parmesan until you're ready to eat. You can leave this pasta salad out at room temperature if you're going to eat relatively soon, if not, wait for it to cool off, and add to the refrigerator. 

Once your vegetables are done roasting, assemble your sandwiches. There is truly no recipe here, simply top your ciabatta bread with a good amount of pesto aioli on each side, a couple slices each roasted eggplant and bell peppers, a slice or two of prosciutto and provolone, a handful of arugula, and a sprinkle of quick pickled onions. 

Wrap your baby sammies in a little parchment blanket, and top your orecchiette with your basil, parsley, and Parmesan, and you're ready to hit the road. Feel free to serve with some olives, and maybe even a little cheeseboard, but truth be told, these two make the perfect little picnic pair all on their own.

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I've started compiling a little summer wish list. We actually have a lot going on this coming season, so I'm making a concerted effort to be mindful of the little things- a huge one on this list is more picnics! While we are looking for a new space that hopefully has a cute outdoor area of it's own, for now, I'm going to park my booty and picnic basket every cute public place I can. Hopefully, while double-carbing, and avoiding mosquito bites. 

With that, I've got a beer, fajita nachos, and a kitchen of dirty dishes awaiting me. I really thought back when I didn't have a dishwasher that the never-ending revolving door of dishes from shoots would be less bad once I finally acquired one, but in reality, it's like I come up with reasons to use more dishes, as I no longer have to hand wash them. It's like I'm my own enemy, you guys!! Just throwing around ramekins and nesting bowls like detergent grows on trees!  Chaos, I tell you. One day, when I get it all right, I promise to share the secrets of my sorcery, because that's what I'm convinced a consistently clean kitchen takes- food profession or not. Pure. Sorcery. Byeeee! 

Tiny Ciabatta Sandwiches with Roasted Eggplant + Peppers, Prosciutto, & Pesto Aioli

1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into roughly 3" x 5" pieces

1 eggplant, halved, and cut into 1/4" half-moons

1 dozen baby bell peppers, halved

1/2 lb thinly sliced prosciutto

1/2 lb thinly sliced provolone cheese

1 cup quick pickled onions 

3 cups arugula

Pesto aioli

For the Pesto Aioli:

1 cup good mayonnaise

3/4 cup of your favorite store-bought pesto

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

For the Quick Pickled Onions:

1 onion, thinly sliced, & added to small bowl

Red wine vinegar, to cover onions

Sprinkle of salt & pepper

Tomato-Basil Orecchiette Salad

1 lb Orecchiette pasta

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

4 tbs capers

1 cup freshly chopped basil

1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley

1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano 

Lemon Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 grated garlic clove

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Let's Eat Outside Pt. 2: Hoisin Lime Chicken + Quinoa Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Vinaigrette and All the Radishes

Dinners, LunchesDani ColombattoComment
UO Lettuce Wraps 1.jpg

Hello, lovely people! I greet you today, glass of red wine in hand, a little later than I originally planned to! This morning, Benjamin and I went back to the Agua Dulce Farms for a little volunteering- aka playing with pretty lettuces, taking photos, going home with said pretty lettuces, etc. It was wonderful, as per the uzhe. Today in particular we left with tons of garlic chives (literally my favorite), rainbow chard, mustard greens, different varieties of watercress, and 5 types of lettuces- I kind of feel like someone is just handing me gold every time I leave. I'll be sharing some photos from all the fun with them v soon.

When we were done, we were staaaarved so we booked it for a good sammie, and then both promptly fell asleep on the couch- and I'm sooo not a nap person. This is mainly because they usually make me feel groggy AF, AKA my general vibes this very moment. I fully intend on peeling my boo-tay off the couch to make this taco-esque salad that I crave probably once a week, but before I do that, how about we get into a little something fresh? 

I whipped up these hoisin-lime chicken and quinoa lettuce wraps a few weeks ago, and they've made multiple reappearances since. First off, you know I love a good "whatever the hell you have in your fridge" situation. This is 100% that. Mix up your lettuces, herbs, toppings- as long as it's fresh and in season, it's usually gold. Secondly, this is such a delicious, easy dinner to pack up for a picnic, and it won't leave you feeling sluggish. 

For this little number I opted for a tangy hoisin-lime sauce to add to chicken and leeks as it's caramelizing away in your skillet. Water chestnuts add the classic lettuce wrap X factor (I'm not going to say PF Changs, but we're all thinking it- DON'T LIE). Basil and cilantro really add next level depth of freshness, so I highly recommend not skimping. Radishes bring welcome crunch, along with bean sprouts. A spritz of lime, and a little drizzle of sesame vinaigrette add just the right level of tartness. Avocado slices and Sriracha are also welcome additions here. As per usual with this blog- not a place for rules. 

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Rinse your quinoa under cold water for about two minutes. Doing this removes the slightly mineral-y, metallic taste quinoa can have so don't skimp on the rinse! Squeeze the quinoa in your hands, making sure the whole cupful is thoroughly rinsed. Then, to a small saucepan on medium heat, add one tablespoon of your butter, and once melted, your chopped shallots, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Saute until your shallots become translucent, and add your quinoa, toasting in your butter/shallot mixture for a minute or so. Add your vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Once your broth is at a nice boil, add your remaining butter, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. When your quinoa is done, fluff with a fork, cover, and set aside in a seal-able bowl.   

Next, heat a large cast iron skillet on medium-high, and add 2 tbs. of your sesame oil. Once heated, add your chopped leek, and saute until it starts to become translucent. Add your chicken, plus a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper. Break up with a wooden spoon, or spatula, and allow to start to brown on one side before moving again. While you're letting your chicken begin to brown, whisk together your Hoisin sauce, lime zest + juice, soy sauce, Sriracha, Worcestershire, and sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside. Saute your chicken for about 3 more minutes, add your water chestnuts, garlic, and stir in your sauce. Lower your heat to medium-low, and cook until sauce is slightly reduced, and chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add to another bowl. 

Serve with 2 heads of the lettuce of your choosing- but I highly recommend butter lettuce or a nice red leaf. Both are crisp but with enough of a bend to make the perfect wrap. Shaved radishes and beansprouts make perfectly crunchy accompaniments, and basil and cilantro add a burst of leafy freshness. Add a drizzle of sesame vinaigrette, some Sriracha, a squeeze of lime, and these babies are ready to go- literally. 

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I love the layers of fresh crispiness from all the produce paired with the tangy chicken and fluffy quinoa. This would even be so good as a taco application. I'll get working on that. Now, I'll leave you to location-scout for somewhere cute to eat these. I'm off to my second glass of wine, cat pajamas, and an early bedtime.

Hoisin-Lime Chicken & Quinoa Lettuce Wraps

For the chicken:

2 lbs. ground chicken (If you can get find organic, air-chilled, even better!)

1 leek, chopped

1 small can water chestnuts, drained, rinsed, & chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 tbs. hoisin sauce

Zest + juice of 2 limes

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

2 tbs. Sriracha

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tbs. + 1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil, divided

Salt & pepper to taste

For the quinoa:

1 cup quinoa

2 cups low sodium vegetable broth

2 small shallots, minced

2 tbs. butter

To serve:

One head butter lettuce, washed, leaves removed

One head red leaf lettuce, washed, leaves removed

2 cups bean sprouts

8 radishes, thinly sliced

1 bunch each fresh basil & cilantro

3 limes, cut into wedges

Rice vinaigrette (1 part rice vinegar, to 2 parts sesame oil, juice of 1/4 lime, salt & pepper to taste)

Your favorite Sriracha

Extra hoisin + soy sauce

Let's Eat Outside Pt. 1: Veggie Mezze Platter with Kebabs, the Creamiest Beet Hummus, Garlicky Yogurt Dip, and Roasted / Raw Crudites

Appetizers, DinnersDani ColombattoComment
UO Mezze Platter 4.jpg

Hey, hey, and a happy hump day to you! I hope this week is treating you like a chivalrous date. On my end of things, I just returned from a fun, spontaneous weekend trip back home to San Clemente. My sweet angel of an aunt and cousin surprised my sister, niece, & I with tickets- seriously, what gems! We arrived Friday, and had a little family dinner at my uncle and aunt's house. Those of you who watched my stories got to see the epic toddler dance party that took place, which, by the way, made me feel SO out of touch with top 100 music. Like, I couldn't tell you who's a Bieber, Gomez, or Lovato if my life depended on it. I digress... My dad's side of the family is relatively small, and we've always been super close, usually living about a 30 minute drive from each other for most of our lives. My sister and I were lucky enough to grow up with cousins who felt more like siblings. As we've gotten older not only is it so cool that things always feel exactly the same, no matter how much time has passed, but now we get to watch my sister and cousins do the same with their little kids. Life sure is wild. 

Speaking of family gatherings, every time the weather starts to turn I can't help but think of being outside- particularly, cooking and eating outside. Whether I'm back in California, at my parents' in Idaho, or home in Austin, eating outside is just such a prominent source of happiness in my life. Honestly, what is better than a strong cocktail and sharing some small plates on a warm night? Kind of nothing, if you're asking me. I thought it would be fun to share a few ideas for portable dishes to make and take with you to eat somewhere pretty with someone you love. What better way to start than with an appetizer situation that doubles as dinner? Options are LyFe. Since we're keeping things light and springy, I thought we'd go veggie for our first little soiree, and celebrate some of the best of what's in season now, starting with the creamiest beet hummus. Veggie kebabs, garlicky yogurt, baked feta, lavash, and roasted and raw crudites make for perfect mix and match snacking. In fact, if someone could teleport one of these platters to me now, that would be amazing. Let's get into it. 

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Preheat your oven to 400F, and add your skewers to a dish filled with water. This keeps them from burning while cooking. Cut your mushrooms, bell peppers, onion, and zucchini for your kebabs. Whisk together your red wine vinegar, lemon juice, dried oregano, grated garlic clove, and salt and pepper. Skewer your veggies, alternating them as you wish, and add them to a large freezer bag, along with your marinade. Reserve in the fridge. 

Peel your beets, and season them with a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, plus one teaspoon oregano. Roast for 30 minutes, and set aside to cool. At this point, if you want to add roasted potatoes, baked feta, or roasted tomatoes, add them to a large baking sheet in order of cooking (see above), and once done, lower your oven to 375F. 

Drain and thoroughly rinse your chickpeas, and grab a medium bowl. This portion of the program may seem a bit fussy, but I promise that the pickiness is worth the payoff, because it delivers literally the creamiest hummus ever. Individually peel each of your chickpeas, discarding the skin in the sink, and transferring your peeled chickpea to your bowl. Sounds annoying, yes, but it only takes 10 minutes. Just pinch the chickpea, in one motion, toward the bottom of the chickpea, and the skin will pop right off. In a small saucepan, add your chickpeas, and cover with water. Boil until liquid reduces by 2/3, and drain the chickpeas, reserving about 3-4 tsp of the cooking liquid. 

To the bowl of a food processor, add your beets, with a healthy drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and a squeeze of lemon, and run the machine for 1 minute, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl throughout. Once totally smooth, add your tahini, the juice of 1 lemon, your 2 minced garlic cloves, and puree for 1 minute more. Scrape down the bowl, add your chickpeas, plus 3 teaspoons of your cooking liquid, plus a pinch of salt, and a dash of cumin. Run the machine for about 30 seconds, then slowly drizzle in your olive oil to your desired consistency, and puree until completely smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and if necessary, season with more salt and pepper, and pulse to combine. Add to a bowl, and drizzle with olive oil, and add a generous sprinkle each of parsley, lemon zest, and sesame seeds. Cover, and add to the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.

Bake your kebabs for 25 minutes at 375F, and make your garlic Za'atar yogurt. Combine your yogurt, lemon juice + zest, garlic, Za'atar seasoning, and parsley in a medium bowl, and whisk to combine. Cover, and reserve in refrigerator with your hummus until you're ready to serve. 

Serve your kebabs, hummus, and garlic yogurt with any vehicle you wish, but some seriously delicious options are toasted lavash bread, roasted baby potatoes and tomatoes on the vine, raw crudites, and baked feta (instructions for all below).

UO Mezze Platter 6.jpg

Who else is craving some outside BBQ's and days spent near the water? After this weekend, I'm more ready than ever. Part 2 of this little 3 part eating outside series will be here on Friday- hope to see you there, cold beverage in hand. 

DIY Mezze Platter with Vegetarian Kebabs, the Creamiest Beet Hummus, Roasted + Raw Crudites & Garlic Za'atar Yogurt

For the Beet Hummus

3 beets, peeled and cut into 1" chunks

1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, skins removed

Zest + juice of one lemon

1/3 cup tahini

2 large garlic cloves, smashed and finely minced

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to top

2 tbs freshly minced parsley to top

1 tbs. sesame seeds to top

Salt & pepper to taste

For the Vegetarian Kebabs

12 baby bell peppers, halved, seeds and membrane removed

3 zucchini, cut into 1/2" thick slices

1 red onion, cut into 2" pieces

10 baby portobello mushrooms, halved or quartered, depending how large they are  

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Juice of 1/2 a lemon + zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 garlic clove, grated

Salt & pepper to taste

For the Garlic Za'atar Yogurt:

2 1/4 cups plain yogurt

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 tablespoon Za'atar seasoning

2 tsp finely chopped parsley

Salt & pepper to taste

Options to Serve:

Assorted raw crudites, such as sliced English cucumber, rainbow carrots,

snap peas, green onions.

Roasted baby potatoes (2 cups baby potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary,

& olive oil roasted at 400F for 20 minutes)

Roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine (Seasoned with olive oil, salt, & pepper, & roasted

at 400F for 15 minutes)

Baked feta (Drizzle with olive oil, a sprinkle of dried oregano, and a few cracks black pepper,

& bake for 20 minutes at 400F)

Lavash bread, toasted

Props C/O Urban Outfitters

Scallion Butter Sheet Pan Cod + Root Veggies / My Parents' Classic Risotto

Dinners, SeafoodDani ColombattoComment
cod risotto 1 high res.jpg

You know when someone is describing a person you've never met, and they're like "Not only is she GORGEOUS, but she's hilarious, is an operatic singer, doctor, and a philanthropist!" (Or something equivalent)? I feel that way about this dinner sitch. It's kind of the Kristen Bell of dinners, in my humble opinion. It's super fresh, and bright; it's got a lot going on, but it's also pretty mellow and easy going (it's married to Dax Shepard, after all!), and underneath all that, IT'S RICH-- metaphorically. Wink. 

This dish is simultaneously simple and comforting, while still managing to eek out a little elegance along the way. I got these insane, purple scallions at Agua Dulce Farm (more on that below), that sincerely made me question whether every other scallion I've ingested in this lifetime has been total, or just partial garbage. JK, but they're equal parts spicy, herbaceous, and sweet. That's like, 3 flavor profiles packed into one vegetable, so color me impressed. I've been throwing them in everything socially acceptable- most notably, this lemony, scallion compound butter. Half of this gets spread on the cod, and the other half gets cozy with the veggies. In vintage Martha's words: It's a good thing.

Where the whole aforementioned Kristin Bell metaphor comes into play is underneath all this scallion-buttery goodness, with our risotto. I grew up on this exact risotto, and it's the most delicious, dreamy, blank canvas of a risotto on which to lay your hopes, dreams, and whatever else you may please. Listen- I know there's a lot of bullshit risotto propaganda going around. Word on the street is that it's super difficult, high maintenance, and you guys, FAKE NEWS. Frankly, one of my first cooking memories is standing at the stove sauteing shallots, and stirring broth into risotto, so if my 8 year old ass could handle it, chances are, it's not that hard. Let's hop to it, shall we?

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Preheat your oven to 375F, and make your scallion butter. In either a bowl, or if you're like me and feel like saving those lil' wrists of yours, in a food processor, add your room temperature butter, scallions, lemon zest and juice, parsley, and pulse or mix until combined. Divide in half, and set aside. If you're making this is advance, spoon onto parchment paper, and refrigerate. Remove from the fridge about an hour before you're ready to use to allow it to come up to room temperature so it's easier to distribute. 

To a sheet pan, add your beets and carrots, and season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and add from one half of your compound butter, add all but 2 tbs butter to your veggies. The remaining 2 tbs is for the mushrooms, which we'll add when we flip the beets and carrots halfway through cooking. Speaking of, 20 minutes into cooking, remove your sheet pan from the oven, tossing your beets and carrots, and adding your mushrooms, along with your reserved 2 tbs compound butter. Scoot the vegetables over to one half of the pan (if you're using a large baking sheet, if not, just grab a second sheet pan), and add your cod, on a piece of parchment paper large enough to make a parcel around the fish while it's cooking, and season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Spread the remaining half of your scallion butter on your cod, wrap up your package, and return to oven for 20 minutes. 

While your fish and veggies are cooking, we just so happen to have the perfect risotto time slot. Heat your broth until it comes to a boil, and drop the heat to medium-high. To a large saute pan, or dutch oven, add a little butter and olive oil, and saute your shallots until they begin to become translucent, and add your garlic, along with your dry Arborio rice, and saute for a minute more, giving your rice a slight toast. Deglaze with your wine, add a sprinkle of salt, and continue to stir often. After your wine has reduced slightly, add a couple ladles of your boiling broth, and continue to stir gently until the rice has absorbed a majority, but not all of the broth, and add more ladles of broth until it is barely covering the rice mixture. Repeat the process until all of the broth is absorbed into the rice, usually about 20 minutes. Remove the risotto from the heat, add your butter, and parmigiano reggiano. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper. Serve with even more parm, because duh. 

Remove your cod and veggies from the oven, and allow the fish to rest for just a couple minutes. To serve, spoon a big bed of risotto into a shallow bowl, and add your cod, surrounded by your roasted veggies, and garnish with whatever fresh herbs you have available. I had some gorgeous beet micro greens I picked up at the farmer's market, along with some basil, which was a seriously delicious accompaniment to everything, including the risotto. Speaking of which- I really hope that one makes its way into your handy dinnertime arsenal. It's so customize-able. Add a chopped porcini mushrooms along with your shallots at the beginning of cooking, or a big dollop of pesto at the end. Don't even get me started on making this during tomato season. That's both a threat, and a promise

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In concluzhe, a note on a more personal level (If you're not here for that, feel free to scroll down for the recipe). These past few weeks have been exhausting- full of lots of life's many wonderful anomalies, and I won't lie to you, it left me feeling anxious. I needed a switch-up, and boy, did I ever find a good one.

Last week, I did a new thing that was, at first glance, out of comfort zone, but also seemingly in my wheelhouse. I had my first day of volunteering at Agua Dulce Farm, and let me tell you, it was beyond inspiring. I first found them at the SFC Farmer's Market here in Austin, and ended up picking up the gorgeous beets, and beet micro greens used in this dish. After gently stalking them on Insta, and seeing they needed volunteers, I jumped at the chance to get in on learning how to grow some seriously pretty produce. The experience of actually getting my hands dirty at the farm made me feel even more connected to my food, and sincerely lit a fire inside me to learn the ins and outs of growing produce to one day put into practice when I have a little land of my own.  Walking into the greenhouse Monday on that crisp morning felt like a serious breath of fresh air. Huge beds of water filled the space, and atop the water were planters (Fully using all the wrong terminology here- farm newb, party-o-one), containing various greens at all stages of the growing process, as far as you could see. I spent the morning harvesting, transplanting, and processing some seriously gorgeous greens- some of which I'd never even heard of, and chatting with other volunteers, and farmers about their dreams of growing their own produce one day. It made me feel so happy, inspired, and reconnected to certain aspects of why I'm obsessed with food. It was kind of a gift, and I just wanted to touch on it a little bit here.

With that, I sincerely wish you a bright start to the week, full of some serious inspo in all you set out to make and do. 

Scallion Butter Roasted Cod + Root Veggies With My Parents' Classic Risotto

For the Scallion Compound Butter

12 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature

4 scallions, whites and greens sliced

Zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tbs lemon juice

Salt & pepper to taste

For the Cod

1 lb Fresh cod filet

6 tbs scallion butter

Sprinkle of salt & pepper

For the Vegetables

6 carrots, peeled and halved if small, if large, quarter

6 beets, peeled and quartered

1 1/2 cups mushrooms of choice

6 tbs scallion butter 

Sprinkle of salt & pepper

For the Risotto

1 cup Arborio rice

1 tbs each butter & olive oil for the shallots & garlic

2 small shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup dry white wine

About 6 cups chicken broth

1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano (plus more to serve)

2 tbs butter

Salt & pepper to taste

Buttermilk Brined Fried Chicken + Classic AF Wedge Salad with Quick Pickled Onions, Homemade Herbed Ranch + All the Bacon

Dinners, SaladsDani ColombattoComment
fried chicken 1 high res.jpg

Were I ever to be on death row (and sweet shit, may that NEVER occur,), this would be high up there on my last meal list. There's something so satisfying, summery, and quintessentially all-American (like, back when that phrase had a positive connotation)-feeling about a good 'ol wedge salad and some fried chicken. What is it about the wedge salad that has allowed it to be equal parts guilty-pleasure-trashy (meant as the utmost compliment), and Don Draper over all these years? Like, seriously, what gives you the right, wedge?! My theory is, the wedge salad always been unapologetic-ally, exactly who it is, take it or leave it. Though, from my extensive wedge survey legwork, I'll just say, most people opt to take this heap of iceberg glory any day, when done well. And baby, this one is done well, if I may be so bold as to say so myself... 

We're not reinventing the wheel here, but there are like, three very simple things you can do to take your wedge from just *meh* to the highlight of the dinner table, and I'm not here to keep secrets. 1) Soak your wedges in ice water right up until you're ready to assemble. This keeps them insanely crisp, cold, and refreshing, which is precisely the vibe we are going for here. 2) HOMEMADE. DRESSING. ALWAYS. It seriously makes all the difference. This buttermilk ranch dressing has notes of garlic, lemon zest, and is packed with tons of fresh dill, parsley, and chives for all the freshness. If some of it makes its way onto your chicken, you won't be mad, promise. 3) Keep the toppings simple and punchy. This is a fork + knife salad, so keeping the structural precariousness of accouterments at a minimum is key. Quick pickled onions give an acidic punch, cherry tomatoes for a pop of summery brightness, toasted pepitas for crunch, salty bacon, cause, OBVIOUSLY, and finally, a sprinkle of bleu cheese crumbles, should you so desire. 

Onto the main event- though, wedges could arguably be the main event in my world any day, but I digress... I know everyone, backslash everyone's mom, grandma, etc., has a tried and true fried chicken recipe. This one just happens to be one I've tweaked over the years and really love. The batter is crisp, yet light, and super flavorful. The chicken manages to stay perfectly succulent, thanks to an overnight buttermilk bath, with all the good things. The frying oil even gets infused with some herbs for a hot second (punz), and it makes all the subtly delicious difference.  

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Start with your dredge. In a shallow dish or pie plate, combine your flour, cornstarch, baking powder, garlic powder, cayenne, and Old Bay Seasoning. Season your chicken with salt and pepper. I used a combo of 4 bone-in thighs, and 5 drumsticks. Next, prepare your buttermilk brine. In a large bowl, combine your buttermilk, Worcestershire sauce, hot suace, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and whisk. Dredge your chicken in your seasoned flour/cornstarch mixture, and add to your buttermilk brine. Soak in the brine for at least 3 hours, but I would totes say, the longer you go, the better it will be. If you can spare a full 24 hours, DO IT! You won't be sorry. 

Make your dressing. This can also totally be done a day ahead of time! Spare yourself. You're already going to be frying chicken. Let's keep the other day-of duties at a minimum, shall we? In either a blender, or a vessel you like using with an immersion blender, add your mayo, sour cream, 2 pureed garlic cloves, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest/juice, parsley, dill, chives, salt, and pepper. Blend to combine. After blending for a few seconds, turn the blender on low, and slowly drizzle in your buttermilk. Blend until smooth, and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper to taste. 

Preheat your oven to 400F, and add your bacon to a large baking sheet, and cook until golden brown, about 15 minutes. 

About an hour or so before you want to eat, cut your iceberg wedges into quarters, and add to a large bowl of ice water, and add covered, to the fridge. Slice your red onion, and add to a bowl, and cover with red wine vinegar, and add a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cover, and place in the fridge until ready to eat.

This is also the point where I usually halve my cherry tomatoes, toast my pepitas, and chop my parsley and scallions to finish off the wedges with. Not trying to pull that last minute gruntwork at the end, ya know?!

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Lower your oven to 325F.

To a large cast iron skillet, add about 2" of vegetable oil- I like using peanut, or safflower oil for frying. You can also substitute whatever vegetable oil you have on hand. Heat on medium-high. This will take probably about 2 minutes or so to be at the desired temperature. Add your rosemary and thyme sprigs, and let simmer in the oil for about 30 seconds. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon, and discard. 

Add your chicken in batches of three from your wet brine to your dry dredge, shaking off the excess seasoned flour/cornstarch mixture, and into the heated oil. Cook for about 3-4 minutes per side. You'll know when the chicken is ready to flip, because it will no longer stick to the bottom of the pan. Add to a bed of paper towels to drain. 

Work through all your chicken, batch by batch, and upon completion, transfer from your paper towels to a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 160F internal temperature. 

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Dress your salad however you may please. For me, this means copious bacon, EXTRA  pepitas (they remind me of sunflower seeds and my deep and tacky secret love of piling them on at salad bars), pickled onions, lots of tomatoes, a healthy smattering of herbed buttermilk dressing, and a light sprinky-dink of bleu cheese crumbles. Full disclozhe: We totally ate this salad next day with cold fried chicken strewn atop it. Am I the only one who loves next day cold fried chicken more than night-of fried chicken? Who am I kidding, it's all great. Hey, tomorrow is Friday! Any plans? Here we have dessert shoots on the brain! A fun departure for this savory lady. Savory lady? Sorry for that one. Leaving it in anyway. 

Buttermilk-Brined Fried Chicken + Wedge Salad

For the Chicken:

10 pc. your favorite combo of chicken (I used 4 bone-in thighs, & 5 drumsticks)

2 c flour

1 1/4 c cornstarch

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cayenne 

1/2 tsp old bay

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 qt buttermilk

1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce

Couple dashes hot sauce

1 tbs garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Safflower oil

3 sprigs rosemary, 5 sprigs thyme

For the wedges:

1 Head iceberg lettuce, quartered

5 strips of bacon, cooked until crisp

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

2 scallions, sliced

1/2 cup pepitas, toasted

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (+ red wine vinegar to cover, plus pinch salt + pepper for pickling)

Bleu cheese, crumbled, if desired

For the Herbed Buttermilk Ranch:

1 c good mayo

1/2 c sour cream or creme fraiche

2 tbs each freshly chopped parsley, dill, and chives

2 cloves garlic, smashed and pureed

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Zest 1 lemon, + juice 1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Chipotle Lime Salmon Tostadas with Crispy Potatoes & All the Fixings

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
salmon tostadas 2 high res.jpg

Fridays have quickly become my favorite day. It's the official start of our weekends, and it usually means a little sleeping in, a pretty walk, a little list-makin', a little grocery shopping, and planning the next two days' projects. This weekend we might even be squeezing in a little new living sitch perusal, which, you can't see me but I'm doing back handsprings, and dancing through a wildflower field with my cat over that prospect. The start to the weekend also usually entails an easy dinner, enter: these tostadas. First, let me just say, crispy tortillas are LyFe, and in this case, the perfect vehicle for tender, chipotle lime butter-basted salmon. Also, if you add said chipotle-lime butter to some crispy baby new potatoes, life seems like, 17% more rosy. Avo, cotija, tons of cilantro, and quick pickled onions are always welcome accouterments, in addition to the most addictive cilantro vinaigrette ever. Are they called "fixings" because after you're done eating, you feel like you've solved all your problems? Just something to think about. 

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Place roughly 12-14 baby new potatoes (I used a mix of purple, Yukon gold, and red) in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, and cook until fork tender. While your potatoes are cooking, make your chipotle lime compound butter. In a food processor, combine your butter, lime zest, juice, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Set aside. Make your cilantro vinaigrette. Combine your cilantro, cotija, lime juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil, and blend until fully emulsified. Set in the fridge until you're ready to eat. 

When your potatoes are done cooking, let them cool for a few minutes before handling. Preheat your oven to 400F and cut your potatoes into 1/4" thick slices. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of your chipotle-lime butter and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and toss.  

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Season your salmon with salt and pepper, and then spread on the rest of your chipotle lime butter evenly. Return your potatoes to the oven, along with your salmon, and bake for about 20-25 minutes. 

Thinly slice half an onion, and add to a small bowl, and cover just barely with red wine vinegar, and dd a pinch salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat about 2 tbs vegetable oil in a small saute pan on medium heat, and crisp your tortillas, flipping once to crisp evenly on each side. Add to a bed of paper towels to drain. 

To assemble, add your salmon atop your tortilla, and surround with your crispy potatoes. Top with your pickled onions, cotija, avocado slices, cilantro vinaigrette, and sour cream. Serve with extra erry-thang. Cherry tomatoes, freshly torn cilantro, hot sauce, your salsa of choice, lime wedges...it's all gold.

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The salmon is super tender, with just the right amount of spice from the chipotle, and can I get a hell YAS for some carb-on-carb action?! The potatoes are crisp on the outside, and perfectly fluffy on the inside- my FAVORITE and frankly, the only way I roast potatoes (Totes stole that method from my mom). The pickled onions and cilantro vinaigrette bring all the necessary acidity to the game, and a little dollop of sour cream, and sprinkle of cotija rounds everything out quite nicely, indeed. Tostada be kiddin' me, they're SO. GOOD. I'm sorry, I had to. 

Wishing you a weekend docket full of all the good things, with an emphasis on tostadas. 

Chipotle-Lime Salmon Tostadas with Crispy Potatoes, Cilantro Vinaigrette, & All the Fixings

1 lb. salmon

6 tortillas

1 dozen baby potatoes

Vegetable oil for frying tortillas

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced, + about 3 tbs red wine vinegar for quick pickled onions

For your chipotle lime compound butter:

5 tbs butter, room temperature

Zest of 1 lime

3 tbs fresh lime juice

3 tsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp chili powder

Salt & pepper to taste

To serve:

1 avocado, thinly sliced

Cilantro vinaigrette

Crumbled cotija cheese

Sour cream

Pickled onions

Freshly chopped cilantro 

Sour cream

Lime wedges

Whole Wheat Penne Salad with Sundried Tomato & Kalamata Pesto, Capers, Pine Nuts, Feta, Tomatoes & Basil

Dinners, Salads, AppetizersDani ColombattoComment
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I've been thinking a LOT about inspiration this week. Where we get it, what drives us, what we do with said inspo once it comes to us, etc. I've been thinking a lot about how it seems like people are treating Instagram more and more like Pinterest, gathering ideas, and taking in seemingly infinite content. I'm not going to get on a soapbox about intellectual property, but I will pose this question: Where do you get your inspiration? What is your intention with your inspiration, and when scrolling through Instagram? Is it to gather ideas? Is it to connect?

All these thoughts this week led me to think about the intentionality of my own inspiration. I'm making a concerted effort to be exponentially more mindful in taking the time and effort to soak in inspo, like I've done my whole life before all the social meeds infiltrated. This often means asking myself what I value in my creativity. The thing about answering this question is that, if you are really honest with yourself, the answer most likely will not be what "that person on Instagram" is doing. You are SO uniquely you. If you ever feel lost in a sea of content, please remember NO ONE can replicate what it is exactly that you value. Return to that, and I promise, a fresh batch of inspiration will arrive sooner than you can double tap a picture. With that, I'll drop some Seuss on you: "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you". True. That. Doctor. Now, onto pasta. 

Speaking of values, I think I've mentioned this before, but nostalgia is up there for me. This is a simple AF pasta salad, but the woman who inspired it is anything but. My Grandma Joyce is partially responsible for making me the lady I am today. She was poised, tough-as-nails, hilarious, and always let me know how strong I was when I didn't have the faintest clue. I could go on for days about her. One thing that she was not, however, was the "chef" of the family. Listen, I could regale you with tales of ambrosia salads all day, but I want you to want this pasta at the end of this, so that feels counterproductive. I'll just say, that when she made this pasta salad for my little cousin Giuseppe's baby shower, it was a surprise hit given the hands that made it (I LOVE YOU GRANDMA!). As per previous mention, this salad really couldn't be any easier. The pesto is a total blender deal, and you'll even have a little left for additional sauce/crostini purposes. The whole thing can be made in advance, eaten warm, room temp, or cold, and makes a bitchin' next-day lunch sitch. 

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook your penne until al dente. Make your pesto. In a blender, combine your toasted almonds, and garlic cloves, and pulse until the almonds look like fine crumbs. Add your roughly chopped sundried tomatoes (the kind packed in oil), kalamata olives, parsley, salt, and pepper, and blend on low, opening the spout, and slowly drizzling in your olive oil. 

Add your pesto to your whole wheat penne while it's still warm, and toss to combine. Next, add your cherry tomatoes, feta, pine nuts, capers, basil and parsley. That is quite literally it. When I say easy AF, I mean it! 

If ever there were a meal to eat straight-out-o-the-fridge, in the middle of the night, with a spoon, well, this is it, mah friends.

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Thank you for hanging in for my little inspiration spiel. I've heard a lot of people are experiencing inspiration burnout/frustration with Instagram, and just really felt compelled to share my two cents. Focus on what is uniquely you, and you'll create something you feel compelled to share. I sincerely wish you a week full of new inspiration, and sweet moments with your favorite peeps. Love ya. 

Whole Wheat Penne with Sundried Tomato & Kalamata Pesto, Capers, Pine Nuts, Tomatoes & Basil

For the pesto:

1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, roughly chopped

1/4 cup Kalamata olives

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley

1/2 cup almonds, toasted

Salt & pepper to taste

For the pasta:

1 lb whole wheat penne

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

1/2 cup feta cheese

1/2 pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup chopped parsley

3 tbs capers

Baked Chicken Wings Two-Ways: Romesco-Rubbed & Asian-Inspired

Appetizers, DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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Happy Sunday! I hope that this weekend you've seen a little sun (or enjoyed some cozy time), hung with someone you like, maybe pet a kitten, all the good things! Speaking of kittens, I'm coming at you this morning with heavy eyelids, and from the standpoint that there isn't enough coffee in the world. My cat, Greg woke up at about 3am (the uzhe), and decided we no longer required sleep. By that, I mean screech-meows from the depths of cat hell. He was fed, everything was fine. He just wanted to hang out, which is equal parts cute, cracks me up, and makes me think we are so, so screwed, hah! Anywho, cat antics aside, I could really use an app platter teleported to me whilst I catch up on this final 3 Bachelor business (so much ew). If I had my pick of teleported app, these baked wings would most definitely make the cut. 

I love a little variety, and as I've mentioned before, I also love when things look like more effort than they really are. It's a total make ahead situation. It's a leftover multi-use sauce situation. It's a damn win all around. Let's get into it. 

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To make your romesco-rubbed wings, season 1 lb flats and drumettes with salt, pepper, and Za'atar seasoning. Add to a large freezer bag. Next, add 7 tbs romesco sauce to the bag, and rub it into the wings. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but overnight would be ideal. Boom. That's it! Now, onto the Asian-inspired wings. 

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This is my wonderful Stepdad's recipe, and whenever he makes them, they're gone in minutes. To make your marinade, in a large bowl, combine your soy sauce, brown sugar, Hoisin, honey, garlic, ginger, rice wine vinegar, five spice, and crushed red pepper, and slowly whisk in your sesame oil. Reserve half the marinade. Season 1 lb chicken wing flats and drumettes with salt, pepper, and a pinch of five spice. Add to a large freezer bag, along with half of the marinade. Just like the romesco wings, refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but ideally overnight. 

Preheat your oven to 425F. Line two baking sheets with foil, and place wire racks atop the foil so the heat circulates evenly around the wings. Spray with nonstick spray and add your chicken. Drizzle slightly with olive oil. To a small saucepan, add your reserved marinade, and on medium-low heat, reduce the liquid by about 70% so it's thick enough to brush on your wings while they're baking. Bake for about 35 minutes, turning wings halfway through, brushing each with their respective reserved marinades. Make sure to baste the Asian wings about every 10 minutes or so. 

I served the romesco-rubbed wings with extra romesco, and lemony Za'atar garlic yogurt. The herbaceous yogurt was the perfect compliment to the rich romesco. The fact that the base of the romesco sauce is almonds and crusty bread proved to be an extra source of crunch on the outside of the wings that I was not mad at one bit. It was such a nice Mediterranean departure from the usual Buffalo situation.

For the Asian wings, I went super easy on the condiment front. A simple sesame vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and cilantro was the perfect acidic compliment to the slight sweetness of these wings. Which, as someone who isn't huuuuuge on sweet meats, was not overpowering at all. I also made a soy aioli which was literally mayo combined with a couple tablespoons soy sauce, and lots of black pepper (Also v good on artichokes, btw). 

With that, I say, why wing once when you can wing twice? I hope your weekend has been a thing of beauty, friends. 

Romesco-Rubbed Wings

1 lb chicken wing flats and drumettes

7 tablespoons Romesco sauce

2 tablespoons Za'atar

Salt and pepper

Asian-Inspired Wings

1 lb chicken wing flats and drumettes

1/4 c soy sauce

1/8 c brown sugar

1 1/2 tbs. Hoisin

1 tsp. five spice

1/4 c rice wine vinegar

1 tbs honey

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbs fresh ginger, grated

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1/2 tbs Sriracha 

2 tbs sesame oil

Kale and Salmon Caesar with Buttery, Everything-Spiced Breadcrumbs

Dinners, SaladsDani ColombattoComment
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This wouldn't really be my blog if I didn't post this recipe. I've shared it before on my previous blog, Goldwire, and it was one of our most popular recipes, and in my opinion, for good reason! Aside from toasting some breadcrumbs, melting some butter, and a little chopping, this dish is super hands-off. More than that, it's super satisfying, and I feel genuinely fulfilled after I eat it. Sure, it's not the healthiest salad on the block, thanks to copious amounts of parm, but who gives a shit? You guys know why you're here...

I've provided the kale and omegas. I've done my due diligence in the health department as far as I'm concerned. But because I also believe in trying to give ourselves our best chance at true happiness, there also just so happens to be a really, really delicious Caesar dressing with lots of the aforementioned cheese, along with mounds of buttery, toasted, everything-spiced breadcrumbs. Balance. Do you guys read italics in a creepy whisper? Because that's how I'm intending it. 

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Preheat your oven to 375F, and season your salmon with salt and pepper. Melt 3 tablespoons butter on medium heat, and add your garlic, and lemon zest. Let simmer for 30 seconds, and pour over your salmon. Top with a few thin lemon slices,  and your rosemary, and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

While your salmon is in the oven make your dressing. I must mention this dressing is 100% taken from my stepdad, Ricky, who is an amazing cook. I look forward to this salad every time I visit, because even though I make it at home, isn't everything always better when someone makes it for you? Also, if they're the OG of said recipe, even better. This dressing begins with 3-4 anchovies, smashed, or about 2 inches anchovy paste. Don't bristle at the anchovy, it doesn't taste fishy, it actually just imparts that savory quality that's inherent in Caesar dressing. Mash your anchovies or anchovy paste into your smashed garlic cloves, and add your red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and whisk together. Slowly drizzle in your olive oil, whisking continuously. At the end, whisk in your Parmesan. 

Make your breadcrumbs. Now, I always make either homemade breadcrumbs or croutons for this salad, but we recently went to a pop-up dinner at June's All Day, which has quickly become one of my very favorite restaurants here. The dinner was done by legendary New Orleans restaurant, Turkey and the Wolf (More on this later), and I was super-dupes inspired in so many ways. One standout was their insane wedge salad that was topped with tons of everything seasoning- which, if you're unfamiliar, run, don't walk to Trader Joe's and grab their "Everything but the Bagel" seasoning. It was just so insanely delicious, that I thought I'd add it to the breadcrumbs here, too. To a skillet on medium-low heat, add two tablespoons butter, plus one tablespoon olive oil, and add two cups of bread that you've pulsed in a food processor. Toss together until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside, and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of your everything seasoning. Toss together.

In a large skillet, heated to medium-high (I recommend a cast iron),  add your kale leaves, tossing until slightly burnt on the edges. Add to a large bowl, and set aside. 

Dress your kale with your Caesar dressing, and add your desired amount of salmon, breadcrumbs, and if you're me, a big-ass handful of parm at the end. 

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I love how by sauteing the kale in a dry pan, you achieve those crisp little edges. The bright Caesar is the perfect compliment to the rich salmon, and the everything breadcrumbs provide the best, buttery crunch. I'm in a very committed relationship with this salad, so user beware. Hope you're ready for love...

Kale and Salmon Caesar Salad with Buttery Everything-Spiced Breadcrumbs

1 lb. Salmon

3 tbs. unsalted butter

1 tbs. fresh chopped rosemary

1 garlic clove, chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

For the dressing:

3-4 Anchovies (or about 2" anchovy paste)

2 tbs. red wine vinegar

1 tbs. lemon juice

1 1/2 tbs. Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 lg. clove garlic, smashed and finely minced

1/2 c olive oil

1/3 c Parmigiano Reggiano

For the breadcrumbs:

2 c. breadcrumbs (from about 2-3 slices bread, pulsed in a food processor)

1 1/2 tbs. everything seasoning

Parmesan Polenta & Shrimp Bowls with Rainbow Chard, Tomatoes, Crispy Prosciutto, & White Wine Sauce

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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Today, I greet you with something insanely comforting, warm, and inherently, a part of my childhood. Growing up in a Northern Italian family, we ate a lot of polenta. I'll admit, my first experiences with it were lost on me as a 7/8 year old. I was like, why are we essentially eating cream of wheat with chicken? V confusing for me at the time. A few years later, and a few more experiences getting my hands dirty in the kitchen, and I understood the merits. It's a fully customize-able peasant food vehicle, that can be whatever you want it to be. Fried? Hell yes. Along with chicken cacciatore? Double hell yes, and also, that one's coming soon, guys. As a soft, herbaceous, Parmesan-laden bed for rainbow chard, tomatoes, crisp prosciutto, and juicy shrimp to rest upon? YAS. PLEASE.

Before we shrimp it up, just a quick word from my sponsor, Personal Anecdote. Wink emoji. 

My sweet boyfriend, Benjamin and I met when we were 16 and 17 respectively, dated when we were 18 and 19 for about 8 months, broke up, and found each other again as almost 30-year-olds. While there are so many reasons I hold our story so dear, it's honestly the gems of memories that keep popping up since we've gotten back together that never cease to amaze me. Mainly because it shows how we all take in experiences so differently and different moments stand out for each of us individually. For example: He shared with me a memory he had when we were like 18, and we went to dinner at the home of my wonderful grandparents, Joe and Joyce. This was a super regular occurrence, which is why I probably didn't absorb the experience as a future precious memory. In fact, still, the memory itself seems kind of anticlimactic. We were having polenta and bolognese sauce that night, and Ben simply said he remembered my mom, sister, and I each taking turns stirring the polenta when my grandma Joyce was occupied (most likely making drinks). Seriously, such a simple memory. If he would have told me that stood out to him at the time, I know without a doubt it would have been totally lost on me. Now, much has changed. We lost my grandparents in June of 2017, and now, that memory will forever be a little polenta post-it note in my mind. It's a tiny testament to the community created around meals in my family, and the ease of us all being together. Since I first introduced this as a sponsored anecdote, let's just go with the code SappySally2018 for 30% off your first month of Mental Post-Its. Screamin' deal, ya'll. Thanks for bearing with me.

Polenta time. 

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To start, bring 9 cups of water to a rolling boil. While you're waiting on that, crisp four slices prosciutto in a pan on medium heat. Flip once, browning on both sides, and transfer to a bed of paper towels to drain.

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons salt to your boiling water, and gradually whisk in 2 1/2 cups cornmeal, being sure to stir vigorously to avoid any lumps. Whisk frequently, until the cornmeal has fully softened, about 20 minutes.

While you're cooking your polenta, roughly tear 7 stalks of rainbow chard, and heat a scant amount of olive oil on medium-low heat. Add  1 minced shallot, and saute until it starts to become translucent. Next, add your chard, and your garlic atop the chard, and toss together. Turn heat on low, and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the tomatoes have expelled a good amount of liquid, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Season your shrimp with salt, and cayenne pepper. To a large saute pan, add 4 tablespoons butter on medium-high heat. add your shrimp and garlic, and de-glaze with the white wine. Toss shrimp until fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Finish with your lemon juice and zest.

Add 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter to your polenta, along with 1 1/2 cups whole milk at room temperature, 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan, 1 cup freshly chopped parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. FYI, it will need a good amount of salt.

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Add your polenta to a bowl, along with your tomatoes and chard, shrimp, crisp prosciutto, and garnish with fresh basil leaves, a few spoonfuls of your white wine sauce, and even more Parmesan. Serve with lemon wedges. 

This is a bowlful of winter-meets-summer. It makes a delicious and relatively cheap dinner that comes together so fast, and dare I say, it would make an excellent brunch, backslash hangover cure.

What's a favorite food memory of yours? I would love to know!

I hope you're gliding through this week like the gazelle that you are. 

Parmesan Polenta & Shrimp Bowls with Rainbow Chard, Tomatoes, Crispy Prosciutto, & White Wine Sauce

(Serves 4)

For the polenta:

9 cups water

2 1/2 cups cornmeal

1 1/4 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups milk at room temperature

1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan

1 cup freshly chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

For the rainbow chard + tomatoes:

7 stalks rainbow chard, roughly torn

12 cherry tomatoes

1 shallot, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

For the shrimp + white wine sauce:

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined, tails on

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 tbs unsalted butter

3/4 cups dry white wine

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tbs lemon juice

To serve:

4 slices prosciutto

Fresh basil leaves, torn

Grated Parmesan

Lemon wedges


Herb-Roasted Chicken with Croutons, Cherry Tomatoes, Lemon & Leeks

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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What is more Friday dinner than roasted chicken? If you're asking Ina Garten, the answer would emphatically be, "Nothing!!!" (Also probably insert something about Jeffrey/also, "how easy is that?", etc). This recipe idea arrived while watching Barefoot Contessa during a little bout of cat insomnia. AKA my cat is apparently a Beverly Hills Real Housewife who will only eat 12 small meals a day, and he will LET YOU KNOW when it needs to happen. *snaps cat fingers* "Excuse me...Hun? When you get a minute..." That's what I imagine his inner dialogue is. So condescending... I would be more annoyed, but he is the cutest dang alarm clock. Like a fluffy little baby carrot...He's orange. I digress. Less cat more chicken!

Like I was saying, Ina inspired this recipe. I believe if you google the OG recipe it's called "Million Dollar Chicken", and it was conceptualized by a chef in NY. Since I'm not in a mood for butchery, and I don't own a blazing prehistoric oven, I adapted this little number to be SO easy, but it still feels Friday fancy, and dare I say, V-day approved.

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If you're a fan of all things caramelized, or have been known to be a sheet-pan-picker (I see you), this is ONE HUNDO made for your soul. Let's get into it. 

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Preheat your oven to 425F.

The goodness of this dish starts from the ground up. First, we lay a foundation of our baguette slices around the surface area of our cast iron skillet (If you don't have a cast iron, substitute a good, heavy-bottomed pan). Sprinkle your chopped leek and garlic cloves atop your bread. Next, season your chicken. In this application, I used 4 leg quarters, but I have made this dish with everything from a whole chicken, to a whole broken down chicken, to bone-in thighs and bone-in breasts. The key is to make sure whatever you're using is bone-in, because that is what helps retain a lot of the moisture, and with a bed of bread in a 425F oven, you'll want that moisture. 

Next, season your chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper, and freshly chopped rosemary. Place your chicken in an even layer atop your bread, leeks, and garlic. Next sprinkle in your halved cherry tomatoes, lemon slices, and thyme sprigs around any gaps in the pan. Add one final drizzle of olive oil around all of your veggies in your pan. 

For your basting mixture, melt 3 tablespoons butter on medium low, and add 1/4 cup dry white wine and a sprinkling of salt, if using unsalted butter. Brush onto chicken and veggies every 15 minutes. After your second baste, mix together 2 tablespoons creme fraiche, or sour cream, 3 tablespoons your white wine butter, and a slight sprinkle of salt and pepper. Remove the chicken, and lower oven to 375F. Brush your creme fraiche glaze onto your chicken, and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until internal temperature registers 160F. 

The creme fraiche glaze is key because the milk solids help that chicken achieve a final, beautiful golden brown at the end of cooking. Throw together a lil' green salad if your heart so desires, and you are SO ready for this. 

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The thing that makes this so delicious is the way the white wine butter seeps into the chicken, and the butter and chicken juices soak into your croutons that get a beautiful crust on the bottom. The cherry tomatoes, lemons, and leeks get beautifully caramelized and charred. It's like chicken, stuffing, and vegetables all in one, but it feels decidedly more special. The most labor intensive part of this dinner is basting, and that's a flick of the wrist. Get this baby in your repertoire, stat, and be ready for a flood of compliments.

Roasted Lemon Herb Chicken with Croutons, Cherry Tomatoes, & Leeks

(Serves 4-5)

4 quartered chicken legs

1 baguette, sliced in about 3/4" slices

1 leek, chopped,

1 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 a lemon, thinly sliced

2 sprigs rosemary, chopped

6 sprigs thyme

3 tbs butter

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tbs creme fraiche, or sour cream

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

Flank Steak Salad with Roasted Baby Potatoes, Snap Peas, & Hand-Torn Croutons

Dinners, SaladsDani ColombattoComment
flank steak salad 2.jpg

I'm starting this week off on a salad note, because I ate my weight in spinach dip, wings, and stuffed mushrooms yesterday. Though, this salad feels less like a salad, and more just like steak, on a bed of greenery, cuddling with crispy potatoes and croutons. 

The flank steak in this salad is so flavorful, with a rosemary-balsamic marinade, cooked to medium-rare, tender goodness. The crisp, sweet snap peas, buttery leeks, and creamy avocado are necessary balancing elements to the richness of the flank steak, and the crunchy, fried-like texture of the potatoes and croutons. A lemony, dijon vinaigrette cuts through with all the brightness, and parmigiano-reggiano sits atop it all as the cheese queen she is. 

This is the lazy-gal's salad dream. It's so hands-off, except for maybe 5 minutes. Make it for a get-together, and be like 75% less stressed. 

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The marinading should happen as early as you can/want it to (up to 24 hours prior). Smash 2 garlic cloves with coarse salt, and grind them into a paste with the side of your knife. The salt releases the oils and moisture in the garlic, making it easier to smash. Chop 2 sprigs rosemary. Mix together your garlic and rosemary mixture with a drizzle of olive oil, creating essentially, a paste (or, as my stepdad Ricky calls it, a mulch, haha!) Season your steak generously with salt and pepper, and slather on your rosemary/garlic mixture add to a large freezer bag. Whisk together your balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and dijon mustard, and add to your freezer bag. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (longer for better results). 

Preheat your oven to 400F and add your potatoes to a large sheet pan. Season with olive oil, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Roast, skin side up (so the fleshy side crisps), for about 20 minutes, tossing, and roasting an additional 10 minutes. Set aside. To a large saucepan, add a tablespoon butter, and saute your leeks until they start to become translucent. Add your snap peas, and season with salt and pepper. Toss, cooking until they become even more bright green. You want them to remain crisp, so just for about 3-4 minutes on medium low heat. Set aside. 

Remove your flank steak from the refrigerator. You want it to come closer to room temperature before cooking. 

Hand tear your bread and add to a large sheet tray, seasoning with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for about 5-7 minutes, watching closely, toss, and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Make your vinaigrette. Add your Dijon, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper to a jar, and shake until fully emulsified.

In a large, cast iron skillet, heat 2 tbs olive oil on high heat, once skillet is fully heated, lower to medium-high, and add your flank steak. Cook about  3 minutes on each side, making not to move it around so you achieve a nice sear. Return to a board and cover with foil to rest for 10 minutes. 

Slice your steak thinly, against the grain, and assemble that salad. 

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In the Elaine Bennis-esque category of "Big Salads" this one checks all the boxes. Tender flank steak, crisp, herbaceous potatoes, crunchy croutons made with bread you'd actually want to eat by itself, and all the veggies to make you feel like you're still doing your body a favor. I'm ready to book an airbnb with this salad, and hold its hand through some wineries. Happy monday, ya'll. 

Flank Steak Salad

(serves 4-5)

1 Flank Steak 

1 Head romaine lettuce

Roughly 15 baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved (any baby potatoes will do)

1 rosemary sprig

1 1/2 Cups snap peas

1 leek

1 Roma tomato

1 Avocado

Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/4 Baguette (or 3 slices good bread)

For the Marinade:

1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Baja Fish Tacos with Chipotle-Lime Crema, & All the Fixings

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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For all the amazing food in Austin, I find myself severely missing two things since moving from San Diego: Sushi, and Mexican food, namely fish tacos. I know, I know, Austin is known for tacos but they just aren't the same! Fish tacos, particularly Baja style remind me so much of childhood. They make me think of salty, sandy, hair, warm evenings riding razor scooters, getting home in time to watch Legends of the Hidden Temple on a Saturday, etc. The best ones usually come from the tiniest, most shitty-looking of shacks. If it's attached to a random gas station, even better. Have I mentioned nostalgia is a hobby of mine?

Let's talk taco constitution. This little number just so happens to have a batter that is perfectly crisp-yet-light, a chipotle-lime crema that brings just the right amount of heat, creamy avo, cotija, tart pickled onions, crunchy radishes, and lots of cilantro. A squeeze of lime sets everything over the top, and if you happen to have a good IPA in your fridge, good on ya. 

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To kick things off, make your chipotle lime crema. Combine your sour cream or creme fraiche, with 2 tbs chopped chipotle peppers in adobo, your garlic, lime juice, and either puree with a food processor or immersion blender. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Thinly slice half an onion, and add to a small bowl. Cover with red wine vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, cover with plastic wrap, and add to your fridge as well.

Now, make your batter. Combine 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup corn starch, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt, and whisk to combine. Add one beer, and mix thoroughly to combine. Heat 2" vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Cut your fish into 1" x 3" fillets. I used Mahi-Mahi, that, fun fact, I didn't realize was skin-on when I bought it, and I'm due for a MAJ knife upgrade, so you can imagine my surprise and delight. So note to self when you're at the fish counter, opt for skinless, or if you have a v sweet fish monger, maybe they'll remove it for you. I've also made these tacos with halibut, cod, snapper, , tilapia, and even catfish. They all worked wonderfully, but the Mahi Mahi has such a delicious, clean, base flavor, and a sturdy texture that stands up well against everything going on in these tacos. 

I'm not about telling people how to live that garnish life, but do. 👏 Not. 👏 Skimp. 👏 People. 👏 The crunchy radishes and cabbage add extra texture, a good dose of chipotle lime crema adds just the right amount of heat, pickled onions and a healthy squeeze of lime for extra tartness, avo for creaminess, and cilantro for the freshness. Wait. Are tacos actually a thinly veiled lesson in balance? 💭

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Happy taco Monday, kids. I hope you're easing into your week. There are tacos ahead. You've got this.

Baja Fish Tacos

(Serves 6)

1 1/4 lbs Firm White Fish, like Mahi-Mahi

1 c flour

1/4 c corn starch

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cumin

Vegetable oil for frying

Chipotle Lime Crema

1/2 c, plus 1 tsp sour cream

2 tbs chopped jarred chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1 large garlic clove

Juice of 1/2 a lime

3 tbs vegetable oil

Garnishes

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 avocados, sliced

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Cotija cheese

1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced

Lime wedges

Linguine with Sausage, Mushrooms, Asparagus, & Sage Breadcrumbs in a Sherry Tomato Sauce

Dinners, PastaDani ColombattoComment
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On those nights where I'm just NAT FEELIN' IT, you best believe I'm reaching for the pasta. In truth, I reach for the pasta on nights when I am feelin' it all the time, but when you're exhausted or in between grocery runs, it can really save the day. 

This dish feels particularly warm and cozy with Italian sausage, earthy mushrooms, crisp asparagus, and a tomato sherry sauce that is rich, but brings enough acidity to round everything out. Because we're throwing this together on a weeknight, and should be extra nice to ourselves, homemade sage breadcrumbs come together in a snap, and provide you with an addicting, herbaceous crunch. Once you start making your own breadcrumbs, you won't ever want to buy them again. Also, it's an answer to all the bread butts you probably throw away. You're welcome (Can I start a band called The Bread Butts? What would our genre be? Probably something kind of rustic and French...I'm sorry). I hope this pasta makes up for my dad jokes. 

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. While you're waiting on that to get going, make your breadcrumbs. In a food processor, combine 3 slices roughly torn bread, 6 sage leaves, and salt and pepper. Pulse until you've reached your desired texture. I like mine a little on the coarse side. In a frying pan, heat 3 tbs olive oil on medium, and add your breadcrumbs, tossing until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 1 tbs olive oil large skillet on medium-high, and add your sausage, until golden brown and cooked through, about 7-8 minutes. Add to a bed of paper towels to remove excess oil. To that same skillet, heat 1 tbs butter, and cook your mushrooms until golden brown, and set aside. Add your shallot and garlic to the pan, and saute about 1 minute, and de-glaze with your sherry. Add your tomato sauce, a splash of chicken stock, season with salt and a tiny pinch of crushed red pepper, and reduce to a low simmer. Allow your sauce to reduce by roughly a third, and cook your pasta. Add 1 tbs butter to your sauce, test for seasoning, and sprinkle with additional salt, if necessary.

 When your pasta is almost done cooking, add your asparagus to your sauce. You still want it crisp, and bright green, so you only want it took for about 2 minutes. Add your pasta directly from the water to your sauce, tossing to coat all your linguine. Finally, add your sausage and mushrooms back to your pasta, and toss everything to combine. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano, your sage breadcrumbs, fresh chopped parsley, and be super happy with yourself because you just cooked a v easy, comforting, satisfying dish, and it came together in less than an hour. 

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This linguine is deceptively light for how much richness is happening here. The sage and sausage are a time-honored combo, and the asparagus lends itself as a crisp counterpart to everything else. The tomato sherry sauce is so bright, flavorful, and on the sauce spectrum, easy as hell. File this linguine under weeknights where you are juuuuust about to throw in the towel, put on those comfy pants, and get in that kitchen. Love ya. You're doin' just fine. 

Linguine with Sausage, Mushrooms, Asparagus, & Sage Breadcrumbs in a Tomato Sherry Sauce

1 lb Linguine

3 Italian sausages, casings removed, crumbled into roughly 1-2" pieces

8 oz Baby Portobello or Crimini mushrooms

1 Bunch asparagus

For the Tomato Sherry Sauce

2 cups dry Sherry

1 cup tomato sauce

Splash chicken stock

1 Small shallot

2 Garlic cloves

1 tbs Butter

Pinch crushed red pepper

Handful fresh chopped parsley

For the Sage Breadcrumbs

3 Slices bread (I used leftover sourdough)

6 Sage leaves

3 tbs Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

*SIDE NOTE* How beautiful is that blue dish?!? Tina from Ren Vois Ceramics sweetly sent it to me, and I'm beyond in love with her pieces. Pretty sure you will be too. 

"Taco" Salad with Cumin-Spiced Crispy Chicken + The Most Addictive Cilantro Dressing Ever

Salads, DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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Let's talk about salads, baby. Let's talk about you and me. Let's talk about copying Trader Joe's cilantro dressing, 'cause that's EXACTLY what I set out to do (and when I get a food replication in mind, it's like a weird eye twitch that won't go away until I accomplish my mission). Not how the song goes? Aw, shucks. 

I was never one of those kids who fought salad. My grandpa actually called me rabbit most of my young life. I loved a tacky salad bar more than probably most new toys. When the server gave the go-ahead to go get myself a giant plate, while other people were still ordering, it always felt like I had inherently pulled some sort of wool over the adult's eyes, when in reality, they were probably like "Cool, you just enjoy that germ casserole, child. Now run along so we can break out the curse words."  Regardless, I was a happy camper, and to this day, the love affair continues. 

This particular salad, however, I'm ready to be my forever salad. As per previous mention, the inception of this salad was a craving I had for TJ's cilantro vinaigrette that I used to buy all the time in college. I don't enjoy the notion of being put in the box of having to go buy one pre-made item, so I love dissecting my favorite things wherever I can, and turning them into something I can whip up in minutes at home. 

This salad is the perfect balance of freshness and texture. To make it a fully rounded meal, I made a panko-crusted, chili and cumin-spiced chicken, which fortifies the taco vibes. Avo for creaminess, cherry tomatoes for a bright pop, green onions for some light heat, and finally, toasted pepitas, and freshly fried tortilla strips for the crunch factor. This salad has a lot going on, and it should probably consider booking a weekend AirBnb for a little sweet rejuv. 

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Make your dressing. If you are planning on having this salad the next day, you're in luck! This dressing gets better if it has a chance to chill for about 24hrs, and really, isn't that the case with all of us?

I love making this dressing with an immersion blender in an airtight container I can pop directly into the fridge, but if you don't have one, you can't go wrong with a food processor or blender. Add an avocado (roughly chopped), your cilantro, shallot, garlic clove, lime zest, red wine vinegar, and puree until smooth. Next, add your cotija (feta is a great substitute ), sour cream, lime juice, and salt and pepper, and puree once more. Then, slowly drizzle in your olive oil while blending. Test for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Press plastic wrap directly on top of the dressing, cover with lid, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (but up to 24). 

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Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and make your chicken. Gather 3 shallow dishes (pie plates work great), and in one add your flour plus 3/4 tsp each ground cumin and chili powder, in another your panko breadcrumbs plus 3/4 tsp each ground cumin and chili powder, and in your last one, beat 2 eggs. Season your flour/panko mixtures with salt and pepper, and mix. Dredge your chicken, starting with flour, then egg, and ending with the panko mixture. Place your chicken on a baking sheet lined with a wire rack, so the chicken has opportunity to crisp on all sides, and drizzle with vegetable oil. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until internal temperature registers 160 degrees. 

While your chicken is cooking, toast your pepitas in a dry pan, and set aside. Cut your tortillas into roughly 3" strips, and heat about 2" vegetable oil in a heavy skillet. Add your tortilla strips, and cook in batches, until golden brown, and set atop paper towels to drain. When your chicken is done, set aside to rest for 10 minutes before slicing, and assemble all your salad veg!

Add your green leaf lettuce (or frankly, whatever your lettuce jam is), chopped cilantro, cherry tomatoes, chopped green onions, and avocado, sprinkle with cotija, your pepitas and tortilla strips, reserving more for people to add after they've dished out. 

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Something about the creaminess of the dressing paired with all that fresh cilantro, and the crunchiness of the chicken, tortillas, and pepitas is SO satisfying. I first made this dressing about 2 1/2 months ago, and I've probably made this salad 10 times since then. So much so, that I declared an official break from it, only to be writing this post, reactivating my craving. The irony! What recipes are you guys major repeat offenders with? I'd love to hear!

With that, I actually woke up 29 today, so I'm off to ponder my b-day dinner outfit, and eat many many oysters. Cheers to you on this fine, fine, hump day friends. 

"Taco" Salad with Cumin Spiced Chicken and Addictive Cilantro Dressing

Cilantro Dressing

1/2 large bunch cilantro, chopped

1 avocado

1 small shallot

1 garlic clove

1/2 cup cotija cheese (or substitute feta)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbs sour cream

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 a lime

Olive oil (eyeball)

Salt and pepper to taste

Chili and Cumin Spiced Chicken

1 cup flour + 3/4 tsp each ground chili and cumin

1 cup panko breadcrumbs 3/4 tsp each ground chili and cumin

2 eggs, beaten

3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts

Cilantro Salad

1 head lettuce of choice

1 /2 large bunch cilantro, hand torn

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

3 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup pepitas, toasted

2 cups tortilla strips

1/2 cup cotija (sub feta)