Dani Goes South.

Lunches

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

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
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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