Dani Goes South.

Salads

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

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

 

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

Dinners, SaladsDani ColombattoComment
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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

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

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

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

Dinners, SaladsDani ColombattoComment
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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

"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)