Dani Goes South.


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

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

Dinners, SeafoodDani ColombattoComment
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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

Salmon with Feta Herb Butter & Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad (+ Easy Tzatziki)

Dinners, SeafoodDani ColombattoComment
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You know when salmon is really anticlimactic? It's almost like because it's a known fact it's sort of a healthier option, often times, I find the applications I encounter out in the wild kind of bland, or dry, or like someone swiped some maple syrup on it and called it a day. A little fact about me: not super into fish candy! 

There's a lot of bad blood surrounding seafood and dairy. I get it, it's a fine balance. I'm not going to slap some Kraft singles on a piece of sashimi-grade ahi (kind of made myself want to vom with that sentence, left it anyway), so let's all just slow our rolls, and keep an open mind, because this salmon is SO. GOOD.  The feta is balanced with cherry tomatoes, lemon, and tons of fresh herbs. The tomatoes soak up some of that butter situation, and the lemon brings so much brightness. The feta isn't the star, it's like the personal assistant to all the other high maintenance celebs in the parchment paper, making sure everyone shiiiiiiiines *Oprah voice*.

The vegetable-packed couscous is the perfect accompaniment to the salmon, with lots of roasted eggplant, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and the easiest vinaigrette. These two are sheet pan wonders, come together in a flash, and leave you feeling nourished and satisfied. The tzatziki isn't mandatory, but just like, do the right thing, and make it. Chalk it up to condiment karma. I don't know.

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As all compound butters do, this one starts with room temperature unsalted butter. Don't be like me, and think you can muscle through non-room temperature butter. It's not worth it, and you'll be annoyed. Smash and mince two garlic cloves. I like sprinkling mine with a little coarse sea salt and grinding them into a paste with the side of my knife. Add to your butter. Next, add the zest of one lemon, juice of 1/2 a lemon, your freshly chopped parsley, and dried oregano. Mash together with a fork (or in a food processor, if you wish), and then add your feta. Mix thoroughly to combine, and taste for seasoning. The feta has a good amount of salt, so I actually ended up adding the *tiniest* pinch, and some pepper. Spoon your butter out onto plastic wrap, and refrigerate until hard and slice-able.

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I was first introduced to tzatziki by my sweet aunt Steffi who hails from Germany. I was probably 7 or 8 at the time, and I believe we were having it with lamb on Christmas Eve. I was totally smitten, and it might be my favorite condiment sitch ever. I will never top hers (and totally need to get her recipe), but this one is a pretty good placeholder. If you're going to make this, only one caveat: make as early as you can and want to, because the longer it sits in the fridge, the better it gets. 

With a box grater, shred about a cup and a quarter of a large English cucumber. Wrap your shredded cucumber in 2-3 paper towels, and squeeze out all excess liquid. Next, smash and grind into a paste 2-3 garlic cloves (2 if they're really large), and add to your shredded cucumber. Next, add 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt. I used Greek, but I actually normally just go with plain, regular yogurt. However, I had just done an Amazon Prime order, and selected the wrong one, so...you get me. Next, add your lemon zest and juice, chopped dill. Taste for seasoning, and add your salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap, and put that puppy in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (I usually do mine at least a couple hours ahead).  

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Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a pan toast your couscous, and add your boiling water and a tablespoon of olive oil, and salt. Cook per instructions, or about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover, and let sit 5 minutes. Add to a large bowl and set aside. Cut 1/2 an eggplant, and two zucchini into large chunks, and spread evenly on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with dried oregano, salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes (tossing everything after about 10 minutes), and remove from the oven. Add your cherry tomatoes, and drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Set aside while you assemble your salmon. 

Season your salmon with salt, pepper, and a light sprinkle of dried oregano. Slice half a lemon, and halve 8-10 cherry tomatoes. Slice your feta butter, and place atop your salmon. Place your cherry tomatoes, and lemon slices around the salmon, and top with fresh chopped parsley. Give everything *the slightest* drizzle of olive oil (mainly around the tomatoes), close your parchment wrap into a little package, and place in your 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until your salmon is just cooked through. 

Add your roasted veg back to the oven, and let's make that vinaigrette. I added about 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar to a mason jar with the juice of half a lemon, 1 small shallot, chopped, 1/2 a teaspoon of dijon mustard, and about 6 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and shake until fully emulsified. If it's still too vinegar-y, add a splash more olive oil.  Add all your veggies to your cous cous, drizzle in your vinaigrette, and add a small handful of crumbled feta, and tons of chopped fresh parsley. 

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The feta butter lends the perfect, salty, bright, lemony background for tender salmon, and sweet cherry tomatoes. Just an additional PSA, this salmon is also really delicious on a Caesar. 

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The nutty, whole wheat couscous soaks up the vinaigrette, and makes for a really great vehicle for all of the caramelized veggies, and really cuts through the richness of the salmon. Additionally, it makes for a lovely little next-day lunch. 

Wishing you the best weekend, friends! What's on your to-do list? It's gloomy and cold here in Austin, but we've got house projects, and neighborhood walks on the brain. Also, I hear there's this thing called football going on? There's something Cleopatra comin' atcha on Monday to eat while other people...do sports? Cheers!

Salmon and Cherry Tomatoes in Feta Butter

1 Salmon filet (roughly 1-1 1/4 lbs.)

6 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/2 Cup crumbled feta

Zest of 1/2 lemon (or 1/2 tsp.)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 Garlic cloves, smashed, pureed

2 tbs. Fresh chopped parsley

1 tsp. Dried oregano

10 Cherry tomatoes

1/2 lemon, sliced

Roasted Vegetable and Cous Cous Salad

1/2 Eggplant, cubed

2 Zucchini, cubed

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 Package Israeli couscous (preferably whole wheat)

For the Vinaigrette

3 tbs. Red wine vinegar

6 tbs. Extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 small shallot, minced

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Easy Tzatziki

1 1/4 cups shredded English cucumber 

1 1/2 cups plain full fat yogurt

2-3 garlic cloves, smashed, pureed

4 large sprigs dill, chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste