Dani Goes South.


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
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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).

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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
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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