Dani Goes South.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANYWHO.

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

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

(4-5 servings)

Roasted Tomato + Walnut Pesto (Inspired by Bon Appetit)

1 lb spaghetti

2 dry pints cherry tomatoes, all but some halved

2/3 c, plus 2 tbs walnuts

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbs lemon zest

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

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

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

1/2 c pasta water

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemony Basil Pesto

1 1/3 c basil

1/3 cup walnuts

1 clove garlic

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tbs lemon juice

1/3 c parmigiano reggiano, finely grated

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Herbed Anchovy Breadcrumbs

2 slices good bread

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2” anchovy paste

1 tbs butter

1 tbs oil

1 tbs freshly chopped thyme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Serves 4)

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

1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed

1 bunch swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves roughly

1 cup snap peas

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds chopped

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

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped 

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 cup chicken broth

Juice + zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, to serve

Basil oil, to serve (optional)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 dozen baby bell peppers, halved

1/2 lb thinly sliced prosciutto

1/2 lb thinly sliced provolone cheese

1 cup quick pickled onions 

3 cups arugula

Pesto aioli

For the Pesto Aioli:

1 cup good mayonnaise

3/4 cup of your favorite store-bought pesto

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

For the Quick Pickled Onions:

1 onion, thinly sliced, & added to small bowl

Red wine vinegar, to cover onions

Sprinkle of salt & pepper

Tomato-Basil Orecchiette Salad

1 lb Orecchiette pasta

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

4 tbs capers

1 cup freshly chopped basil

1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley

1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano 

Lemon Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 grated garlic clove

Salt & pepper to taste

 

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

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

Chipotle Lime Salmon Tostadas with Crispy Potatoes & All the Fixings

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
salmon tostadas 2 high res.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 lb. salmon

6 tortillas

1 dozen baby potatoes

Vegetable oil for frying tortillas

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

For your chipotle lime compound butter:

5 tbs butter, room temperature

Zest of 1 lime

3 tbs fresh lime juice

3 tsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp chili powder

Salt & pepper to taste

To serve:

1 avocado, thinly sliced

Cilantro vinaigrette

Crumbled cotija cheese

Sour cream

Pickled onions

Freshly chopped cilantro 

Sour cream

Lime wedges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romesco-Rubbed Wings

1 lb chicken wing flats and drumettes

7 tablespoons Romesco sauce

2 tablespoons Za'atar

Salt and pepper

Asian-Inspired Wings

1 lb chicken wing flats and drumettes

1/4 c soy sauce

1/8 c brown sugar

1 1/2 tbs. Hoisin

1 tsp. five spice

1/4 c rice wine vinegar

1 tbs honey

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbs fresh ginger, grated

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1/2 tbs Sriracha 

2 tbs sesame oil

Kale and Salmon Caesar with Buttery, Everything-Spiced Breadcrumbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kale and Salmon Caesar Salad with Buttery Everything-Spiced Breadcrumbs

1 lb. Salmon

3 tbs. unsalted butter

1 tbs. fresh chopped rosemary

1 garlic clove, chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

For the dressing:

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

2 tbs. red wine vinegar

1 tbs. lemon juice

1 1/2 tbs. Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 lg. clove garlic, smashed and finely minced

1/2 c olive oil

1/3 c Parmigiano Reggiano

For the breadcrumbs:

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

1 1/2 tbs. everything seasoning

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

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

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

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

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Preheat your oven to 425F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Serves 4-5)

4 quartered chicken legs

1 baguette, sliced in about 3/4" slices

1 leek, chopped,

1 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 a lemon, thinly sliced

2 sprigs rosemary, chopped

6 sprigs thyme

3 tbs butter

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tbs creme fraiche, or sour cream

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

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

Dinners, SaladsDani ColombattoComment
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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

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

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
fish tacos 1 high res.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baja Fish Tacos

(Serves 6)

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

1 c flour

1/4 c corn starch

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cumin

Vegetable oil for frying

Chipotle Lime Crema

1/2 c, plus 1 tsp sour cream

2 tbs chopped jarred chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1 large garlic clove

Juice of 1/2 a lime

3 tbs vegetable oil

Garnishes

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 avocados, sliced

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Cotija cheese

1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced

Lime wedges

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

Salads, DinnersDani ColombattoComment
Cilantro Salad 5 High Res.jpg

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)

Beef Bourguignon (ISH) Shepherds Pie

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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Please, allow me to kick off this blog on a cozy note. Also, please allow me to use my kitchen torch on EVERYTHING moving forward, because I genuinely can't stop. Okay, not sincerely, but I got one for Christmas, and truly, people, it is changing my life. In my current state, I will torch anything you give me. Be it a brulee, ahi, a choice kobe beef, jk no one is giving me items to torch, but where they, I would SO be at the ready *ignites torch*.

I digress...Let's talk carbs. Shepherd's pie is one of those dishes that, frankly, has been done time and again, and it can be really...beige. Both in color and personality. With that in mind, and I decided to dress up this easy AF peasant dish. How do you dress up something that involves ground meat and a casserole dish? Copious herbs, a red wine reduction, and mushrooms add lots of depth of flavor, in addition to being the Bourguignon (ISH) portion to the program. It's heavy on the veg, with the addition of spinach, because, vitamins with the carbs, ya'll! Finally, and let's be real, most importantly, a white cheddar Yukon gold mash gets piped on top, then torched, if you're feelin' sassy. Let's get into it. 

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and make your mashed potatoes. My mom always taught me to do these first anytime I needed them for something, because they are the easiest to reheat right before dinner. Additionally, in this scenario, because I'm ultimately going to be putting these mashed potatoes into a piping bag, I don't want them to be insanely hot, nor do they need to be, since everything goes into the oven. Peel your potatoes, cut them into quarters, cover them with cold water, and add salt once brought to a boil. At the same time, heat your 2 cups whole milk in a small saucepan. Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender, then, drain them, and add back to the original pot. I love using a ricer for my mashed potatoes, because A) it's probably the least labor intensive, and B) because you truly can't replicate the creamy texture it gives you without any possibility of them becoming glue-y (aka potato tragedy). However, if you don't have a ricer, a good, old fashioned hand masher (technical term?) works perfectly well, AND you can work those tri's and bi's. Wink. 

Add your butter, garlic, a round of s & p, and a splash of the hot milk to your mash. This is where some eye-balling comes in. You don't want an extremely heavy mash, but you want it to be substantial enough to pipe on top of your pie, so just add your milk gradually, a little at a time, until you've reached your desired consistency. The recipe also calls for a little more milk than you would need, in case you need some to liven up your potatoes, consistency-wise before adding them to your piping bag. Add your grated cheddar, and chopped thyme, and test for seasoning. Make sure to remove your milk from the heat, cover your potatoes, and let's make that filling!

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In a cast iron skillet, or Dutch oven, heat a very scant amount of olive oil medium heat, add your spinach, and cook just until wilted. Season at the end with salt and pepper, and set atop a bed of paper towels to drain the liquid. In that same pan, add about a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Add your mushrooms, and saute until they have a nice golden brown. Season at the end with salt and pepper, remove from pan, and set aside. Next, add more butter and olive oil to your pan, still on medium-high and add your diced carrots, celery, shallot and saute until softened, adding your garlic at the very end. Then, turn up your heat, and add your ground sirloin, breaking it up in the pan, but making sure not to move it around too much. You want it to get a nice sear, rather than steam. 

After your beef has browned, de-glaze your pan with the red wine, lower your heat to medium, add a splash of beef stock, your chopped rosemary and thyme, season with salt, and let reduce by roughly a third. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the reserved spinach and mushrooms back to your mixture, and test once more for seasoning. Add the entire mixture to a lightly buttered 9" x 13" baking dish. 

At this point, you'll want to do a casual check-in on your mash, just like, feelings-wise...jk, we're looking for texture. If your mash seems a bit too thick, add some of the reserved milk. If you're good to go, add to your piping bag. Side note: If you don't have a piping bag, don't fret! You can snip the corner of a plastic freezer bag, or simply spread it on with a wooden spoon. It's shepherd's pie. There's no need to get fancy here, I just simply wanted a reason to bust out the kitchen torch, and I probably got way-haaay too much satisfaction out of singeing those sweet, sweet Yukon gold mountain peaks.

After you've piped on your mashed potato sitch, place it in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, just to ensure everything is fully piping hot all the way through. If you have a kitchen torch, lightly torch your potatoes when they come out of the oven. If not, place under the broiler for 10-12 minutes, and you should still achieve a nicely browned situation. Garnish with chives, and hope your dinner guests are minimal because you'll really want seconds.

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This dish is so comforting, and something about the additions of the red wine and mushrooms make it feel slightly more special than your average bear, one casserole dish dinner. Not sooo special though, that you feel like you can't eat it in your PJ's whilst watching The Bachelor. Which, by the way, can we talk about how many times I face palm myself watching this season? That Krystal...she's triflein'. No? Not why you're here? We'll stick to shepherd's pie for now, but please oh please, if you're going to be here, make room in your hearts for future reality TV tidbits. 

Cheers, friends!

Beef Bourguignon (ISH) Shepherd's Pie

(Serves 5)

Cook time: 1 hr. 

Beef Bourguignon (ISH) Filling

1 pound ground top sirloin

1 container crimini or white button mushrooms

3 carrots, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

1 large bunch spinach

1 large shallot (2 if small), minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

Splash beef stock

4 rosemary sprigs, chopped

6 thyme sprigs, chopped

1 1/2 cups red wine you enjoy drinking

Salt and pepper to taste

White Cheddar Yukon Gold Mash

8 Yukon Gold Potatoes

2 cups whole milk

1 large clove garlic, grated

1 cup grated white cheddar cheese

1 stick butter

2 tbs. chopped fresh thyme

Fresh chives to garnish

Salt and pepper to taste