Dani Goes South.

easy entertaining

Super Creamy, Super Easy Garlicky White Bean Hummus With Mediterranean-Style Salad + Grilled Chicken Thighs

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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I’ve been thinking a lot about heritage lately- mostly because of food, but a little bit because I’m aging- HA AREN’T WE ALL?! I find the older I get, the more questions I have about where I come from. In my case, unfortunately, things tip slightly more toward the side of questions than answers, but that is fully okay! That’s how it is for so many of us. My grandpa on my dad’s side was a first-gen immigrant from Northern Italy, and I have SO much information about this! Which, would be incredible, except for the fact that my dad was adopted by my grandpa Joe. While, he was the MOST amazing grandpa who absolutely shaped my life, and his life story is beyond epic, I can’t really use any of that genetic information, ya feel me? My mom’s side is super Portuguese, hailing from the Azores (Looks incredible, and also, incredibly hard to get to). I brought up to my mom the fact that we basically live for Northern Italian cooking, and growing up, I was immersed in that culture so much, and yet, we really have never delved a ton into the Portugal of it all, so to speak. Over the next few months, a goal of mine is to start really getting into this side of my background, culinarily, and otherwise. After a trip to the Austin Public Library, which is amazing BTW, I came home with a bunch of cookbooks. My goal was to find some good Portuguese ones, but I came up empty-handed. This means, I basically checked out every Mediterranean cookbook they had, as there are subtle through-lines in Italian, Portuguese, and general Mediterranean cooking. This is all to say, after said research, I was left majorly craving some Mediterranean food, and that’s one problem I can solve myself immediately. Lawd knows not all problems are that solvable!

This is a one-stop, scoop-it-all-on-your-plate-from-one-vessel kind of dish. It all begins with a base of whipped-to-perfection, garlicky, lemony, white bean hummus. Chicken that’s been marinating in a rosemary vinaigrette, then grilled gets nestled into that aforementioned hummus bed, along with some grilled pita. Then, an incredibly simple-yet-delicious salad of tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, green onions and herbs gets piled on. Kalamata olives and crumbled feta are the finishing tough to bring a briny, salty vibe that is very much welcome here. Let’s start with that marinade, shall we?

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In a glass measuring cup, mix together your red wine vinegar, garlic clove, sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, EVOO, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Season your skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs with salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and za’atar. Rub into each side of chicken and add thighs to a large zip-top bag, along with your marinade, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, but up to 24.

While the chicken is getting all delicious, make your hummus. In a food processor, combine your drained can of white beans with your tahini, lemon zest + juice, red wine vinegar, garlic, za’atar, and turn food processor on. Slowly, with the machine running, pour in your extra virgin olive oil. Allow the machine to run for 3 minutes. This sounds like a long time, but it’s seriously worth it for a perfectly smooth hummus. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. Run the machine for 30 seconds more. Cover and chill until ready to plate.

This salad couldn’t be easier, and is a riff on the green salad my mom, grandma, and aunts made growing up, and us grown up kids seem to make for every get-together. I’ll be real: It’s a total eye-baller. Halve your cherry tomatoes, and add to a large bowl with a sprinkling of salt to get the tomatoes to release some of their juices. Peel and seed half of a cucumber, and chop into roughly 1” pieces. Cut an avocado into roughly 1” chunks as well, and add to your bowl, along with a good handful of freshly chopped parsley. In a small glass measuring cup, whisk together your red wine vinegar, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Wait to dress the salad until you’re ready to plate.

Heat your grill to 375, and grill your chicken thighs over direct heat for about 9 minutes per side until internal temperature reaches 165. Cover, and allow to rest prior to serving.

To assemble, pile (or swoop) your hummus onto a platter, and line your chicken thighs along one side of the hummus, along with the pita. Spoon your salad down the center of the platter, and top with chopped kalamata olives, and crumbled feta.

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This is one of those meals where you walk away feeling better after you’ve eaten, but also, like you really treated yourself. An easy, all-in-one easy enough for a weeknight, but good enough for company.

Super Creamy, Super Easy Garlicky White Bean Hummus With Mediterranean-Style Salad + Grilled Chicken Thighs

(Serves 4-5)

For the Hummus

1 15 oz can cannelini beans, or great northern beans

1 cup tahini

1 grated, plus 1 smashed garlic clove

Zest + juice of 1 lemon

3 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp za’atar

3/4 cup good olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Chicken Marinade

2 tbs freshly chopped rosemary

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp sriracha

1 grated garlic clove

To Season Chicken

Generous sprinkling salt and pepper

2 tbs za’atar

1 tsp granulated garlic

For the Salad

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Half 1 cucumber, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1” chunks

1 avocado, cut into 1” chunks

3 green onions, sliced on the bias

Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped

For the vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

To serve

1/2 c kalamata olives, halved

3/4 c crumbled feta

Extra vinaigrette, for drizzling

Carciofi Ripieni AKA Stuffed Roasted Artichokes With Parmigiano Breadcrumbs, Lots of Lemon, + Basil Aioli

AppetizersDani ColombattoComment
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Artichokes just feel like a weekend vegetable. They take a little time and patience, which, let’s be real, is definitely in more abundance on a Saturday versus a Tuesday. My parents have a ritual of making them on Saturdays to enjoy while playing golf- the card game, not the sport, which is kind of adorbs. Artichokes really remind me of my dad, and him being home on the weekends. He traveled a TON for work throughout my life, so having him home and in the kitchen or at the grill was always the sign of relaxing afternoons and evenings to come. We always ate our artichokes with melted butter, my dad usually spiking his with some garlic (and probably too much salt), which always left me feeling gypped with the regular plain melted butter, and I would often steal his leftovers once he was done eating.

These artichokes are a slight departure from the simple ones from my youth- which I still love BTW. They get par-boiled to ensure tenderness and easy leaf peeling. Then, they get stuffed to the gills with a delicious, buttery, garlicky, parmigiano-laced breadcrumb mixture. A lemony garlic butter with a splash of white wine keeps everything from drying out, while injecting even more deliciousness into this situation. Thinly sliced lemons get piled on, and subsequently get all caramelized and roast-y in the oven. All things I am into. Then, just when things can’t get any more ideal, a bright basil pesto comes along to make dipping dreams come true. As the kids say, letteth us getteth into it.

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Trim and clean 3 large artichokes, then cut in half. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add your artichoke halves, boiling for roughly 15 mins, until fork tender. When done, drain, and lay atop a bed of paper towels to drain excess moisture. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Make your breadcrumb mixture. In a bowl, combine your breadcrumbs, lemon zest, rosemary, and garlic. Add 1 tbs butter + 1 tbs olive oil to a pan over medium heat, and add your breadcrumbs, tossing to coat with the butter, and ensure even browning. Once they reach that golden goodness, transfer them immediately to a bed of paper towels to drain excess oil and cool. In a small saucepan combine your butter, lemon zest, white wine, garlic, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add your halved artichokes to the baking dish of your choice. I used a 9 x 13 ceramic casserole dish. To your breadcrumb mixture, add your grated parmigiano, mixing to combine. Distribute the breadcrumb mixture by gently pulling back the leaves, and generously sprinkling- key word being generous! You really can’t have too much of this breadcrumb mixture happening. Do this with each layer of leaves, adding more to the center of each artichoke before laying them in the pan leaf-side-down. This ensures an appropriate amount of browning to that center situation for the show pony of the artichoke experience- the heart.

Once you have your arties appropriately stuffed, add your white wine garlic butter to the pan, adding enough additional white wine so the liquid comes up to just barely the halfway mark of the artichoke. When pouring your butter mixture, make sure to get each individual artichoke to ensure moisture during the roasting process. Add your thinly sliced lemons, a good drizzle of EVOO, and you are in business. Throw in the oven for about 30 mins, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. While in the oven, make your aioli. In a food processor, combine your mayo, lemon juice and zest, grated garlic clove, parsley, and basil. Pulse until emulsified, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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The lemony breadcrumbs behind each and every leaf are so GD addictive, and truly…THAT HEART THOUGH. A fork and knife situation that I have foregone to eat with my hands countless times. Honestly, I could call these dinner. To be really honest, I could, would, and have called most apps dinner! Apps are truly the best. Now, I’m just dreaming of all the calamari I’ve ever consumed in life, which is a major sidetrack, so please, just make these for you, and someone who makes you happy. Happy weekending.

Carciofi Ripieni AKA Stuffed Roasted Artichokes With Parmigiano Breadcrumbs, Lots of Lemon, + Basil Aioli

(Serves 4-6)

3 large artichokes, trimmed, choke removed, halved

For Breadcrumb Mixture:

2 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (or fresh if you have on hand)

Zest of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 sprig rosemary, finely minced

3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano

2 tbs butter

2 tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the butter:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbs freshly chopped thyme

1 cup dry white wine (plus more to add 1/2 way up artichokes)

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

Thinly sliced lemon wedges to lay atop artichokes pre-bake

For the basil aioli:

1 cup good mayonnaise

1/2 cup fresh basil

1/4 cup fresh parsley

Juice of half a lemon

1 grated small garlic clove

Salt and pepper to taste

The Easiest and Only Strawberry Shortcake You'll Ever Need

SweetsDani ColombattoComment
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In today's episode of "things my mom tells me to do about food", we have strawberry shortcake. I am not in the practice of not taking my mom's advice, and she's been telling me how much I "NEED" to make strawberry shortcake with Bon Appetit's shortcake recipe for about a year. Not unlike me in my teen years, it took a minute for me to get around to taking her advice, but when I did, everything instantly fell into place, because these bad boys are *clap* that *clap* good *final clap*. It's also fitting that this recipe comes just in time for Mother's Day, because well, I'm partial, but my mom just so happens to be the absolute best. 

Let's talk shortcake. This could not be a farther cry from that produce section "angel food cake" gar-bazhe that seems to sneak its way into many a casual function. Listen, I'm not saying it's the worst; I'm simply saying we can totally do waaaay better, and it's not even that hard. These shortcakes are tender, have that perfectly crunchy, sugary texture on top, with an unexpected added delicious layer of texture from cornmeal. I posted on my Instagram stories yesterday that these call for 2 hard boiled egg yolks, which is literally the only fussy step of this whole shebang. I say, throw a few extra eggs in your pot, and call it meal prep. Multitasking: The thing no one's really that good at, but everyone claims to be pretty good at... Am I right, or am I right? 

In a food processor, combine your two flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and egg yolks, and pulse a few times to combine. Add your cold butter, and pulse until it's in pea-sized pieces. Slowly, drizzle in 2/3 cups of  your heavy cream as you pulse the machine. Just pulse until the dough barely combines. Turn your dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, and lightly knead until combined into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 25 minutes. 

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In a food processor, combine your two flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and egg yolks, and pulse a few times to combine. Add your cold butter, and pulse until it's in pea-sized pieces. Slowly, drizzle in 2/3 cups of  your heavy cream as you pulse the machine. Just pulse until the dough barely combines. Turn your dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, and lightly knead until combined into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 25 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 350F. In a large bowl, add your halved/quartered strawberries, along with 1/3 a cup of sugar, and the juice of half a lemon. Toss to combine, then cover, and refrigerate. 

To a parchment-lined baking sheet, add your dough, in 1/3 cup scoops, rolling them into a ball with your hands, and slightly flattening the bottoms as you set them down. Alternatively, you can use a 2 oz ice cream scoop, but mine just happened to be dirty, which is just really a window into our ice cream consumption around here. Brush the tops of your shortcakes with the remaining 2 tbs cream, and give each one a healthy dusting of sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes. I believe mine were right at 26. 

Make your whipped cream. Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream with 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 1/2 a teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip until peaks form, but it's still soft and not over-whipped. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

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These are truly the most tender, perfectly crumbly, buttery, sugary shortcakes. Seriously, simplicity times one HUNDO. Who the hell doesn't love a warm shortcake, with bright, juicy, summery berries and freshly whipped cream? Do you know them? Disown them immediately. Love your mom, do something nice, take your vitamins, make these shortcakes - all things you should do, forever and ever, amen. I think your mom would agree.

This recipe was sponsored by my mom, who literally has sponsored my life. Happy impending mother's day to all! 

Strawberry Shortcakes

(Shortcake recipe from Bon Appetit)

Serves 6

For the Shortcakes

2 hard-boiled egg yolks, cooled

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

3 tbs fine ground cornmeal, or semolina flour

1 tbs baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbs granulated sugar

6 tbs unsalted butter, chilled, cut into pieces

2/3 cup, plus 2 tbs heavy cream

Granulated or sanding sugar for sprinkling on top

For the Strawberries

1 1/2 quarts strawberries, halved, quartered if large

Juice of half a lemon

Zest of 1 lemon

1/3 cup granulated sugar

For the Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, cold

3 tbs confectioner's sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

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

Dinners, PastaDani ColombattoComment

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)


Coconut Creme Brulee

SweetsDani ColombattoComment
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The time has finally come for dresses, warm-night-walks, laying next to lakes and oceans (with copious SPF), and coconut scented EVERYTHING. I can hardly contain my excitement- though, I won't lie to you: my first Texas summer kicked my ass. Within 2 days of moving here my legs were covered, and I mean COVERED in 60+ (I counted) mosquito bites. I remember crying to Ben "THIS IS NOT WHAT I MOVED HERE FOR!!!!" I'm laughing now, but at the time...I was NAT having it., to say the least. Luckily, this summer we are planning ahead with a few getaways on the docket we couldn't be more excited for- one being Maui. YAAAAS. I actually haven't been since my junior year of high school (Wow, that sentence makes me feel old!), and my wheels are already turning with outfit ideas, where to grab the best poke, and thoughts of pina coladas by the pool (again, with copious SPF). 

Since we've got a few months until said Hawaiian getaway, I'm bringing a healthy dose of island flavors home with these coconut creme brulees. You guys, I kid you not, this dessert tastes like a straight-up vacation. Vanilla-flecked coconut custard is our base for a crunchy, caramelized, sugar shell, and charred pineapple and strawberries. I almost named this pina colada creme brulee, but truth be told, it tastes equally like a lava flow so I was torn between the two. Please grab your nearest tropical button-down, and accompany me to coconut creme brulee town.

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Preheat your oven to 325F. Scrape the seeds from 2 vanilla beans, and reserve the pods. To a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, add your coconut milk, cream, vanilla bean seeds and pods, and coconut extract. Choosing the right coconut extract is key here, and this is kind of the one situation I'm going to advise you to go tacky, and stick with that imitation coconut, baby-doll! It truly brings all of those being on a beach, smelling sunscreen vibes, which is exactly what we are trying to achieve here. Don't go with the real stuff. It's too subtle. Again, literally the one time I'll probably ever say that sentence, hah!

Bring to a boil, and remove from the heat immediately once brought to a boil. Whisk together your eggs, along with 5 tbs of your sugar until well combined. Slowly whisk the heated cream mixture into your eggs and sugar, making sure to stir constantly. Try and add a little at a time as your whisking so you temper your eggs, and don't scramble them. Divide your mixture among 4-5 heat-safe ramekins placed in a baking dish. If you want, you could probably divide this mixture into 6-7 smaller vessels. You would just need to adjust your baking times accordingly. Pour enough warm water into the baking dish so that it goes halfway up your ramekins. 

Bake until the center of your creme brulee is just about set. Since the bake time is directly related to the height of your vessel, bake 10 minutes for every half inch of height. Example: For a 2 inch vessel, bake the creme brulees for 40 minutes. 

After baking, remove from the water bath, and allow to completely cool before transferring to the refrigerator. Allow to refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving, although, you can totally leave them in the fridge overnight, and torch them immediately before serving.

Speaking of torching, for that portion of the program, simply sprinkle each ramekin of cooled custard with a heaping tablespoon of granulated sugar, and light it up!  

To serve, I kept with the general vacation vibes of this creme brulee, and torched up some strawberries and pineapple, because, as per previous mention, I wanted this to taste like an island cocktail, sans booze. However, feel free to make some freshly whipped cream, switch up the fruit sitch, add a sprinkle of powdered sugar- something chocolate would even be amazing here. This isn't really a space for rules. 

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The custard is so perfectly cool, light and creamy, it seems like it's been whipped for hours, but in reality, it comes together in a flash, and is such a good compliment to the hot, crunchy, sugar. The light torching of the fruit releases their sugars, and gets them macerating quickly, and almost becomes a super light sauce as you're eating it. Not mad. 

Speaking of vacays, I'm off to a quick little getaway in San Clemente, CA, and couldn't be more excited! I get to hang with most of my fam, and we're even taking a little unprecedented trip to Disneyland with all the cousins and their littles- I'm SO. EXCITED. Especially, because this will be my niece's first Disney trip (!!!)- I can't wait to watch her cute little face on every ride!

Do you guys have any fun warm-weather plans on the docket? I would loooove to hear (not mad at a Maui recommendation, either)! 

Coconut Creme Brulee

Adapted from Damaris Phillips

Serves 4-6

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup heavy cream

2 Vanilla beans, seeds scraped, pods reserved

4 large eggs

1 tsp imitation coconut extract

8-9 tbs sugar

Fresh fruit such as pineapple and strawberries, to serve (optional)