Dani Goes South.

Dinners

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

Dinners, PastaDani 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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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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Lemony Grilled Pork Chops With Herbaceous Vinaigrette, + Bacon & New Potato Salad, + Kale Salad With Crunchy, Wholewheat Breadcrumbs & All the Parm

Dinners, SaladsDani ColombattoComment
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Hi, hi, HI-YA (Anyone remember that from Heavyweights? Just me?)! Indeed it has been a moment, if the measure of time is 1 year = 1 moment. Oof! What to even begin to fill you in on? Random tidbits, OF COURSE. I’ll briefly catch you up on that portion of the program, as I really can’t wait to tell you all about this ridiculously delicious pork chop/two salad combo.

5 RANDOM TIDBITS:

Uno! We started a garden in our backyard, and may or may not have gotten really eager with the seed distribution for our little 3 x 5 planter. We planted rainbow chard, green onions, rosemary, tomatoes, chives, and arugula, and drum roll, please… THEY. ALL. GREW. ALL. CAPS. NECESSARY. Every evening, Ben and I go out back, examining our plants like the newborn children they are. Ben usually plucks a green onion and chomps away like a farmer with a piece of straw, almost always developing a light southern accent for the time we are back there, which always cracks me up. We just used up the last of the rainbow chard, and I’m quietly mourning the loss of my most colorful produce bb.

Due! My first tangible, hold-it-in-your-hands magazine article and recipe were published in Edible Austin’s May/June issue. I cried a little, picked up many-a-copy, and hope it won’t be the last time I say I was published. Confession: I’m a bit of a food mag hoarder (see: cleverly stashed stacks in my TV cabinet), and I may or may not have just checked out no less than 6 cookbooks on my first trip to the Austin library. If you’re local, I really, really, hope you grab a copy, learn about alliums, and make a delicious cauliflower leek soup (recipe will be posted here soon as well).

Tre! I picked up my guitar for the first time in oh…8 years?! Face palm emoji. It took a little bit to get through that initial, painful first week or so of majorly bruised fingertips, but it’s back to being a daily thing in my life. I forgot how happy it makes me.

Quattro! In January, I turned 30. Not gonna lie…I was slightly nervous about feeling a certain way about this. However, the rumors are true: you don’t need to have it all figured out the moment you hit your 3rd decade of life. I feel a quieter, truer, confidence slowly developing that I never felt in my 20s. Time, space, and listening to myself, turns out, are all good things.

Cinque! I have been cooking my ass off. For fun. In the last year, I found myself making so many dishes that have become staples in our home, and I am chomping at the bit like a Clydesdale to share them. These pork chops with 2 salads are one dinner we’ve made constantly.

Now, let’s talk chop, shall we?

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Loaded Cold Soba Bowls with Salmon, Mustard Greens, Watercress, Snap Peas, Sesame Vinaigrette, & All The Herbs

Dinners, Seafood, Pasta, SaladsDani Colombatto2 Comments
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Hello, you. I hope you're feeling fresh-faced, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed. May I be so bold as to real-talk-backslash-attempt-to-encourage you for a moment, before I attempt to woo you with cold noodle bowls (haha)? Cool, thanks a bil!

Today I posted a little something on my Instagram stories about May being Mental Health Awareness Month, and yesterday being the 2 year anniversary of losing my brother, Kevin. Allow me to backtrack a teeny bit, before getting to my point. This space is special to me. I knew for a long time that I needed to start it, but really did not know what shape it would take. I knew when I started it, that if I didn't stop deliberating over every little detail, color, template, etc., then I would never do anything with it at all. I decided to just pull the trigger, and get moving. Now I'm a few months into doing this little solo mission, and I find myself confronted with a new set of struggles. Let me be the first to say, food is kind of everything to me. It's probably number 3 in the top 3 things I care about (1 and 2 being family/friends, and health), and that is said with zero exaggeration. However, sometimes, in light of events that have occurred in my life over the last 3ish years, and hell, I'll say it- the general climate of the world, food can seem, well, trite. Not that important in the grand scheme. At least, that's what the little troll voice in the back of my mind creeps in to say every so often. Do you have one of those? I call mine Madge... She has zero social graces, and she loves an elastic jean short/croc pairing.

Allow me to attempt to bring this home: I think that as creatives, in any capacity, we have the ability to give so much of ourselves and our spirits to anything we are working on. Not only can this be depleting, but it can also be a cause of internal conflict. After I lost my brother, I ended up taking what added up to a year off of social media. I was having the hardest time reconciling the "need" to post content out of fear of never getting another job, and/or becoming irrelevant, in the midst of trying to care for myself during an extremely difficult time. I made the decision that once I re-entered this space, I would do so with authenticity. For me, this doesn't mean posting every day with some sort of explanation of what was happening inside. The goal was more to be at peace and truly okay with the silences...with my lack of explanation. To know that things can be both/and: I can still be struggling with grief, battling depression, and yet, still be cooking, styling, and shooting up a storm, and have more moments than not of total happiness. I want this very space to be both/and. A space for fun, vibrant food, adventures in styling, this new city, and a very much needed dash of earnest honesty. At least, for this girl, it's a much needed dash. I can't speak for others, but I've heard rumblings I'm not alone.  

Life is complicated. We can be sad, and still swoon over gorgeous floral arrangements. We can harbor intense emotional pain from trauma, and ugly-laugh at a good cat video. We can have moments of questioning our worth, and make a salmon soba noodle salad packed with veg, because at the end of the day, we know we owe it to ourselves to practice a little love and care. How's THAT for a segue?!?!? So graceful, like slowly tripping down stairs, am I right? Onto salmon and carbs, because I know that's really why you're here. Thanks for hanging in, and allowing me to dupe you with my emotions for a few.

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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.