Dani Goes South.

dinner

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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Let's Eat Outside Pt. 1: Veggie Mezze Platter with Kebabs, the Creamiest Beet Hummus, Garlicky Yogurt Dip, and Roasted / Raw Crudites

Appetizers, DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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Hey, hey, and a happy hump day to you! I hope this week is treating you like a chivalrous date. On my end of things, I just returned from a fun, spontaneous weekend trip back home to San Clemente. My sweet angel of an aunt and cousin surprised my sister, niece, & I with tickets- seriously, what gems! We arrived Friday, and had a little family dinner at my uncle and aunt's house. Those of you who watched my stories got to see the epic toddler dance party that took place, which, by the way, made me feel SO out of touch with top 100 music. Like, I couldn't tell you who's a Bieber, Gomez, or Lovato if my life depended on it. I digress... My dad's side of the family is relatively small, and we've always been super close, usually living about a 30 minute drive from each other for most of our lives. My sister and I were lucky enough to grow up with cousins who felt more like siblings. As we've gotten older not only is it so cool that things always feel exactly the same, no matter how much time has passed, but now we get to watch my sister and cousins do the same with their little kids. Life sure is wild. 

Speaking of family gatherings, every time the weather starts to turn I can't help but think of being outside- particularly, cooking and eating outside. Whether I'm back in California, at my parents' in Idaho, or home in Austin, eating outside is just such a prominent source of happiness in my life. Honestly, what is better than a strong cocktail and sharing some small plates on a warm night? Kind of nothing, if you're asking me. I thought it would be fun to share a few ideas for portable dishes to make and take with you to eat somewhere pretty with someone you love. What better way to start than with an appetizer situation that doubles as dinner? Options are LyFe. Since we're keeping things light and springy, I thought we'd go veggie for our first little soiree, and celebrate some of the best of what's in season now, starting with the creamiest beet hummus. Veggie kebabs, garlicky yogurt, baked feta, lavash, and roasted and raw crudites make for perfect mix and match snacking. In fact, if someone could teleport one of these platters to me now, that would be amazing. Let's get into it. 

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Props C/O Urban Outfitters

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.  

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

Dinners, AppetizersDani 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. 

Parmesan Polenta & Shrimp Bowls with Rainbow Chard, Tomatoes, Crispy Prosciutto, & White Wine Sauce

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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Today, I greet you with something insanely comforting, warm, and inherently, a part of my childhood. Growing up in a Northern Italian family, we ate a lot of polenta. I'll admit, my first experiences with it were lost on me as a 7/8 year old. I was like, why are we essentially eating cream of wheat with chicken? V confusing for me at the time. A few years later, and a few more experiences getting my hands dirty in the kitchen, and I understood the merits. It's a fully customize-able peasant food vehicle, that can be whatever you want it to be. Fried? Hell yes. Along with chicken cacciatore? Double hell yes, and also, that one's coming soon, guys. As a soft, herbaceous, Parmesan-laden bed for rainbow chard, tomatoes, crisp prosciutto, and juicy shrimp to rest upon? YAS. PLEASE.

Before we shrimp it up, just a quick word from my sponsor, Personal Anecdote. Wink emoji. 

My sweet boyfriend, Benjamin and I met when we were 16 and 17 respectively, dated when we were 18 and 19 for about 8 months, broke up, and found each other again as almost 30-year-olds. While there are so many reasons I hold our story so dear, it's honestly the gems of memories that keep popping up since we've gotten back together that never cease to amaze me. Mainly because it shows how we all take in experiences so differently and different moments stand out for each of us individually. For example: He shared with me a memory he had when we were like 18, and we went to dinner at the home of my wonderful grandparents, Joe and Joyce. This was a super regular occurrence, which is why I probably didn't absorb the experience as a future precious memory. In fact, still, the memory itself seems kind of anticlimactic. We were having polenta and bolognese sauce that night, and Ben simply said he remembered my mom, sister, and I each taking turns stirring the polenta when my grandma Joyce was occupied (most likely making drinks). Seriously, such a simple memory. If he would have told me that stood out to him at the time, I know without a doubt it would have been totally lost on me. Now, much has changed. We lost my grandparents in June of 2017, and now, that memory will forever be a little polenta post-it note in my mind. It's a tiny testament to the community created around meals in my family, and the ease of us all being together. Since I first introduced this as a sponsored anecdote, let's just go with the code SappySally2018 for 30% off your first month of Mental Post-Its. Screamin' deal, ya'll. Thanks for bearing with me.

Polenta time. 

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