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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Let's Eat Outside Pt. 2: Hoisin Lime Chicken + Quinoa Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Vinaigrette and All the Radishes

Dinners, AppetizersDani ColombattoComment
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Hello, lovely people! I greet you today, glass of red wine in hand, a little later than I originally planned to! This morning, Benjamin and I went back to the Agua Dulce Farms for a little volunteering- aka playing with pretty lettuces, taking photos, going home with said pretty lettuces, etc. It was wonderful, as per the uzhe. Today in particular we left with tons of garlic chives (literally my favorite), rainbow chard, mustard greens, different varieties of watercress, and 5 types of lettuces- I kind of feel like someone is just handing me gold every time I leave. I'll be sharing some photos from all the fun with them v soon.

When we were done, we were staaaarved so we booked it for a good sammie, and then both promptly fell asleep on the couch- and I'm sooo not a nap person. This is mainly because they usually make me feel groggy AF, AKA my general vibes this very moment. I fully intend on peeling my boo-tay off the couch to make this taco-esque salad that I crave probably once a week, but before I do that, how about we get into a little something fresh? 

I whipped up these hoisin-lime chicken and quinoa lettuce wraps a few weeks ago, and they've made multiple reappearances since. First off, you know I love a good "whatever the hell you have in your fridge" situation. This is 100% that. Mix up your lettuces, herbs, toppings- as long as it's fresh and in season, it's usually gold. Secondly, this is such a delicious, easy dinner to pack up for a picnic, and it won't leave you feeling sluggish. 

For this little number I opted for a tangy hoisin-lime sauce to add to chicken and leeks as it's caramelizing away in your skillet. Water chestnuts add the classic lettuce wrap X factor (I'm not going to say PF Changs, but we're all thinking it- DON'T LIE). Basil and cilantro really add next level depth of freshness, so I highly recommend not skimping. Radishes bring welcome crunch, along with bean sprouts. A spritz of lime, and a little drizzle of sesame vinaigrette add just the right level of tartness. Avocado slices and Sriracha are also welcome additions here. As per usual with this blog- not a place for rules. 

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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 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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