Dani Goes South.

easy entertaining

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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Peachy Orange and Mint Bourbon Sipper

CocktailsDani ColombattoComment
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Summer has arriiiiiiiiiiiiived in Austin! My first year (plus) of living here, as soon as the weather began to turn, I felt dread fill my body. Let’s just say, when swept up in the romance of a boy and his town, you don’t exactly get into “Sooo, what’s the insect situation here?”. Two years into living here, and I feel my body adjusting to the rhythm of the seasons. Our shady back deck gets the best evening breezes, while the front yard takes the brunt of the heat, and all I want to do is sit out back there and sip some whiskey- with all the bug spray, of course. Which, side note, is the one product in my life where I’m like, BRING. ON. THE. CHEMICALS.

I digress…

For this little backyard sipper, I decided to go with longtime pal of all things Bourbon: peaches. I combined them with fresh orange and mint to make a sweet-yet-tart, and super fresh syrup. Everything gets shaken up with more fresh orange, and then gets a splash of sparkling water, because, bubbles. It really couldn’t be more simple, and isn’t that what you want in a summer cocktail?

To fulfill my backyard, whiskey-sippin’ dreams, I partnered with Black Feather Whiskey on this post, and a sweet little giveaway! (Update: Giveaway is closed) Black Feather is giving one lucky Austinite a fun night, on them. This Saturday (6/8), Black Feather Whiskey is hosting the Sun and Moon Twilight Music Series at Moontower Saloon, complete with tasty bites, Black Feather cocktails, and live music. If you’re in the mood for a date night (aren’t we all), comment on this blog post, my Instagram post for this cocktail, or reply to the question in my Instagram story and tell me one thing you’re looking forward to cooking or eating this summer. One lucky Austinite will get their cocktail tab covered by Black Feather for the evening, which is essentially like being taken out on a date. Each comment/story reply counts as an entry! I’ll choose a winner Friday night (6/7).

Now, onto the whiskey of it all.

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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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The Peach Truck's Fried Peach Hand Pies

SweetsDani ColombattoComment
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Two weekends ago, we went to Ben’s parent's’ house about an hour outside of town, and picked roughly 45 peaches to take home off their booming peach tree. The stars (and nature) seemed to perfectly align, as I was recently sent an early copy of The Peach Truck Cookbook to share a recipe or two from. In my humble opinion, there are a few things that make a cookbook amazingly inspiring. First, being the story. I feel like with cookbooks, we often get so lost in the recipes, I see people flipping through the forward or the pre-recipe stories that are full of subtle, beautiful inspiration. Then, we have photos that make you want to eat all of the foods through the book, using only your face. Finally, we have wisdom. PASS ME THOSE HELPFUL TIDBITS. I’m like Ms. Pacman with helpful tidbits! I’ll eat them up all day long whilst avoiding those ghosts. Everyone has methods that are uniquely theirs, honed by culture, tradition, hell, even the way we operate our bodies.

The Peach Truck cookbook offers all the aforementioned things that add up to an inspiring cookbook in spades. Truly, one I’ll covet each peach season for years and years to come. What I really enjoyed about Jessica and Stephen’s story, is that among the elements that made me dream of an idyllic farm life, they were not shy in talking about the stark struggle of farming. Beautiful in both its bounty, and its brutality, I found this book to be such a lovely metaphor for life. Certain trees look like they’re thriving, only not to deliver what was visibly promised. Other trees look like they’re struggling for life, and then give the best fruit of the season. They came onto the Nashville scene where people had already-established, long-term relationships with the farming community. They had to slow-grow it. Make connections. Put themselves out there, even when they were unsure of the outcome. Metaphors for life, wrapped in the most delicious fruit of the season. Very clever, indeed.

The recipes in this book are so stunning, I had the hardest time choosing what to make first. Ultimately, the fried peach hand pies won the household vote (of 2). Perfect pie dough half-moons get folded over bright, gently spiced peach compote, which, by the way, would be incredible on biscuits, scones, waffles- INSERT PASTRY HERE - You’ll be glad you have extra on hand.

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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. Finally, a bright basil pesto comes along to make dipping dreams come. As the kids say, letteth us getteth into it.

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