Dani Goes South.

salad

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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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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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.  

Whole Wheat Penne Salad with Sundried Tomato & Kalamata Pesto, Capers, Pine Nuts, Feta, Tomatoes & Basil

Salads, Pasta, DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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I've been thinking a LOT about inspiration this week. Where we get it, what drives us, what we do with said inspo once it comes to us, etc. I've been thinking a lot about how it seems like people are treating Instagram more and more like Pinterest, gathering ideas, and taking in seemingly infinite content. I'm not going to get on a soapbox about intellectual property, but I will pose this question: Where do you get your inspiration? What is your intention with your inspiration, and when scrolling through Instagram? Is it to gather ideas? Is it to connect?

All these thoughts this week led me to think about the intentionality of my own inspiration. I'm making a concerted effort to be exponentially more mindful in taking the time and effort to soak in inspo, like I've done my whole life before all the social meeds infiltrated. This often means asking myself what I value in my creativity. The thing about answering this question is that, if you are really honest with yourself, the answer most likely will not be what "that person on Instagram" is doing. You are SO uniquely you. If you ever feel lost in a sea of content, please remember NO ONE can replicate what it is exactly that you value. Return to that, and I promise, a fresh batch of inspiration will arrive sooner than you can double tap a picture. With that, I'll drop some Seuss on you: "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you". True. That. Doctor. Now, onto pasta. 

Speaking of values, I think I've mentioned this before, but nostalgia is up there for me. This is a simple AF pasta salad, but the woman who inspired it is anything but. My Grandma Joyce is partially responsible for making me the lady I am today. She was poised, tough-as-nails, hilarious, and always let me know how strong I was when I didn't have the faintest clue. I could go on for days about her. One thing that she was not, however, was the "chef" of the family. Listen, I could regale you with tales of ambrosia salads all day, but I want you to want this pasta at the end of this, so that feels counterproductive. I'll just say, that when she made this pasta salad for my little cousin Giuseppe's baby shower, it was a surprise hit given the hands that made it (I LOVE YOU GRANDMA!). As per previous mention, this salad really couldn't be any easier. The pesto is a total blender deal, and you'll even have a little left for additional sauce/crostini purposes. The whole thing can be made in advance, eaten warm, room temp, or cold, and makes a bitchin' next-day lunch sitch. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook your penne until al dente. Make your pesto. In a blender, combine your toasted almonds, and garlic cloves, and pulse until the almonds look like fine crumbs. Add your roughly chopped sundried tomatoes (the kind packed in oil), kalamata olives, parsley, salt, and pepper, and blend on low, opening the spout, and slowly drizzling in your olive oil. 

Add your pesto to your whole wheat penne while it's still warm, and toss to combine. Next, add your cherry tomatoes, feta, pine nuts, capers, basil and parsley. That is quite literally it. When I say easy AF, I mean it! 

If ever there were a meal to eat straight-out-o-the-fridge, in the middle of the night, with a spoon, well, this is it, mah friends.

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Kale and Salmon Caesar with Buttery, Everything-Spiced Breadcrumbs

Salads, DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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This wouldn't really be my blog if I didn't post this recipe. I've shared it before on my previous blog, Goldwire, and it was one of our most popular recipes, and in my opinion, for good reason! Aside from toasting some breadcrumbs, melting some butter, and a little chopping, this dish is super hands-off. More than that, it's super satisfying, and I feel genuinely fulfilled after I eat it. Sure, it's not the healthiest salad on the block, thanks to copious amounts of parm, but who gives a shit? You guys know why you're here...

I've provided the kale and omegas. I've done my due diligence in the health department as far as I'm concerned. But because I also believe in trying to give ourselves our best chance at true happiness, there also just so happens to be a really, really delicious Caesar dressing with lots of the aforementioned cheese, along with mounds of buttery, toasted, everything-spiced breadcrumbs. Balance. Do you guys read italics in a creepy whisper? Because that's how I'm intending it. 

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