Dani Goes South.

seafood

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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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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Chipotle Lime Salmon Tostadas with Crispy Potatoes & All the Fixings

DinnersDani Colombatto2 Comments
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Fridays have quickly become my favorite day. It's the official start of our weekends, and it usually means a little sleeping in, a pretty walk, a little list-makin', a little grocery shopping, and planning the next two days' projects. This weekend we might even be squeezing in a little new living sitch perusal, which, you can't see me but I'm doing back handsprings, and dancing through a wildflower field with my cat over that prospect. The start to the weekend also usually entails an easy dinner, enter: these tostadas. First, let me just say, crispy tortillas are LyFe, and in this case, the perfect vehicle for tender, chipotle lime butter-basted salmon. Also, if you add said chipotle-lime butter to some crispy baby new potatoes, life seems like, 17% more rosy. Avo, cotija, tons of cilantro, and quick pickled onions are always welcome accouterments, in addition to the most addictive cilantro vinaigrette ever. Are they called "fixings" because after you're done eating, you feel like you've solved all your problems? Just something to think about. 

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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Baja Fish Tacos with Chipotle Lime Crema

DinnersDani ColombattoComment
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For all the amazing food in Austin, I find myself severely missing two things since moving from San Diego: Sushi, and Mexican food, namely fish tacos. I know, I know, Austin is known for tacos but they just aren't the same! Fish tacos, particularly Baja style remind me so much of childhood. They make me think of salty, sandy, hair, warm evenings riding razor scooters, getting home in time to watch Legends of the Hidden Temple on a Saturday, etc. The best ones usually come from the tiniest, most shitty-looking of shacks. If it's attached to a random gas station, even better. Have I mentioned nostalgia is a hobby of mine?

Let's talk taco constitution. This little number just so happens to have a batter that is perfectly crisp-yet-light, a chipotle-lime crema that brings just the right amount of heat, creamy avo, cotija, tart pickled onions, crunchy radishes, and lots of cilantro. A squeeze of lime sets everything over the top, and if you happen to have a good IPA in your fridge, good on ya. 

To kick things off, make your chipotle lime crema. Combine your sour cream or creme fraiche, with 2 tbs chopped chipotle peppers in adobo, your garlic, lime juice, and either puree with a food processor or immersion blender. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Thinly slice half an onion, and add to a small bowl. Cover with red wine vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, cover with plastic wrap, and add to your fridge as well.

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