Tony and Sarah Nasello
"May your passion be others, and your heart philanthropic." These words have echoed in my mind ever since first hearing them last Thursday at the end of a special dinner event in support of Mayville (N.D.) State University. Tony and I had been invited back for a second year to serve as the guest chefs for the evening, which was sponsored by six couples with some of the biggest hearts we know.
It's that time of year where Tony and I find ourselves experimenting with dishes that showcase locally grown ingredient as we strive to come up with a dozen or more recipes for the third annual Banquet in a Field, a farm-to-table dinner event held in August at Peterson Farms Seed to celebrate the bounty of North Dakota agriculture.
This week we're sharing one of my favorite summer salad recipes which we call the "Barnhardt Summer Salad," named for my aunt, Carol Barnhardt, from Fairbanks, Alaska, who has made this salad at nearly every family gathering I've attended in the past 15 years. The recipe was originally featured as "Black Bean and Rice Salad" in the August 1991 edition of Bon Appetit magazine, and we've made just a few minor adjustments to suit our own tastes over the years.
Over Memorial Day weekend I was craving gremolata, a simple Italian condiment traditionally served with the Milanese specialty Osso Buco (braised veal shank). Neither Tony nor I were in in the mood to cook for hours on end on this beautiful weekend, so we opted for a humble, quick-cooking flank steak instead. Thankfully, gremolata is an excellent complement to many dishes including grilled meats, vegetables, fish and chicken.
My sister-in-law, another Sarah, did something extraordinary last Saturday. She ran and completed her first half-marathon as part of the Fargo Marathon event. What makes this so extraordinary is that Sarah had never run more than 4 or 5 miles continuously before starting her training regimen earlier this year. Even further, she gave birth to her second child, baby Sadie, just last September. She is my hero of the week.
Did you know that Friday, May 13, was International Hummus Day? According to Wikipedia, this "holiday" began in 2012, but beyond that there is scant information about how this day was designated or by whom. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that there isn't a specific governing body to oversee these honorifics, at least not yet. With the advent of social media, there seems to be a daily special designation for nearly any topic you can imagine — food, culture, places, art and even animals. Unfortunately, I usually learn about these new holidays ex post facto, as I scroll through my Twitter feed before falling asleep. No matter. We relish any opportunity to celebrate the wonderfulness of hummus, a Middle Eastern creation of pureed chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon and garlic.
Tuesday, May 17, is Syttende Mai, which might not mean much to you if you're not Norwegian. But it's a date that has always been marked with occasion in my family as it commemorates Norway's Constitution Day. Lucky for me, Tony has embraced my Norwegian background and to celebrate this Syttende Mai he's created a lovely dish featuring Grilled Norwegian Salmon with Lingonberry Sauce.
As Mother's Day approaches, I find myself revisiting some of my favorite memories as a mother. I'll never forget the time Gio and Tony made me breakfast in bed for my birthday. Gio had talked about it for months, planning an ambitious menu featuring an omelette, French Peasant toast served with my favorite French jam, sugar-topped French breakfast muffins, fresh fruit and French crepes. I figured I'd be lucky to have even one of those specialties, but he made all of them for me last November, assisted — and only assisted — by his dad.
Grilling season is here, and it's time to arm your culinary repertoire with some top-notch side dishes. This week we're showcasing Tony's Veggie Bowtie Pasta Salad, featuring the elegant farfalle noodle with a variety of fresh vegetables and an amazing honey Dijon vinaigrette. But what really makes this salad sing is Tony's generous use of fresh mint, which brings a bright dose of refreshing flavor to the dish.
By some lucky chance, I had a surfeit of lemons on hand last week and decided to try a recipe for lemon pound cake from a lovely baking cookbook I received several years ago from Tony. It was a good thing I had so many lemons on hand, because my two attempts at this butter-rich, uber-sifted pound cake were utter failures. My results were ugly, broken and depressing.