‘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.
Larry and Dixie McGillis were the winning bidders of this dinner, which was featured in the live auction at the 2015 Mayville State University Farmers Bowl last fall. They would be joined by eight of their friends at the home of Brent and Bonnie Freeland in Mayville, and even though all of the guests were unknown to us, our hosts for the evening were not.
We knew from our experience last year with the Freelands and their co-hosts, Brent and Jennifer Kohls, Corey and Tracy McGillis, Shannon and Denise Bergstrom, Scott and Leah Larson and Brett and Laura Brudvik, that we were going to have fun in Mayville no matter who showed up at the party. I’m a lifelong North Dakotan, but had never been to Mayville until last summer. The folks who live in this vibrant and engaging community are passionate about many things, including their city and Mayville State University, and thankfully our passion for food and North Dakota adventures led them to connect with us.
We didn’t think twice when they asked us to return again this year, and we hope to make it an annual event for many years to come. Tony and I love being a part of events like this, which are small and intimate, allowing us to engage directly with our guests and hosts, who were also our servers for the night. The evening began with our guests seated around a spacious kitchen island, sipping prosecco as they watched Tony demonstrate how to perfectly sear scallops and prepare roasted red peppers. Few of the guests had ever tried prosecco, scallops or roasted red peppers, and we were delighted by the enthusiasm with which this group embraced our menu.
After the appetizers, our guests were ushered into the dining room to enjoy three more courses with wine pairings before moving to the fireplace patio outside for dessert. For dessert, we wanted something pretty that would reflect the season, so I chose to make rhubarb ice cream served in delicate meringue nests with strawberry sauce. I adore rhubarb in any form, but particularly when it is paired with strawberries – one of the all-time greatest flavor pairings, in my opinion.
Our son, Gio, doesn’t much care for rhubarb, but when he tried this dessert he came back for seconds. For the ice cream, I followed the recipe for our honey vanilla bean ice cream (shared in June 2015), omitted the milk and vanilla beans and added a fresh rhubarb puree instead. Six egg yolks give this custard its rich and luxurious texture, and I chose to make meringues because it’s a great way to utilize the leftover egg whites, but angel food cake would be a good alternative.
The dessert was a success, and the evening closed with the poignant toast that opened this column, made by Brent Kohls. Brent’s call to action was on display throughout the night as our Mayville friends welcomed us all with their passion for others and philanthropic hearts.
Before leaving, we were gifted with a tray of goodies from the excellent Soholt Bakery in Mayville, as well as a 100-pound bag of flour straight from the North Dakota Mill. These gifts are so appreciated, but the real gift is the friendship we have found in Mayville.
Sarah’s Rhubarb Ice Cream with Strawberry Sauce
For the ice cream:
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
6 large egg yolks rhubarb puree (see recipe below)
In a small pot over medium-low heat, bring the cream, sugar, honey and salt to a gentle simmer, just until sugar completely dissolves, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks gently; keep whisking and slowly add 1 cup of the hot cream into the yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pot with the cream. Be careful not to over-whisk, or the batter will become frothy with too much air.
Return pot to low heat and cook, stirring often, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 to 7 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in the rhubarb puree until fully combined. Cool to room temperature; cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze overnight and serve with strawberry sauce.
For the rhubarb puree:
1 pound rhubarb, chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
In a medium saucepan, cook over medium heat until rhubarb becomes very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a blender and mix until finely pureed; taste and add more sugar and/or lemon juice as desired. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
For the strawberry sauce:
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until finely pureed. Taste and add more lemon or sugar as desired. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com. All previous recipes can be found at http:// thelostitalian.areavoices.com.