Summer Salad Favorite: Barnhardt Black Bean & Rice

Photo by Dave Wallis/The Forum

This week we’re sharing one of my favorite summer salad recipes which we call the “Barnhardt Black Bean and Rice 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 fifteen 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.

This recipe is a favorite for many reasons, including its colorful appearance, nutritional content and healthy benefits, but mostly because it’s just so darn delicious. I just love watching people’s reaction upon taking a bite of this humble mix of rice and beans, including our Forum photographer, Dave Wallis who gushed between mouthfuls, “Ohhh…that’s nothing like…wow, I thought it would be so bland.” (Thanks, Dave.) “It’s surprisingly crunchy,” he said, “and way more flavorful than I expected.”

Even though tasting our recipes is old-hat for Dave, I understand how he could think that a salad made from white rice and beans could be a little bland. And if it was just rice and beans, it would be. Fortunately, this nearly-perfect salad is rounded out by the addition of bell peppers, red onion, cilantro and a wonderfully flavorful orange vinaigrette.

The components of this dish are thoughtfully balanced, not only in flavor, but in size and texture, too. Long-grain rice has a lower starch content than short or medium grain, making it ideal for salads as the grains are drier and separate better.

Black beans are similar in length to the long grain rice and bring a lovely crunch to the mix. Size matters in this salad and should be considered when chopping the bell peppers and red onion, which should be small-diced into pieces no larger than the black bean. When done right, every ingredient will be able to easily fit onto one forkful.

Photo by Dave Wallis/The Forum

For added flavor, the rice is cooked in chicken (or vegetable) stock with two bay leaves, which are removed before mixing in the salad ingredients. If it was up to our son, Giovanni, he’d stop right here and start eating, and you could too, as this seasoned rice makes an excellent side dish.

The original recipe simply calls for all the ingredients to be mixed in with the rice until combined, but we like to prepare the vinaigrette separately which allows us to taste and adjust the acidity and seasoning as desired.

With rice and beans as the main stars of the dish, not only is this salad beautiful and delicious, but it is also low in fat, filling and nutritious. Rich in vitamin B1, fiber, protein, magnesium and antioxidants, this dish is a terrific energy booster and an excellent aid for good digestion.

This salad is perfect for large parties and summer barbecues and holds up well over several days when refrigerated. It is versatile enough to serve as a side dish with chicken, burgers, fish and pork, and is also a great addition in fish tacos and burritos. Our Barnhardt Summer Salad has become a summertime staple in our household, and we hope you enjoy it, too.

Photo by Dave Wallis / The Forum
Photo by Dave Wallis / The Forum

Barnhardt Black Bean and Rice Summer Salad

Serves: 12 to 16 (easily)

2 14.5-oz. cans chicken broth
½ cup water
1 lb. long-grain rice
2 bay leaves

2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 red bell peppers, small diced
1 green, orange or yellow bell pepper, small diced
1 medium red onion, small diced
⅓ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 medium jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup orange juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Cook chicken broth and water in a large sauce pan or medium stock pot over high heat until boiling; add rice and bay leaves and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and continue cooking until liquid is fully absorbed into the rice, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Prepare the vinaigrette as the rice cooks. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, orange juice, vinegar, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper until emulsified; taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Transfer rice to a large bowl, add the vinaigrette and gently fluff with 2 forks to remove any clumps. Add the black beans, bell peppers, red onion, cilantro and jalapeno (optional) and lightly mix in with the forks to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

For best results, cover and refrigerate for one hour before serving. Can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.

A Cold Blast from the Past, in honor of #WorldPenguinDay

In honor of #WorldPenguinDay, here is one of my all-time favorites from our cruise ship days…Antarctic Peninsula, 1999.

That’s the M/V Clipper Adventurer, anchored in the background.

In this photo, we are surrounded by Gentoo penguins, who had zero fear of humans. Once upon a time, this was our daily life and I will be forever grateful for the wonderful travel adventures Tony and I have had together and the many more to come.

Happy World Penguin Day!

Tony & Sarah in Antarctica with penguins (ship is in the background)


When Life Hands You Lemons…My Baking Disaster

Our food column in The Forum this week features a lovely Lemon Poppy Seed Breakfast Bread, but that wasn’t the originally intended recipe. No, instead I had high hopes of showcasing a lovely lemon pound cake, based on a new recipe I discovered in a cookbook all about the secrets of baking.

Faced with a surplus of beautiful lemons just begging to be used, I zested and juiced with great anticipation. Unfortunately, after several rounds of sifting dry ingredients and creaming the liquids (which included a pound (!) of good butter), I encountered utter failure – not once, but twice.

For the first batch, I used a specialty pan to create beautifully shaped mini cakes. Unfortunately, I left them to cool in the pan too long and while the tops were a lovely golden brown, the sides and bottoms were…not.

Mini Cakes failure

I switched to my trusty old light-colored metal loaf pan, and the cake looked nearly perfect when I pulled it from the oven. Sadly, when I went to turn it out of the pan after waiting the recommended 30 minutes, it fell out with a tumble and promptly broke in half. I was left with a jagged mess beyond repair, just a heap of broken bread. Sadder still? The battered remains weren’t even all that tasty.

Broken bread

I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, and maybe that will always remain a secret. Was it the recipe? Were my baking pans at fault? My oven? Or perhaps it was the absence of vanilla in the recipe? (I am naturally wary of any baked good recipe that doesn’t call for at least a smidge of vanilla.)

Alas, I will probably never know, as this double defeat may have put me off this recipe for good. Luckily, I still had enough ingredients on hand to turn to an “old reliable” recipe for Lemon Poppy Seed Breakfast Bread. Again, I made two batches and this time the results were much more promising. For more on this story and the recipe, feel free to visit us in Wednesday’s Variety section of The Forum.

Baking is a passion for me, a form of therapy and entertainment, and even when things don’t turn out as expected, I still enjoy the process. But it’s always more fun when they do.

I would love to hear from you and invite you to share your comments with me below.

Have you ever had a baking failure? Did you figure out what went wrong? Did you try the same recipe again, or look for a new version? Did you ever bake again? 🙂

Take Comfort in this Meat-Lover’s Meatloaf

Beloved throughout America, meatloaf is held up as one of the ultimate comfort foods, and everyone I’ve ever talked to about this wholesome specialty claims that their version is the best. We are strongly attracted to foods that create such universal appeal as to generate a sense of pride and territory – what is the story behind that food, and why does it wield such power?

We are positively crazy about this week’s featured recipe, Chef Colosimo’s Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, and not just because it’s the world’s best meatloaf, but also because it comes to us from a dear friend. Chef  Robert J. Colosimo, known affectionately to his friends as Bobby, was the corporate executive chef at Clipper Cruise Line during the time that Tony and I worked for the company, and he was a terrific mentor, chef and friend to both of us.

Chef Colosimo’s meatloaf was featured once each cruise for lunch, and it was a signature favorite with passengers and crew alike. It’s not so different from other meatloaf recipes I’ve encountered, as there is only so much one can do to meatloaf, and perhaps it was simply the comfort of the familiar that made it so popular. But this savory and delicious meatloaf brought me home every time I ate it, even in such remote locations as the Amazon or Antarctica.

We’re still in touch with Chef Colosimo, who was recently honored as Chef of the Year 2016 by the Chefs de Cuisine Association of St. Louis, where he lives with his wife and three children. Two years ago, we shared his recipe for the famous Clipper Chipper Cookies, which has now become a favorite among many of our readers.

Clipper Chipper cookies up close

These days, Chef Colosimo is the general manager and certified executive chef at Eleven Eleven Mississippi, a restaurant located in the Lafayette neighborhood of St. Louis, founded by fellow Clipper Cruise Line alumni Paul and Wendy Hamilton. If you’re ever in St. Louis, please make sure to stop in and say hello from Sarah and Tony.

With its mixture of ground beef and pork, and crispy bacon topping, this is definitely a meat-lover’s meatloaf. When served aboard the Clipper vessels, Bobby’s meatloaf was accompanied by a heavenly Marsala mushroom sauce and whipped potatoes, but here at home we’re so eager to dig in that we haven’t gotten around to making the sauce yet. We’ll be sure to share it with you when we do.

This recipe calls for fresh breadcrumbs, and you can easily make your own by blitzing stale bread in your food processor until finely ground. I separate mine into cup-size portions and freeze them in plastic zip bags for easy use whenever I need them.

To form the meatloaf, I spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray and pack the meat tightly into it, then I turn it upside down onto the baking sheet and gently remove the pan. I cut the bacon strips in half and wrap them around the top and sides of the loaf, with each piece slightly overlapping.


Last week during our recent cold snap, we enjoyed one of the most comforting meals I have ever had, featuring Chef Colosimo’s Meatloaf, Cream of Chicken Soup, Apple Spinach Salad and Rosemary Smashed Buxton Potatoes.

Meatloaf Comfort Dinner

The effect this meatloaf has had on me over the years is nearly magical – when I was on the ship, one bite would instantly surround me with the comfort of home and family. Now, I am flooded with memories of exotic places, wonderful food, and lifelong friends. What could be more comforting?

Chef Colosimo’s Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
¼ cup minced onions
¼ cup minced bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 each eggs
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons hot sauce (Tabasco or your favorite)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 to 6 strips uncooked bacon

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté the onions, bell pepper & garlic with the olive oil for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Cool completely.

Combine all ingredients except the bacon in a mixing bowl and mix well until the ingredients are blended evenly. Take a small teaspoon of the mixture and fry in a small frying pan and taste for proper seasoning. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Spray a large baking pan with non-stick spray and form one long loaf of even thickness and length. After loaf is formed, place the strips of bacon evenly over the meat loaf.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperatures of 150 degrees. Remove from oven and let meatloaf rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.



Cold Weather Comfort: Cream of Chicken Soup

Cream of Chicken SoupCream of Chicken Soup…the perfect antidote to a cold winter day. This soup is the embodiment of savory comfort, and is surprisingly light and silky for a cream soup. It’s a hit wherever we take it, including last weekend at the Valley Women’s Expo – we could hardly keep up with the demand!

Easy to make, lush and satisfying, AND it’s good for you. Now, isn’t that comforting? 🙂

Cream of Chicken Soup

Serves: 4 to 6

1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup dry white wine
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 tablespoons roux
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

For Garnish:
1 cup cooked chicken breast, diced
½ cup frozen green peas, thawed

Sauté the onions and carrots in the butter over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the white wine and cook the mixture until the liquid is reduced by half, about two minutes. Add the chicken stock and thyme and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.

Use a whisk to incorporate the roux, then add heavy cream and whisk again until combined. Continue cooking for five minutes until the soup thickens. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Lastly, add chicken breast and green peas, cook for one more minute to heat, and serve.

To Store: Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for up to 2 months.

Tony’s Tips:

  • To save time, buy a rotisserie chicken and remove the breast meat.
  • Wait to add the chicken and peas until just before serving, to keep texture and color fresh.
  • Double the batch and freeze some for use in other recipes that call for cream of chicken soup.
  • Roux can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for at least 2 months.

FIND The Lost Italian at the FargoDome this Weekend!

Tony, Gio and I will be presenting at the FargoDome this weekend as part of the Valley Women’s Expo, and we would love to have you join us! We will be featuring four of our favorite recipes, including Flourless Chocolate Torte, Tuscan Bean Salad, Cream of Chicken Soup and Gio’s Meatballs. Tickets are available at the door and you can visit their website for more information by clicking on the photo below.

TLI VWE collage

We’ll be serving samples of each featured specialty, sharing recipes, giving away prizes and signing cookbooks on both Friday and Staurday, and we hope you can join us for two days of fun, Fargo and food!

Jaime Primak Sullivan of “Cawfeetalk” and Bravo TV’s “Jersey Belle” is the keynote speaker on Friday, and we will also enjoy culinary presentations from Howard Rosenthal of the Mr. Food Test Kitchen. How cool is that?!!

The Valley Women’s Expo is sponsored by Valley News Live-KVLY TV11, and will take place at the FargoDome on Friday, January 15th and Saturday January 16th. For more information about the show, including times, vendors, speaker schedules and pricing, you can visit their website by clicking here: VALLEY WOMEN’S EXPO.

Gio stirs the pot - Nordic Kitchen (640x480)

We hope to see you at the Expo!


Post-Holiday Detox: Warm Up with Roasted Fennel Soup

Roasted Fennel Soup 2With today’s temps hovering around -4 degrees, and a “feels-like” temp of -14 degrees, soup was a natural choice for today’s Post Holiday Detox recipe and our Roasted Fennel Soup is a great way to stay healthy and warm.

Fennel, or finocchio in Italian, is a winter vegetable rich in potassium and fiber content, and is also a good source for a multitude of vitamins and nutrients. It is high in an essential oil called anethole, which provides potent antimicrobial activity to benefit smooth digestion.


When served raw, fennel has a crunchy texture similar to celery but a little smoother. In flavor it is cool and refreshing, with notes of the soothing, liquorice sweetness of anise. But when roasted, fennel transforms into a savory, mellow vegetable, full of warmth and flavor. Roasted fennel is perfect for this soup recipe, and is also delicious on its own as a side dish for meat, poultry and seafood.

To roast, begin by removing the stock and fronds, leaving only the bulb. Cut the bulb into six wedges, then toss these lightly in olive oil, sea or kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the fennel to a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and roast at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and fork tender.

Roasted Fennel

For this recipe, we roast the fennel with yellow onion, a sprig of fresh rosemary and a couple garlic cloves to enhance the aromatics of the soup. Once roasted, we remove the rosemary and transfer the ingredients to a stock pot. Add the chicken stock, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender (if you don’t have one yet, get one!), food processor or liquid blender to puree the soup until smooth. Because fennel is high in fiber, we recommend that you pour the pureed soup through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any fibrous grains and achieve a smooth consistency.

Tony with Immersion Blender - Copy


Return soup to the stock pot, add heavy cream (optional), and cook over medium heat for another five minutes. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper according to your taste.

This simple soup is surprisingly savory, rich, elegant and comforting, and very pretty when garnished with dried cranberries and toasted hazelnuts. We have also enjoyed it with homemade croutons, crumbled sausage, and a dollop or drizzle of crème fraiche or sour cream. Serve and enjoy!

Roasted Fennel Soup

Serves: 4 to 6

4 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into wedges
1 large yellow onion, trimmed and cut into wedges
1 large sprig rosemary
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (may substitute vegetable stock)
¼ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
¼ cup lightly toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped (walnuts are good, too)

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Place the fennel, onions, rosemary, garlic and olive oil in a large mixing bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables well to ensure an even coating. Transfer mixture to a baking sheet (you may wish to cover the sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper) and roast vegetables for about 40 minutes until golden and tender.

Remove the rosemary and transfer mixture to a stock pot. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to lowest setting and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, making sure to keep the blade immersed in the liquid the entire time (a liquid blender or food processor will also work).

Once a completely smooth consistency has been achieved, pour the soup through a fine-mesh strainer into another pot or bowl. Return the pot to burner, add the heavy cream and cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, garnish with dried cranberries and toasted hazelnuts and drizzle with a touch of olive oil.

To Store: Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week, or freeze for up to two months.

Tony’s Tip: Do not skip the straining step when making this soup – it is critical to developing the right consistency and texture.

Post-Holiday Detox: Albacore Tuna Salad

3-Albacore in Avocado

Today’s recipe for Albacore Chopped Salad makes me smile for many reasons. First, I simply adore this salad, and have ever since we introduced a version of it at our restaurant, Sarello’s, many years ago.

I love it in its original form, tossed with chopped Romaine lettuce, or with our recent addition of avocado – both as an edible vessel for serving and as an ingredient in the salad. My favorite way to enjoy this salad is on a thin piece of toast over mashed avocado.

Albacore on Toast 2

Second, this salad is gorgeously healthy – the colors and textures blend together so perfectly to create an irresistible desire to indulge.And go right ahead – indulge. Because this salad is loaded with ingredients that are naturally designed to enhance your health.

Both light and albacore tuna are good sources of protein, selenium and vitamin B12, and albacore has even better omega-3 fatty acids than other tuna varieties. But, it also has a higher mercury content, so keep your indulgences to once or twice a week if you can.

Lastly, I smile because I thought I hated canned tuna. For my entire life, I have shied away from dishes that contained canned tuna, mainly because most of them also contain mayonnaise. As an avowed mayo-phobe, I just couldn’t go there.

But this week Tony and I have featured two post-holiday detox dishes with canned tuna as a main ingredient (and no mayo – whatsoever), and I’m enjoying every bite. I think you will, too.

Albacore Chopped Salad with lettuce

Albacore Chopped Salad

Serves: 4 as a side dish; 2 as an entree

Salad Ingredients:
1 can cannelini beans, drained (about 15 oz.)
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
⅓ cup celery, sliced (half-moon shape)
¼ red onion, thinly sliced – the thinner, the better
1 ½ tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 5 oz. cans solid Albacore tuna (drained) or 1 12 oz. can
1 avocado, medium-diced
1 bag of chopped, clean romaine lettuce

Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Pinch of sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup olive oil

Combine egg yolk, lemon, garlic, sugar, and salt in a bowl. While whisking slowly, add olive oil in a thin stream, always whisking to emulsify. Incorporate all oil, taste, and adjust seasoning as desired.

Add salad ingredients to the dressing and stir so that vegetables and tuna are evenly coated. If making in advance, add the lettuce just before serving and toss to mix.

Tips from Tony and Sarah:

  • Vinaigrette can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.
  • A tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard or real mayonnaise can be used instead of the egg yolk and will extend the life of the dressing up to one week.
  • For a light lunch, mash up plain avocado to spread on thin toast and top with albacore salad, with or without lettuce.
  • For an elegant presentation, peel half an avocado and fill with albacore salad – omit the lettuce for more elegance.
  • To speed up the ripening process, place avocado in a paper bag with a ripe banana or apple for 24 hours.