Monday is Q&A Day!

Do you have a question about food, wine or entertaining? If so, we would love to help you. Every Monday night here on the blog we will answer any questions we receive throughout the week from our readers, so please send us your questions!

In last week’s Q&A post, “Ready, Set…Answer!” we were asked for holiday breakfast ideas, and appetizers that can be prepared in advance. Our answers included recipes for a festive Apple Sausage Breakfast Ring, Savory Crab Cheesecake, Blackened Sirloin, and Tony’s Marinated Olives.

Thank you to the readers who have sent us questions already – there are NO bad questions!

You can submit your questions to us in the blog’s Comments section below, via email to, or by posting on our Facebook page, HERE.


Ready, Set…Answer!

Here are the questions we received from our readers this week. We hope you find our answers and suggestions helpful, and would love to hear from you if you try them. All recipes can be accessed by clicking on the highlighted link in the article, or by visiting our RECIPES page here on the blog. Thank you to all who submitted questions this week.

From Anonymous in Fargo…

Q: Do you know when Breadsmith will have fresh Panettone available?

A: Yes, Rob Roberts from Breadsmith tells us that they will be offering fresh Panettone everyday from Dec. 14 through Christmas. Their Panettone is wonderful in our recipe for Panettone Bread Pudding, which was featured in our Nov. 28, 2012 column of The Forum and can be read HERE.

From Jennie in St. Paul, MN…..

Q: “Hi Sarah and Tony! I love, love, love the blog! I was wondering if you have any suggestions for an easy, lovely and delicious breakfast dish I could make over the holidays?”

A: Hi Jennie! Thank you for your question and kind comments. We traditionally host Christmas breakfast at our home for about 12-15 family members, so we are always looking for easy, flavorful ideas.

We try to keep our menu simple: we pick up a dozen or so fresh bagels from The Green Market in downtown Fargo (available only on Saturdays, but out of this world!), and prepare a smoked fish platter, featuring homemade Gravlax (which can be prepared well in advance and refrigerated – we’ll actually be featuring this recipe in our Dec. 26 column for a New Year’s Day breakfast idea, but if you’d like the recipe in advance you can find it on the Sarello’s website here) and smoked whitefish which we buy from a supplier in the Twin Cities. We accompany that with the usual red onion, capers, lemon and cream cheese.

But in addition to that, we’ll usually prepare a large platter of scrambled eggs, and some kind of breakfast meat. We used to cook a high-end sausage link and a ton of bacon, but our griddle broke down just before Christmas a couple years ago, and we didn’t have time to get a new one before the holiday.

My mother has a great recipe for a breakfast sausage ring that saved the day on this occasion, and has since become a main feature at our Christmas breakfast. I love this recipe for Apple Sausage Breakfast Ring because we’re no longer stuck in the kitchen cooking sausage and bacon while everyone else is enjoying a hot breakfast. Also, it’s easy, delicious, and can be prepared well in advance so that you will only need to bake it that morning. Oh, and it’s beautiful.

We fill the inside of the ring with fresh raspberries, and line the outside of the ring with sliced kiwi, which creates a fun and lovely holiday presentation for your guests. To view the recipe, just click on the link in the article or on the Recipes tab at the top of the blog.

Another idea we had for an easy, yet elegant and delicious, breakfast would be an egg strata (similar to an egg-bake). Again, this dish can be assembled in advance, involves few ingredients, and is almost certain to turn out well. We don’t have a favorite recipe in our repertoire, but there are many that can be found online.

From Merri Jo in Minot, ND…

Q: “I would love a suggestion for an appetizer (or two) that doesn’t need last minute preparation. I’d like to be chatting with my guests instead of stuck in the kitchen. Thank you!”

A: This is such a good question, Merri Jo. We also appreciate recipes that give us the freedom to be with our guests as much as possible. For this purpose, we have several ideas that should work well. We hope you find one or more that will work for you and thank you so much for your question!

Savory Crab Cheesecake: We turn this favorite American dessert on its side with this deliciously decadent appetizer by adding Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, and the combination always leaves our guests wanting more. This recipe is great for entertaining: serve it as an elegant course for a sit-down dinner, or cut into bite-size bars to accent any holiday hors d’oeuvres platter. We serve our Savory Crab Cheesecake with a Roasted Red Pepper Aioli.

Blackened Sirloin with Horseradish Cream Sauce: This dish is one of our go-to recipes for hors d’ouevres or appetizers, and was featured in our Dec. 5, 2012 column in The Forum, which you can read HERE.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto with Crostini: You can serve the pesto in a dish and have your guests top their own crostini, or you can top the crostini with the pesto just before serving and set them out on a platter to enjoy. You can make your own crostini by cutting a loaf of crusty French bread into rounds, rubbing each slice with a clove of garlic, and baking in the oven until golden brown. Or, you can often find pre-made crostini at your local bakery or grocery store.

Antipasti Platter with Tony’s Marinated Olives: Tony’s recipe for marinated olives is easy to make and always a hit with our guests. This recipe can be made in advance and served with a platter of Italian cured meats and a variety of at least three gourmet cheeses to create the perfect Antipasti. Serve with sliced French bread or crackers.


Home with The Lost Italian

Excerpts of this post have been published in the Wednesday, November 14, 2012 edition of The Forum, and can be found here: Home with The Lost Italian.

We were pleased to learn that our debut column in our local newspaper, The Forum, would coincide perfectly with Tony’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. As America’s favorite feasting tradition, the Thanksgiving holiday boasts a bounty of recipes to choose from; finding a topic for our first column would be easy.  Ha! After days of rejecting idea after idea, and more than one exasperated eye roll toward each other (more from me, I confess), we soon realized that this bountiful holiday presented more of a challenge for us than we’d anticipated.

After reviewing our previous menus for Thanksgiving-themed cooking classes, as well as countless magazines and cookbooks, the only thing we agreed on was that we would never agree on a single recipe. How do you condense this great American holiday into one recipe? The answer: we can’t. So we decided to compromise. We’d each pick one dish to showcase, with the agreement that we had to choose a dish that encompassed as many Thanksgiving flavors as possible.

Once we’d made our decisions, it was time to get to work. We sat down, turned on Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown tunes to set the holiday mood, and talked for over two hours about Thanksgiving, what we love about this holiday, and why we chose our recipes.

Stuffed Turkey Breast

Stuffed Turkey Breast

As I mentioned earlier, Tony loves the Thanksgiving feast, and not just because his mother-in-law does all the cooking.

“To me, Thanksgiving represents the ultimate in tradition: nearly every family celebrates with turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy…the works. And I love that! Tradition is very important in Italian culture, as are food and family, so I embrace everything this holiday is about. And I don’t even miss the pasta!”

Tony often likes to take a familiar tradition and try to give it new life, and that’s just what he’s done with his recipe for Stuffed Turkey Breast.

“This recipe is my spin on a classic Thanksgiving dinner. I like it because it incorporates the flavors of the season, without the hassle of planning a major feast. The turkey’s there, tender and moist, stuffed with apple-soaked raisins, brown sugar, carrots, all great fall flavors. And then you add the Panko bread crumbs…” Here, Tony pauses and lets out a long sigh. It’s clear to see that he is happy with his recipe choice.  “It’s also a perfect dish for smaller groups, like newlyweds, empty-nesters, or small families.”

Before heading outside to play with our son, Giovanni, he adds this seasonal anecdote.

“The other day, as I was driving to Sarello’s, traffic actually stopped for a moment on First Avenue in Moorhead, just to let a group of wild turkeys pass. They actually stopped traffic – only in Fargo-Moorhead!”

This recipe for Stuffed Turkey Breast really has a lot going for it. Elegant in its presentation, it’s also easy to assemble, and can be prepared up to two days in advance. And while the flavors may not be Italian, Tony has managed to work his culture into the dish via the Scaloppine technique used to prepare the turkey cutlets, which ensures their tenderness and fast cooking time. To complement the turkey breast, Tony pairs the dish with a Pomegranate Butter Sauce.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

My recipe of choice, Sweet Potato Cheesecake, has been a seasonal favorite at Sarello’s for years. Our guests are always pleasantly surprised when first tasting this dessert, which has become one of our most requested recipes. We love the versatility of sweet potatoes in cooking, and this dish also puts a new spin on a classic Thanksgiving food.

Velvety smooth in texture, Sweet Potato Cheesecake is bursting with autumnal flavors of cinnamon, brown sugar, and of course, sweet potatoes. The key to this recipe is in its preparation. Roasting the sweet potatoes in the oven first helps to bring out their natural sweetness, and makes such a difference in the overall flavor.

To further enhance this dish, we prepare our own Caramel Sauce and drizzle it around the plate before placing a slice of cake on top. Add a dollop of whipped cream and some strawberry slices, and your guests will soon be asking you for the recipe.

Just as I was finishing up this column, Tony walked into the kitchen and shared this bit of humor with me.

“Every day is Thanksgiving in this house, when you’re married to a turkey.” Hmmm…who’s the turkey?

To get the recipes, visit our Recipes page to print out copies of each featured recipe. If you’d like more ideas for Thanksgiving, be sure to check out Tony’s Top Ten Turkey Tips, as well as our Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations and Turkey Thawing Guidelines.