15 New Year’s Resolutions for Foodies

It almost goes without saying that most of us begin a new year with the resolve to lose weight and/or eat better. And we share this sentiment, too. But what about taking time to actually think about and enjoy our food? What does that even mean?

Over the past week, Tony, Gio and I have been talking about what we’d like to explore in the world of food for the new year, and we came up with a list of our top 15 food resolutions for 2015. Some are personal cooking goals, but most of them are just fun ways to expand our culinary horizons.

1. Try a new cheese each month

We could have stuck with our original idea of trying a new cheese every week, but what would happen if we missed a week? Our intention is to make these resolutions as reasonable, and achievable, as possible and we think we can manage at least one new cheese every month in 2015.

Fortunately, the new and improved Luna neighborhood café on south University Drive in Fargo has a fabulous cheese counter, and Peter Kelly, formerly of The Green Market, is the man behind it. Ryan Nitschke, the executive chef of the soon-to-be full-service restaurant also knows his way around the cheese counter, and we can’t wait to taste their recommendations for 2015. The fact that Luna is located just one block from our house makes this resolution almost too easy to achieve. :)

2. Eat together as a family more often

Tony, Sarah and Giovanni, in the Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

When I was growing up, my family had dinner together every single night and as I’ve grown older I’ve come to cherish that experience. But with our restaurant schedule, dining together just isn’t a regular possibility for our family and it’s easy to skimp out on preparing a proper home-cooked meal on our days off.

But our 10-year-old son, Gio, loves it when we sit down to enjoy a meal together at home, and we always feel closer as a family when we do. Once a week is a must for this one.

3. Use the good stuff

We have beautiful china that we rarely use, and our goal is to bring it out not just for special occasions, but anytime we dine together as a family. Even if we’re just serving pizza.

4. Try different oils

Extra virgin olive oil and canola oil are the staples in our house, but the world of oil is vast and we’d like to know it better. Tochi Products in north Fargo has a terrific assortment of oils to try, including grape seed, almond, sunflower, sesame and even white truffle oil.

5. Sharpen knives regularly

Sharpening Angle Guide

Photo by Simon A. Eugster (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You would think that professionals in the food industry would have the sharpest knives on the block, but the knives in our drawer at home could not be duller. Creative Kitchenat West Acres offers knife sharpening services for a nominal fee, and even hosts free events several times throughout the year. This is the year we’re going to get our knives sharpened, at least once. :)

6. Add more fish to our diet

Fish is so good for us, but is often left out of our regular diets – even though we’ve featured some great fish and seafood recipes here on the blog, including Poached Salmon in Leek Cream Sauce, Shrimp alla Carbonara, Parmesan & Pepper Walleye, Fish Cakes, Seafood Linguini and the famous Sarello’s Red Curry Scallops.

We need to take advantage of all the healthy benefits fish bring to our diets, and thankfully our local supermarkets and restaurants have an abundance of great seafood options to keep this challenge interesting and delicious.

7. Try new foods

This could be as simple as sweet pickles or those cute little red peppadew peppers in the olive bar, as interesting as using exotic spices like saffron or turmeric, or as complex as mastering boeuf bourgignon or foie gras, but the goal is to have fun tasting and making new foods.

8. Seek out new food experiences

In 2014 we were blessed to participate in several new food adventures, including our “Italy on the Prairie” dinner last summer at the Coteau des Prairies Lodge in southern North Dakota, the inaugural “Banquet in a Field” farm-to-table event in rural Cass County (ND), and

Tony even traveled to Santa Rosa, CA to enjoy a lark as a contestant on Food Network’s hit show, Guy’s Grocery Games!

These were amazingly fun events and we enthusiastically say “More, please!” For a simpler quest, you could step outside your comfort zone and try a new restaurant, take a cooking class, check out a health food store, visit a bakery, order something different at your favorite restaurant, or visit a town for its famed local specialty.

9. Master Biscuits and Gravy

Gfp-biscuits-and-gravy

Photo by Yinan Chen (www.goodfreephotos.com (gallery, image) via Wikimedia Commons

Just because we love this classic southern specialty. I’ve made southern biscuits before, but am now in search of the perfect sausage gravy.

10. Bake once a week

Baking is like therapy for me, and I’m seeking some peace and calm in 2015. Baking once a week may be just what I need. I have some staples that I turn to when I just need to bake, like buttermilk brownies, angel food cake, Clipper Chippers (aka, the world’s best chocolate chip cookie) and almond friands, but I’m hoping to add some new items to my repertoire in 2015 and look forward to this challenge.

11. Make time to eat with friends

2010-07-20 Black windup alarm clock face

Food is a wonderful way to connect with others, but we rarely entertain in our home and often turn down dinner invitations, using our busy schedule as an excuse. It’s time for us to make more time to enjoy breaking bread with others.

12. Master a Roast Chicken

Roasted chicken with vegetables

Photo by Phoebe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Gio was looking through a recent issue of Saveur magazine earlier this month and was practically salivating as he showed me a picture of a gorgeous roast chicken. This comfort food definitely needs to be added to our repertoire.

13. Use location for inspiration

Last summer we were challenged to create almost a dozen different appetizers, each one inspired by a North Dakota crop, for the inaugural Banquet in a Field event. We are grateful to live in an area that is abundant with agriculture, which should give us plenty of inspiration for 2015.

14. Drink better coffee

I’ve always wanted to try making coffee from a French press – this may be the year.

15. Use our cookbooks

We have a huge collection of cookbooks but tend to gravitate toward just a few favorites. We’re going to prepare a new recipe each month in 2015, using a different, and previously unused, cookbook each time.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress throughout the year and hope you’ve enjoyed our list. Tony, Gio and I wish you a very happy, and delicious, new year!Happy New Year 2015

Wild for Walleye, Italian-Style

We’re debuting a new summer menu this week at Sarello’s, and I am happy to announce that one of my all-time favorite items has swum its way back into the mix: Parmesan-Pepper Walleye.

Mention walleye to almost any local and you’ll find that we are pretty much crazy about this king of the lake. So what is about walleye that makes it such a local favorite, even for non-anglers? For starters, walleye is widely available throughout our region, even in rural areas where fresh seafood can be difficult to get.

This mild, white lake fish is extremely versatile and can be enjoyed pan-fried, deep fried, oven-baked, grilled – you name it. It is sweet and flaky, with a lightness that contrasts nicely from some richer fish varieties like sea bass or salmon.

We’ve served walleye in a variety of different ways at Sarello’s, but this parmesan-pepper preparation is by far the most popular among our guests. Our son, Gio, isn’t a big fan of fish in general, but even he can’t resist this savory local specialty when it’s prepared this way.

To begin, create a simple breadcrumb coating of Japanese breadcrumbs (a must for this recipe), black pepper, parmesan cheese, granulated garlic and salt. Dredge each walleye fillet first in flour, followed by a quick dip in egg wash, and then coat each piece completely in the breadcrumb mixture.

Next, we fry the fillets in vegetable oil over medium-high heat until golden brown all over, and then transfer them to a baking sheet to be finished off in a 400-degree oven for about 12 to 15 minutes. The breading seals in the heat and ensures that the fish stays moist.

When I prepared this recipe over the recent holiday weekend, I served it with Lemon Aioli and a Caprese Orzo Salad, a combination of flavors which just sings, “Summer is here!” This is one of our all-time favorite meals, and it was a big hit with our entire family. The walleye was crunchy, flavorful and light, and the made-from-scratch lemon aioli made a great alternative to the more conventional tartar sauce, especially for mayo-phobes like Gio and me.

 

The Caprese orzo salad offers flavors that are mellow, easy, and of the season, just like the walleye. Orzo is the little pasta that looks similar to rice, and we tossed it in extra-virgin olive oil with sliced grape tomatoes, cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese and a little fresh basil, creating great color on the plate.

With a little advance preparation, this is a pretty quick meal to assemble. The breadcrumbs and aioli can be prepared up to one week in advance and set aside until ready to use. Several hours before serving you can bread the walleye fillets and prepare all of the ingredients for the salad: cook the orzo, slice the tomatoes, cube the mozzarella. Give the orzo at least one hour to chill in the refrigerator before adding the other ingredients, and wait to dress it with fresh basil, olive oil and seasoning until just ready to serve.

Once you’re ready to serve, sit back and wait for the wave of oohs and aahs to begin, because this meal is always a crowd pleaser. Then pour yourself a glass of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, or for even more local flavor try the Bear Creek La Crescent, and savor the satisfaction of a delicious summer meal.

What’s YOUR favorite way to eat walleye? Is there a fisherman/woman in your family? Leave your answer in the Comments below. Happy Summer!

RECIPES
Parmesan Pepper Walleye
Lemon Aioli
Caprese Orzo Salad 

 

BEEF – It’s What’s for Dinner This Tuesday!

BEEF – it’s what for dinner this Tuesday night at Sarello’s!
Join us tomorrow evening for Tony’s Signature Tuesday special, featuring our Classic Filet Mignon for half-price!

Our Filet is served with Veal Demi-Glace, Whipped Potatoes and Asparagus. It’s regularly listed on the menu for $35, but this Tuesday *only* we’re featuring it for just $17.50.

Save Tuesday nights for Sarello’s!
Every Tuesday Tony will be selecting a different entrée to feature for half-price, so save Tuesday nights for Sarello’s! FYI – Tony’s first Signature Tuesday Special last week was a big hit, so reserve your table early! Call 218.287.0238 or email to dine@sarellos.com.

We LOVE to see you at Sarello’s!

 

St. Patrick’s Day Treats: Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake & Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur

St. Patrick’s Day is this Monday, so we’re tipping our Irish hats to my family’s heritage for a change this week. Fortunately, Tony loves both of the recipes we’re sharing today, so I won’t be losing my Italian-by-marriage credentials anytime soon.

This week’s featured recipe is Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake which, for Tony, equals happiness. We’ve offered this dessert at Sarello’s many times throughout the years, and the recipe is always requested whenever we do. In fact, it’s so good there’s hardly room for improvement, but I think I’ve found a way to make it even better.

Try making it with your very own, homemade Irish cream liqueur, which is surprisingly easy to create and even better than the original version. We’ve included this recipe as a special bonus, just for all you lads and lasses out there (over 21, of course). This is a foolproof endeavor as you can control the flavor by adjusting the amount of Irish whiskey and other ingredients according to your taste.

Many people find the prospect of making a cheesecake from scratch a bit intimidating. I’ll admit – I’ve had that same perception, so I turned to the talented Ben Walker, our Sous Chef at Sarello’s, who just happens to be a master of cheesecake.

Chef Ben gave me some great advice to ensure that my cheesecake turned out as good as the ones he makes for our guests. He began by stressing the importance of having all of the ingredients at room temperature before starting, as this step nearly guarantees that the right consistency is achieved when mixed together.

Use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer to combine the sugar and cream cheese until creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. The texture should be light and smooth, so if you taste it and find that it’s grainy, gritty or lumpy, keep mixing. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix until just incorporated; Chef Ben cautioned against over-mixing the batter at this stage, which can alter the final texture of the cake.

Once all of the ingredients have been mixed together, firmly tap the bottom of the mixing bowl against the counter several times to remove any air bubbles, which helps to prevent the cake from cracking.

Next, Chef Ben recommended using a springform pan to prevent leaks and provide easy access to the cake. For easy removal, lightly coat the bottom of the pan with cooking spray, followed by a liner of parchment paper.

And finally, to fully ensure that the cheesecake is evenly cooked throughout, it must be baked in a water bath. People tend to recoil when they hear that, thinking this technique signals that the recipe is beyond their skill set. I used to be guilty of this, too. But, really, all it means is preparing a pan of water to set the cake pan in before it goes into the oven. It’s that simple, and makes a world of difference in the result.

To prevent any water from creeping inside the cake pan, Chef Ben suggested lining the outside with aluminum foil. Once the cake is baked, allow it to cool for about 30 minutes and then refrigerate until ready to serve, up to four days.

See? Cheesecake made simple, and delicious. The Irish cream liqueur is even easier to make and we won’t tell anyone if you sip as you bake. May the luck of the Irish be with you (and Chef Ben) always!

Click here for the Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake Recipe
Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur

Do you have any favorite St. Patrick’s Day food traditions?
Let us know what you love about this fun holiday in the Comments section!

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