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.

Post-Holiday Detox: “Not Your Grandmother’s Tuna Fish Pasta”


To welcome the new year, this week we’ll be sharing some of our favorite Post-Holiday Detox recipes with you. Tony’s latest creation, Spaghetti with Tuna, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Chickpeas, is new to our repertoire and I have a feeling it’s going to become a regular favorite in our house. This is definitely not your grandmother’s tuna fish pasta dish.

This recipe meets our top 4 criteria for a healthy dish:

  1. Nutritional content – With the winning combination of tuna fish, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and pasta, this dish is loaded with vital minerals, nutrients and vitamins.
  2. Easy to make: Good recipes should consist of easy-to-find ingredients and require minimal preparation.
  3. Visually Appealing: Hey, we eat with our eyes, too, and there’s no reason a healthy dish can’t also be beautiful.
  4. Delicious – With the right recipe, a healthy dish should taste so good that you look forward to having it again.

Since today is National Spaghetti Day (who knew?) Tony shared this recipe during his segment this week on North Dakota Today, and we’ve included the link to the video demonstration for you below. We’ve already received several requests for the recipe and hope you enjoy it as much as we do!


Tony’s Spaghetti with Tuna, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Chickpeas Recipe

1 pkg. spaghetti
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (this makes very mild – increase as desired)
¼ cup red onion, small-diced
½ cup dry white wine
Juice of one lemon
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 5-oz. cans light tuna in water, drained
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, to al dente. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water for later use if needed.

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat until hot, then add garlic, crushed red pepper and red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 2 minutes. Add white wine and lemon juice and continue cooking over medium heat for another 2 minutes, to reduce white wine.

Add sun-dried tomatoes, chickpeas and cooked pasta and cook over medium heat for about one minute, stirring to combine. Add the tuna and parsley and keep tossing for another 1 to 2 minutes, until all ingredients are hot and evenly dispersed among the pasta. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with a light sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese.

Tony’s Tips:

  • This sauce is very light and intended merely to coat the ingredients. If the dish appears to be drying out, add the reserved pasta water right before the salt and pepper, starting with a half-cup up to one cup. Continue cooking for one minute just to heat.
  • Excellent also as a chilled salad – just add a tablespoon or two of canola oil, toss and serve.

Christmas Favorites: Panettone Bread Pudding

Today’s Christmas Favorite features a traditional Italian fruitcake called Panettone, which originated in the city of Milan. Not to be confused with our American version of fruitcake, Panettone is a light, moist, flavorful cake more like a bread, with candied orange peel, lemon zest and raisins.

Panettone is wonderful served in slices after a meal, or even for breakfast. On this occasion, however, Tony uses it to spice up a traditional comfort dessert, with his recipe for Panettone Bread Pudding.

“Panettone is the King of Christmas Cakes in Italian culture,” according to Tony. “In Etobicoke, the Toronto neighborhood where I grew up, the grocery stores and bakeries would be stacked with huge displays of Panettone. Big, bright boxes in every color, tied with fancy ribbons, all ready to give to your friends and loved ones. To me, Panettone signifies, hey, Christmas is here now.”

Soaking the Panettone in the wet ingredients before baking ensures that every piece of bread is moist. To further ensure the outcome, place your baking dish in a water bath to prevent the bread pudding from burning, curdling or drying out during baking.

For this occasion, we served the bread pudding with fresh berries and a dollop of our Honey Vanilla Ice Cream. But you can also enjoy it with our homemade Caramel Sauce.

Tony’s Panettone Bread Pudding

7 large eggs

1½  cups heavy cream
1½  cups milk
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¾ lbs. Panettone, cut into cubes

Early Preparation: Pre-heat oven to 300° F

Combine the eggs, cream, milk, honey, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the Panettone cubes and mix together. Cover with a damp towel and let the mixture soak for 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Place the baking dish into a larger pan (like a roasting pan), and fill with hot water until it reaches half-way up the sides of the baking dish. This water bath will help to prevent burning, drying out or curdling of the mixture.

Bake at 300° F for one hour. When ready, the top should have a nice, golden crust. Place a toothpick into the center of the dish to test for doneness. Remove from oven and allow to cool for fifteen minutes before serving, if serving warm.

To Serve: Cut into squares, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with ice cream and fresh berries. Or drizzle some of Homemade Caramel Sauce over the top for some added comfort.

To Store: Wrap tightly with plastic or place in an airtight container for up to 5-7 days. Reheat in the microwave to warm it up before serving.

Christmas Favorites: Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs

Norwegian Meatballs with friends (640x480)When you’re married to one Sicilian, and mother to another, it’s easy to become infected by their passion for all things Italian. In fact, I often refer to myself as an I.B.M. – Italian by Marriage. But my grandfather, Don Mathison, was 100% Norwegian and proud of it, and every now and then we find a way to honor my heritage, too.

Today’s featured Christmas Favorite is Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs – that’s right, Tony’s. He created this recipe last year when he was asked to be a food presenter at Norsk Hostfest, the country’s largest Scandinavian festival, held each fall in Minot, ND.

Initially, he wasn’t sure if he was the right fit for this event, but I assured him that if I could create my own lasagna recipe, he could roll out some Norwegian meatballs just as well as any old hukalars or tulabook (invented words my 100% Norwegian Grandpa Don used when referring to a good old Norwegian).

Long lines for Norwegian Meatballs (640x480)

And I was right. Tony spent hours researching Norwegian meatballs and came up with his own original recipe. And with the help of our part-Norwegian son, Giovanni, his meatballs were a hit at the festival. One woman even told us that they were better than her Norwegian grandmother’s. Wow.

Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs are easy to make, utterly delicious, and authentically Norwegian. I know that my proud Norwegian Grandpa Don would definitely approve. Vær så god!

Norwegian Meatballs on plate (640x480)

Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs

Ingredients – Meatball Mix:
1 lb. ground beef, 85% lean

1 egg
½ cup whole milk
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to  400 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and milk together until combined. Add the ground beef, egg, onions and spices and use your hands to mix them together. Season with salt and pepper and mix again until ingredients are incorporated.

Shape the meatballs to desired size (we recommend making balls 1-inch in diameter, which makes about 30 meatballs). Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat and cook the meatballs until browned on all sides.

Place the meatballs on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and bake in a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking.

Ingredients – Meatball Sauce:
2 cups beef broth

¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons roux
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pinch black pepper

Place beef broth in a sauce pot and cook over medium-high heat. Once the broth starts to boil add the roux and whisk until broth thickens to a sauce consistency. Finish by adding cream and season with salt and pepper. Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Tony’s Tips:

  • Mix the meatball mixture by hand for at least five minutes to enhance the texture and bind the ingredients together.
  • For a gluten-free version, use a slurry of 2 tablespoons corn starch and 2 tablespoons water instead of the roux to thicken the gravy. Omit the breadcrumbs in the meatball mixture and mix the meat for a few more minutes.



Christmas Favorites: Cranberries Gone Wild Dip

Today’s featured holiday recipe is Jean Eppler’s now-famous Cranberries Gone Wild party dip. Jean took top honors in our 2013 contest In Search of the Perfect Party Dip, and her wonderfully-named party dip quickly became a holiday hit among our readers, many of whom wrote to let us know that they were serving it at their holiday parties.

Jean’s dip is easy to make, full of great flavor (most people just can’t believe they’re eating fresh cranberries!), and with its gorgeous red and green colors makes the perfect addition to a Christmas buffet. Jean recommends serving this dip with Tostito’s Lime Tortilla Chips and a Lime Margarita, and we agree – they are the perfect complement to Cranberries Gone Wild. Thank you, Jean!

Congratulations to Jean Eppler and her Cranberries Gone Wild Dip!



Time: 15 minutes prep + 4 hours refrigeration

12 oz.  package fresh cranberries
1 bunch  green onion, chopped
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper
1  1/4 C sugar
1/4 heaping tsp. cumin
2 T fresh lime juice
dash kosher salt
2  8 oz packages whipped cream cheese

1. Chop cranberries in a food processor.

2. Chop up your green onion, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper into small pieces.

3. Add all ingredients (but the cream cheese and lime chips) into a bowl. Mix them all
together, cover and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours. The sugar needs some time to soak into the cranberries and break up their bitter taste.

4. When you are ready to serve, spread your cream cheese on a platter.

5.  Pour your cranberry mixture over the cream cheese.

6.  Spread it all around.

7.  Serve  with lime chips

A lime margarita tastes great with this dip!

Submitted by Jean Eppler of Fargo, ND

Christmas Favorites: Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark is the very first treat we make to kick off the holiday baking season, and Gio and I have been making it together since he was two years old, just like my mom did when I was growing up. This is a great recipe to try with kids as it’s easy, affordable, and basically foolproof.

There are only three ingredients: a dozen candy canes, vanilla almond bark, and peppermint extract. There have been many occasions where Gio and I have forgotten to add the peppermint extract, but the result is still minty and delicious. See? You really can’t mess this one up.

We make several batches of Peppermint Bark to give away as gifts to friends, family, teachers, and others who touch our lives throughout the holiday season. We love that this recipe can be made well in advance of serving (up to at least a month), and we use cookie tins lined with wax paper to keep it fresh.

Small tins or cellophane gift bags work well for Peppermint Bark gifts, and we like to attach a customized label to make the gift extra special. I am always surprised by how much good will this simple treat creates – people are so pleased to receive this gift. If you’re still looking for a Christmas gift idea, why not make a batch or two yourself f before the holiday?

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Peppermint Bark

Serves:  Many

1 pkg vanilla almond bark
12 candy canes, regular size (not the small canes)
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract

Blend the candy canes in a food processor until desired texture is achieved. We prefer to blend them until all large pieces are crushed, and the mixture is just a little grainier than sugar. ***This step is the “special something” that makes this peppermint bark soooo delicious.

Melt the almond bark in the microwave according to the instructions on the package, or in a sauce pan over medium-low heat, until all lumps are gone. Remove from heat and stir in the peppermint extract first, then the crushed candy canes until thoroughly mixed.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and pour the bark mixture onto the sheet, smoothing out to reach all edges. Once all the bark has been transferred, lift the sheet up with both hands and gently bang it down on the counter a few times to smooth out the mixture. Place in a refrigerator or cold place and allow to set until completely hard, at least one hour.

When bark is hardened, peel from waxed paper and break into pieces (like toffee or peanut brittle). Store in an airtight container until gone.

Join Us Oct. 18 for Sarello’s Light Sunday Supper

Our next Light Sunday Supper at Sarello’s is this Sunday, Oct. 18th, featuring a light 3-course meal inspired by favorites from our column including Carrot Ginger Soup, Sicily Chicken and Pumpkin Macaroons…for just $23.

We still have some space available and would love to have you join us. Seatings are available on the half-hour between 5 to 7 PM, and you can make your reservation by emailing us to or call us at 218.287.0238.

Carrot Ginger Soup

Sarello's Sicily Chicken

Pumpkin Spice Macaroons with Chocolate

Register for Kids CAN Cook at Sarello’s: After School Snacks Nov. 7th

Kids Can Cook collageWe had a great time with our young chefs earlier this month at Sarello’s, where they learned the art of the Scaloppine method by turning chicken breasts into tender, mouth-watering cutlets of breaded Sicily Chicken and Chicken Parmigiana.

In between, we introduced some basic knife skills by having each junior chef prepare their own salad (with specially-designed kid-friendly knives!), and they learned how to make homemade garlic bread – with each student getting to bring their own loaf home to share.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a class with Tony without some fun and games, and you can expect more of the same in future classes.

We love these events because they provide us with the opportunity to share our passion for food and the art of cooking with a new generation of cooks, who bring their own enthusiasm and excitement to the table – honestly, what’s not to love?

For our next class, we’ll be encouraging kids to move beyond the chips and cookies to create their own after-school snacks using fresh ingredients and easy recipes. Our 11-year-old son, Gio, loves to make mini pizzas using store-bought hoagie buns, homemade sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and whatever else we can find in the fridge. These will definitely be on the menu for our Nov. 7th class, as well as a variety of creative, healthy and delicious snacks your child will be able to make at home.

Take a look at what’s coming up next…and if you have a young person in your life who would like to join us, we’d love to meet them!


Kids CAN Cook banner collage with wallpaper (800x267)

KIDS CAN COOK! A Hands-On Culinary Experience
10 AM, Saturday, November 7, 2015
Class Length: Approx. 3 hours
Class Fee: $55 per child

Kids CAN Cook at Sarello’s, and the fun will continue at our next class on Saturday, Nov. 7th, featuring easy and fun after-school snack recipes. In this hands-on class, our young chefs will learn how to make fresh and healthy snacks including mini pizzas, Gio’s easy faux escargots, and more.

Mini Pizzas unbaked

Gio's easy faux escargots duo

In addition, we’ll help them master basic knife skills using kid-friendly knives, and we’ll also share some tips on dining etiquette, including how to set, and sit at, a table. Then, we’ll sit down together to enjoy our creations for lunch.

If you have young people in your life who are interested in food and cooking, we would love to have them join us! Kids ages 8 to 14 are welcome; 6 and 7 year olds OK if older sibling also attending.


Our Kids CAN Cook series specifically caters to a young audience, and we find that kids are more food-adventurous when surrounded by their peers. Parents are encouraged to leave their kids in our care for the duration of the class, or wait in the comfort of the lounge until end of class.

Class fee is $55 per student, and payment is required at time of registration. As soon as we receive confirmation of your registration, we will contact you via email to provide further class details.

All class spaces are non-refundable, much like a sporting event or theater ticket. We request one week advance notice for cancellations; if cancellation is necessary and we are able to fill your space from our wait list, we will issue you a credit for the amount of your purchase, which may be used for future classes.

No exceptions can be made to this policy. In the event that Sarello’s cancels a class, a FULL REFUND will be given and you will be notified as soon as possible.