Tag Archives: Marcona Almonds

Decadent Caramel Sauce: Slow-Cooked Dulce de Leche

Ah, dulce de leche – this caramel sauce is delightfully decadent and can be made at home from a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Loosely translated, it means milk jam, and is traditionally used in South American desserts.  Cooked slowly over a long period of time, the condensed milk becomes a thick caramelized sauce for an unforgettable sweet treat that can be enjoyed in many different ways.  I thought it would be perfect with ice cream and made a simple vanilla sundae with dulce de leche, chopped pretzels and topped it with a cherry (I had some leftover from my cocktail post).  The sauce has a caramel, butterscotch flavor and the pretzels add a fun, unusual salty flavor in contrast to the sweet vanilla ice cream –it’s a different twist on the classic sundae.

Most of the dulce de leche recipes that I have seen call for boiling or baking an unopened can of condensed milk in water for 3 to 4 hours; this method can be dangerous if not attended to properly, resulting in an exploded can.  That alone, not to mention the time requirement, made me shy away from the process.  Thankfully I found references online that described a bain marie (water bath) and microwave method, both much safer and quicker than the boiling-in-the-can method.  I used the bain marie process, which took an hour and a half and was relatively easy to do.  I haven’t tried the microwave method yet and will probably opt for that next time.  The microwave directions call for just 30 minutes total cooking time, with stirring every few minutes.  You want the end result to be a light caramel color that is just thick enough to pour.  It makes about 1 cup of sauce and will store in the refrigerator (in a sealed container) for about 4 weeks, although I doubt it will last that long before it is eaten up!

For a healthier option, I sliced some honeycrisp apples – they have a crisp, firm texture with lots sweet juicy flavor – drizzled a bit of the sauce on them and added some Marcona almonds for a nice crunch.   The dulce de leche is also a star ingredient for the toffee in the English Banoffee pie, a mouth-watering dessert I recently saw recreated on Chuck’s Day Off (he is my new TV/DVR indulgence).   The options for dulce de leche are endless, even by the spoonful – sinfully delicious! 

Eat well and share the love!

Dulce de Leche
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

One 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Bain Marie/Water Bath Method:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 

Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass or ceramic pie plate, or small baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Place in a roasting pan or large pyrex baking dish and fill with hot water until it reaches halfway up the pie plate/baking dish.

Bake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours until sauce is caramel colored and thick enough to pour.  Check the water level during cooking and add more as necessary.  Remove from the oven and take the dish out of the roasting pan/water; stir or whisk well and let the dulce de leche cool.

Store the dulce de leche in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.  To serve, gently warm in the microwave or a water bath.

Microwave Method:
Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a 2 quart glass measuring cup.  Cook on medium power (50%) for 2 minutes, stir well and repeat.  Cook for 20 to 25 minutes on medium-low power (30%) until caramel colored and thick enough to pour, stirring well every 4 minutes and then every 2 minutes during the last 5 or 6 minutes.

Let cool; store the dulce de leche in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.  To serve, gently warm in the microwave or a water bath.

Hearty Summer Salad with Roasted Potatoes, Haricot Vert & Sauce Vert

In a selfish attempt to extend the memories from our recent trip to the Napa valley (see my last post), here is a salad inspired from a meal I had at a restaurant in Healdsburg.  It was made with local ingredients – baby greens with fingerling potatoes, haricot vert (French green beans – they are sweeter and more tender than regular green beans), a poached egg – which I asked them to omit – and drizzled with a tarragon green goddess dressing.  My brain is always on food hyper-drive so when I see a scrumptious looking and intoxicating smelling plate of food, I immediately go into how-can-I-recreate-at-home mode.  Instead of the green goddess dressing, sauce vert came to mind which is a creamy dressing with fresh herb flavors – more on that in a minute.   And hard-boiled eggs would most certainly replace the poached.  With such beautiful, fresh ingredients how can you go wrong?  It’s a hearty salad full of fresh and sweet flavors that is a satisfying meal at home.  

I used a mixture of baby spinach, baby arugula and some mâche (a delicate little salad rosette, with a nutty and bright flavor) The greens are topped with some roasted baby gold potatoes and haricot vert, slices of white and red radishes, hard-boiled eggs, black Cerignola olives (yes, I have an olive addiction), some chopped Marcona almonds and it was all drizzled with the rich sauce vert.  Believe it or not, it is a filling salad that won’t leave you hungry in a few hours.  The salad would pair nicely with a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or even your favorite Pinot Noir.

Now for the sauce vert that I used for the dressing – it is a versatile sauce that adds fresh flavor to many dishes.  The recipe came from my catering days and I have modified it for a home version.  It’s pretty simple to make in the food processor or blender; the base is mayonnaise and sour cream with fresh basil, tarragon and thyme, baby spinach and baby arugula (typically just spinach is used).  The result is a creamy dressing with fresh, herbaceous flavors.  And the addition of arugula gives it a nice little zing.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for about a week (store in a sealed container).

Remember my belated birthday post about Vegetable Shots at the Bergman’s?  The sauce vert would be a great substitute for the dressing/dip.  And did you catch one of my most popular posts – Gourmet Tuna Melts?  Mixed in with the wild-caught canned tuna, the sauce vert would make it even more gourmet.

Whether it’s a weeknight or weekend meal, this Hearty Summer Salad is a nice alternative from the usual fare.

Eat well and share the love!

Hearty Summer Salad with Roasted Potatoes, Haricot Vert & Sauce Vert
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

4 to 5 baby gold potatoes (or fingerling or baby red)
Handful of haricot vert (about a 3 inch bundle)
Olive oil
Fresh cracked pepper
2 hard-boiled eggs
3 cups baby salad greens (used spinach, arugula and
Sauce Vert Dressing
2 small radishes, thinly sliced and cut in half (used white and red)
Cerignola olives
2 tablespoons Marcona almonds (roughly chopped)
Sauce Vert/Dressing
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 cups baby spinach and arugula
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves
2 stalks fresh tarragon, leaves removed and stalk discarded  
2 stalks fresh thyme, leaves removed and stalk discarded (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup milk (used 1%)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Roast the potatoes
Wash and dry the potatoes.  Rub potatoes with olive oil and season all sides with salt and pepper; place on foiled lined tray.  Roast in a toaster oven (325 degrees F) or oven (375 degrees F) for 30 to 35 minutes until golden and knife tender.  Let cool and cut each potato into four wedges.

Roast the haricot vert
After the potatoes have cooked for 25 to 30 minutes, drizzle the haricot vert with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add to the foil-lined pan with the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Hard-boil the eggs
High-altitude technique: This works perfect for me every time and doesn’t create the green ring around the cooked yolk – a sign that it was cooked too long.  Add eggs to small sauce pan and cover completely with cold water.  Put saucepan on stove and turn heat to medium high.  Bring water to a light rolling boil and reduce heat to medium, just enough to maintain the light rolling boil.  Cook for 11 minutes, making sure heat stays consistent and the eggs don’t move too much in the water.  Transfer eggs to an ice bath (bowl filled with water and ice) and let cool about 5 minutes before peeling. 
For those not at high-altitude, try this link: Melissa Clark/perfect hard-cooked egg

While the vegetables are roasting, make the Sauce Vert
Add the ingredients in the order listed to a food processor (or blender).  Blend until well incorporated and sauce is smooth, about 1 minute.  With motor off, scrape down sides with a rubber spatula a few times.  Dressing will keep in refrigerator, in tightly sealed container, for up to a week.

Assemble Salad
Add the salad greens to a large platter.  Drizzle with a bit of dressing and toss lightly.  Around the edges of platter, add the roasted potatoes wedges, hard-boiled egg halves, radish slices and olives.  Fan out the roasted haricot vert and place in one corner of platter.  Drizzle salad with more dressing, scatter the chopped Marcona almonds around and add a pinch of salt and pepper.

A giant artichoke sculpture at Robert Mondavi gardens