Salted caramel sauce for ice cream recipe

salted caramel ss.jpg

Excuse me while I forgo the ice cream and just slurp this sauce with a spoon. Seriously.

Ice cream is my favorite food group, just after anything that involves caramel and salt. 

With so many parties coming up to celebrate summer: graduation, bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, Memorial Day. If you are on duty for any of this, simplify your life and make this sauce ahead and buy some ice cream. Dessert is done. 

Don't take my word for it. Make it and see for yourself.

Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe
Makes about 1 cup

Sugar stirred over heat transforms into a deep golden syrup. Let the syrup cook until it is dark, almost to the burning point, and take it off the heat. Then add cream, vanilla and salt. The sauce will thicken when refrigerated.

1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2  teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. In a large (4-quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix the sugar and lemon juice together with your fingers until the sugar is saturated with the lemon. Set the pan over medium heat. With a long handled wooden spoon, stir constantly until the sugar liquefies and turns a dark, golden color. Once it starts to brown, watch carefully, as it can go from dark amber to burned quickly. Remove from the heat and let rest about 5 minutes.

2. One-half cup at a time, gradually stir the hot cream into the caramel. It will bubble ferociously, so go slow and keep stirring. Continue to add the remaining cream in half-cup increments. If it is not smooth, set the pan over low heat and stir until the caramel melts into the cream. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Taste, and add more salt, if you like. Store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 

Posted on May 21, 2018 .

Strawberry and feta salad recipe

SR Strawberry Salad-3.jpg

Spring has finally arrived, and with it the appearance of longed-for exhilarating tastes. Take strawberries, for example. Once you have savored local fruit for breakfast, in a pie, or just with a bowl of cream, think of another way to use them, such as in a salad.

My four favorite flavor components of a great salad are sweet (juicy strawberries), salty (tangy feta), crunchy (toasted almonds), and refreshing (cucumbers). Add to that something unexpected and you have a salad that sings. Here the surprise is in the herbal explosion of peppery watercress and radishes, and lively mint or basil. You could use either mint or basil or both, depending on what you can find—they add a nice punch to the salad.

If you are lucky enough to find young watercress with thin stems, you will not need to do anything except rinse it and shake off the moisture. For bunches with thick stems, just remove the bottom thick ends, and keep the leaves on their upper stems.

And let’s not leave out the visuals. Serve this stunning looking salad on plates to highlight the beauty of the ingredients. It’s almost too pretty to eat. But of course, you should.

For the full recipe, go to

Posted on May 16, 2018 .

Chicken with Spring Vegetables

chicken with spring vegetables SS photo.jpg

With a half a foot of snow outside, it seems impossible that spring is coming. But it always does. It may drag its feet while we wait impatiently, but it will be here. Eventually.

And I will be ready.

Here's a quick recipe to get you in the mood. Just a recipe, folks. It speaks for itself!

 Brown the chicken in a little olive oil and finish it briefly in the oven while you cook the vegetables and make the sauce. This step ensures the chicken cooks through perfectly, no pounding required. If you have a thermometer, be sure to test the centers for perfect results. Sweet spring onions look like scallions with fat, golf ball-size bulbs.

Chicken breasts with spring vegetables, mustard, capers and cream recipe
Serves 4

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 3/4 pounds total)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound asparagus, bottom ends trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1 large (golf-ball size) spring onion, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons well rinsed capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a baking sheet.

2. Sprinkle the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. On a large plate, spread the flour and dredge the chicken in it until well coated. Shake off the excess.

3. In a large skillet over medium high-heat, heat the oil. Brown the chicken for 3 minutes on a side, or until golden. Transfer to a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 minutes for small breasts and about 7 minutes for thick breasts. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a breast should register 165 degrees. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

4. Meanwhile, return the pan to the heat and add the butter. Add the leeks and asparagus, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the peas and stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a serving platter. Place the chicken breasts on top and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

5. Add the wine and cream to the skillet and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Stir in the mustard and capers. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with parsley.

Posted on March 8, 2018 .

Winter vegetable pie

Blog veg pot pies.jpg

I'd like to stay under the covers in my pj's today.

Why? Because, baby, it's cold outside!

The howling wind kept me up for half the night and the single digit temperatures make me want to crawl into a cozy place and close my eyes. But that's just not me. The sun is shining. Let the wind rattle the windowpanes. I can always go into the kitchen and create a little more warmth.

Here's the comfort food of the day. Since I live in New England, I always have a lot of root vegetables at this time of year--some still left from holiday marketing--so this pie is a no-brainer. Unless you are diligent and make your own stock, skip the box of vegetable stock; most of it tastes like dishwater. You should have plenty of flavor from all the vegetables. Or you could use chicken stock if you are not vegetarian.

Curl up by the fire if you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, and give thanks for the new year, the little increase of light every day, and the old-fashioned goodness of a pot pie.

Winter vegetable pie recipe   
Serves 6

3 large yellow (Yukon gold) potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup milk, heated until hot
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut up
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or scallion tops
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup (4 ounces) grated cheddar
Ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, a generous pinch of salt, and cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a skewer.

2. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 1 minute to dry them slightly. With a potato masher, mash the potatoes while slowly adding the hot milk. Add the butter. With a wire whisk, beat vigorously until fluffy. Blend in the chives or scallions, parsley, and cheddar. Add salt and pepper.

Butter (for the dish)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large parsnips, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch lengths
4 large carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 celery root cut into 1-inch pieces
2 turnips cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups (8 or 9 ounces) frozen pearl onions
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste
5 cups water or homemade vegetable stock

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish or 6 ramekins.

2. In a small bowl, thoroughly blend the butter and flour until smooth.

3. In a large, flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the parsnips, carrots, celery root, turnips, frozen onions, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add 1 cup of the vegetable stock. Cook, stirring often, until it comes to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but still have some bite. With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to the baking dish.

5. Add the remaining 4 cups stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Whisk in the butter and flour until smooth. Simmer for 1 minute. Add salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the vegetables in the baking dish.

6. Distribute large spoonfuls of mashed potatoes over the vegetables. Spread with a fork and, if you like, make a wave pattern with the tines of the fork.

7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the top is golden.

©2009-2018 Sally Pasley Vargas. Writing and photography, all rights reserved.



Posted on January 6, 2018 .

Mini-Shrimp Sandwiches, Swedish Style

shrimp sandwiches squarespace.jpg

If you're still looking for a tidbit to serve on New Year's Eve, here is an easy solution.

In Sweden, raksmorgas, toasted bread topped with mayonnaise and piled high with shrimp, is a popular snack. Here, it’s miniaturized into a cocktail-size bite with zippy horseradish butter as the base with shrimp, hard-cooked egg, cucumber, arugula, and dill. You can buy thinly sliced, dense rye or pumpernickel bread in a brick-shape loaf at many specialty markets; Mestemacher is one popular brand. Be sure the jar of horseradish is fresh; the flavor deteriorates within a few weeks after opening. Buy shrimp already cooked and this hors d’oeuvre comes together quickly.

Now you've got something to nibble  with a glass (or two) of champagne. A toast to you! With thanks for reading regularly or sporadically. Wishing you a very happy and healthy new year, may all your dreams come true this year. (And that goes for any time you might read this, because as we all know, today is the first day of the rest of our lives!)

Enjoy, dear friends!

Open-faced Swedish shrimp sandwiches
Makes 24

4 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons drained prepared horseradish in brine, or more to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 slices dense rye or pumpernickel bread
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 handful of arugula
24 large cooked and peeled shrimp (about 1 1/4 pounds) sliced in half crosswise
3 to 4 sprigs of dill, snipped with scissors
1/4 cup drained capers
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the eggs and cook them for exactly 10 minutes. Transfer to cold water and crack the shells with the back of a spoon. Remove a strip of shell and let the cold water run until the eggs are cold. Peel them, dry on paper towels, and slice.

2. In a small bowl, mash together the butter, horseradish, mustard, lemon rind, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more horseradish, if you like.

3. Set the bread on a cutting board and spread each slice with about 1 tablespoon of the butter. Top with cucumber and arugula. Place 3 egg slices in a line on top, and set 2 shrimp halves on each slice of egg. Cut each slice of bread into 3 pieces and garnish with capers and dill. Serve with lemon.

Posted on December 28, 2017 .