Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit series The Winemakers — shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he’ll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.
Contrary to common conception, it isn’t easy being the “wine guy” in restaurants — your tablemates assume you always have a divining rod to the best bottle. But what happens when you don’t get a good bottle? Or when you get a spoiled one? How do you politely send it back without being a jerk?
It was with extreme caution last week that I was in this exact situation: I sent back a bottle of wine at a New York restaurant. Although the server didn’t know of my connection to wine, she had already generously offered me tastes of two other wines they had by the glass. I turned them down gently and instead went with another, a red that she swore by.
Find out how to send a bottle of wine back politely »
Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer, and after a long three-month vacation, kids will be heading back to school in just days. Savor these last homework and activity-free days with friends and family, and prepare quick and easy, in-season recipes that can be made in minutes.
Leave it to 30-minute mogul Rachael Ray to concoct an impressive and flavorful burger in just a half hour. Her BBQ Chicken Burgers With Slaw (pictured above) from Food Network are packed with tangy barbecue flavors, including Worcestershire and hot sauces, garlic and grill seasoning. Topped with a mayo-free cabbage slaw, these burgers are not only filling, but healthful as well.
More quick and easy Labor Day recipes »
Imagine crossing a monster potato with a water chestnut.
That’s jicama for you. And while not much to look at on the outside, the crisp, crunchy texture and clean, sweet flavor inside make this veggie worth seeking out.
First, the basics. Jicama (pronounced HICK-a-MA) is a tuber — a big brown round root. A relative of the bean family, it is native to Mexico and South America.
Though most often eaten raw, such as chopped into salads, jicama can be steamed, boiled, sautéed or fried. And so long as you don’t overcook it, jicama retains its pleasantly crisp texture (think fresh apple) when cooked.
The flavor is on the neutral side, with a hint of starchy sweetness. It really is quite similar to water chestnuts, and can be substituted for them.
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There’s still a couple weeks of warm weather left and what better way to soak up the sun than with a frosty milkshake, at home. But what makes a good milkshake and how can someone at home re-create something as thick and delicious as they’d get at a restaurant?
At the recent Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, I had what I thought was the best milkshake from Bill’s Bar & Burger — a simple cookies and cream concoction. I had to find out their secret to a successful milkshake. I caught up with the creator, Brett Reichler, Corporate Executive Chef for BR Guest Hospitality, several weeks later for the answer.
According to Chef Reichler, there’s no such thing as a bad milkshake. “It’s a pretty personal thing — a person may like a thicker shake over a thinner, or vice versa,” he said. “I prefer a cookies and cream milkshake on the thicker side.” While his first choice is simple, he’s created everything from classic chocolate and vanilla milkshakes to popular flavors like the Apple Pie, Cheesecake, Strawberry and a Campfire Milkshake with toasted marshmallow on top.
5 Tips for the Perfect Milkshake at Home »
When it comes to canning, blueberries were my gateway fruit. During my childhood, I helped my mom make jam with the berries from our annual picking trip. Later, blueberry jam was the first thing I ever canned on my own (though I did call my parents for guidance at least seven times during the making of that initial batch). Spiced with a little bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest, it tastes like home.
The beauty of blueberry jam is that it sets you up for success. Blueberries contain a lot of natural pectin, so even if you mash and measure imperfectly, nine times out of 10, you’ll still wind up with something spreadable and quite delicious.
What’s more, preparing blueberries for jamming is shockingly easy. All they need is a quick rinse, a careful once-over to remove any stems (don’t throw away the mushy berries, they work just fine in jam) and a thorough smashing. I find it quite satisfying to just plunge my hands in and start squashing. A potato masher is an acceptable substitute if you don’t like to get your hands covered in blueberry goo.
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It’s time to think beyond the bear bottle. Because honey comes in way more forms than just plastic squirt bottles. My favorite? Honey in the comb, pure and simple.
And yes, the comb is totally safe to eat. People have been keeping bees — and eating the honeycomb — for several thousand years. But first, some honey 101. No, honey is not bee spit. But bee saliva does play a role.
When bees gather nectar from flowers, it is stored in a honey sac inside their bodies. During storage, the bee’s saliva mixes with the nectar, which (shocker!) is made mostly from sugar. Enzymes in the saliva convert those sugars into honey.
The honeycomb comes into play when the bee gets back to the hive. The comb itself — a network of hexagonal cylinders — is made from waxy secretions of worker bees. As these cylinders are filled with honey, they are capped with yet another layer of wax.
The bees do all this to create food for themselves. In fact, for every pound of honey gathered by people, the bees make and consume another eight.
Six delicious ways to use honeycomb »
For East Coasters that are bracing for what looks to be monster Hurricane Sandy, we thought this would be a swell time to remind you of what your pals on the left coast already know: Create a well-stocked emergency pantry for yourself.
What does that mean exactly? We looked to the American Red Cross for their best tips on how to make sure your family has enough to eat should a catastrophic event hit close to home. Their mantra: “Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be Informed.” keeps it simple. The Red Cross’ advice for kitchen preparedness comes in two categories: a three-day supply for evacuation needs, and a two-week supply for your home.
“While stocking your emergency kit and pantry, it’s important to think about what you need from shelf-to-mouth to consume each item. Make sure you have the appropriate utensils and kitchen equipment to open cans, and think about whether or not items can be consumed raw or will need to be heated,” says Red Cross spokesperson Attie Poirier.
Find out how to keep a well-stocked emergency pantry »
Every week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex’s Day Off, shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.
I cook at home a lot of the time. Now, as a professional chef, I’d be lying to you if I said I always did. Sure, I grew up in a house where almost everything was made from scratch, but after a 15-hour shift at the restaurant, my first instinct wasn’t always to run home and bake a lattice-topped apple pie from scratch. In the past couple of years, that has definitely changed.
For me, cooking at home has been a great way to build better eating habits. When I shop at the green market for the restaurant, I now pick up a handful of vegetables for myself. I don’t always have the time to cook the way I’d like to, and I also don’t have a lot of room in my Manhattan kitchen. That makes my choices all the more important — I don’t want to deal with kitchen clutter.
Alex shares her ideal collection »
Imagine the best Southern barbecue — cooked up in northern Africa.
That’s what this week’s ingredient — the Ethiopian seasoning blend known as berbere — tastes like. And it’s as good as it sounds.
Berbere is the flavor backbone of Ethiopian cooking, a cuisine built around heavily seasoned meats and stews served with a spongy flatbread called injera.
Berbere ties all of that together, doing duty as a dry rub for meats, a seasoning for stews, lentils and grains — even as a tableside condiment.
As with so many traditional seasoning blends, what goes into berbere can vary by region, town and by house.
But most versions begin with a base of ground chiles, ginger, fenugreek, cumin, cloves, coriander, cardamom, black pepper and salt.
Incorporate berbere into chicken burgers »
When I first wrote up my outline for this blog, back to school dinners seemed a sensible choice given school starts this week for many families around the country. Nowadays, we all seem to be running short on time. People rely on meals out of boxes and bags, thinking there’s not enough time to cook. I wanted to offer you tips and ideas for making weeknight cooking easier.
Then something happened to change my perspective and outlook.
My husband died suddenly.
When I say suddenly, I mean just that. He was helping our daughter ride her bike, told her he needed to sit for a moment, then keeled over from a massive heart attack. Some of you, perhaps many, probably know about this already given the amazing show of support and love that has filled the food community.
So, why am I here talking to you all about back-to-school dinner ideas?
Read more »