Still stumped on what to get mom for Mother's Day? If she's a wine lover — and really, who isn't? — show her how much you care by indulging her enological tendencies. Read on for five ideas.
This month, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival is celebrating year 12 of food, cocktails, celebrity chefs, and outrageous parties. We'll be bringing you along with us to the tasting tents and demonstrations, so stay tuned for all of our on-the-scene coverage. In the meantime, see how much you know about this delicious and star-studded festival.Take the Quiz
We're just kicking off Summer, and there's still plenty of time to throw your biggest grilling bash yet. Prep your backyard, secure a spot at the park, or haul your ice chest down to the beach. Follow these tips for a seamless Summer soiree that you'll actually be able to relax and enjoy.
- Choose an adaptable menu. Chances are, your guest list will include a variety of eaters, some of whom will want meat and some of whom will not. Choosing a menu that can be easily tweaked to suit different tastes will ensure that you don't spend your entire barbecue cooking up five separate meals. Sausages (pork, chicken, and soy), burgers (beef, turkey, and veg), and kebabs (meat and veggies on separate skewers) are versatile and delicious options.
- Add a signature detail. If you're feeding a crowd, it's probably not the time to tackle labor-intensive dishes with pricey ingredients. Instead, keep the majority of your menu simple and easy, but add one signature detail or dish that will make your party stand out. If you're known for your seven-layer dip, take the time to whip up a fabulous batch, but serve it alongside premade hummus. Into canning and preserving? Make your own pickles and relishes to serve atop of store-bought 'dogs.
For the rest of my suggestions, read on.
According to Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal, the flavor molecules in asparagus are water soluble. When you blanch the spears in boiling water, the flavor "leaks" out of the asparagus and into the water. When you cook it in fat, the molecules remain intact and stay where you want them — in your asparagus. So, instead of blanching your next batch of asparagus, cook it in a little olive oil or butter for a more flavorful result.
Since learning this fun fact from Blumenthal's The Fat Duck Cookbook, I haven't cooked asparagus any other way, and he's right! The flavor and texture are miles better. But don't get too carried away with this technique: although veggies like asparagus and carrots have water-soluble flavor molecules, the molecules in others, like broccoli and green beans, are oil-soluble and should be cooked in water for optimal flavor.
Have you ever tried this method of cooking asparagus?
Source: Flickr User bongo vongo
There's nothing worse than being elbow-deep in an exciting recipe, only to realize it calls for an ingredient you don't have. But there is a way around the situation that doesn't involve keeping your kitchen stocked with items you won't get much use out of. Read on for five slightly unusual ingredients many recipes call for and an easy substitution for each.
Sugar cookies and peppermint bark are a dime a dozen during the holiday season, but this year, we've been bringing you some deliciously out-of-the-box edible gift ideas with our fourth annual 12 Days of Edible Gifts series. Haven't had time to whip up one of our easy, tasty ideas yet? If you've got 15 minutes and a handful of fiery peppers, we've got your answer: homemade hot sauce.
This recipe is so easy it almost can't be called a recipe, but your lucky recipients don't have to know that. It's also completely customizable: use whichever peppers you prefer (or whichever are easiest to get your hands on). Last year, I used a combination of green jalapeños and habaneros; the result was tangy, herbaceous, and blazing hot. This year's batch was made with ripe red jalapeños and red serranos, and while it still packs some heat, it's much milder and sweeter.
If you can't bear to give away all the fruits of your labor, you're in luck: the vinegar that rises to the top of the hot sauce as it cures can be skimmed off, bottled separately, and kept for yourself as a homemade Tabasco substitute.
Get ready to spice up your life — and get the recipe — after the break.
Need a glass of vino, stat, but don't have the time or patience to wait for a bottle of Chard to chill in your fridge? Luckily, you don't have to! Here are five ways to chill a bottle of wine in 20 minutes or less.
- Just add salt: You probably already know that putting wine in a bucket of ice and cold water, rather than just ice, will chill your vino faster. But did you know that adding salt to the mix further speeds up the cooling time? Salt reduces the freezing point of water and allows it to become colder without turning into ice, which in turn more quickly chills your wine.
- Give it a spin: If even the water/ice/salt method isn't chilling your Sauv Blanc fast enough, keep the bucket nearby and gently spin the wine bottle in the ice water every couple minutes. Spinning the bottle moves around the contents inside, allowing more wine to come into contact with the cold glass, and chilling it faster. Keep in mind that this method works best for nonsparkling wines; try this with a bottle of Champagne and you're in for a shock when you pop open the bottle!
Keep reading for three more ways to chill out!
Wine tasting can be quite a production: between vying for a space at the bar to begin tasting, paying high prices for comparably tiny pours of wine, and figuring out how to safely get from winery to winery without someone having to miss out on all the tasting, it can feel like more trouble than it's worth.
I recently visited Clif Winery's new tasting room in St. Helena, CA, Velo Vino, where the vibe was decidedly more relaxed. The tasting room in general is inviting, warm, and impeccably wine-country chic, but I was especially impressed with the large communal table where the winery hosts its special Yellow Jersey tasting. On my visit, the table was already set for a tasting, and it gave me a few great ideas for hosting a fun, informal wine tasting at home. Want to host your own? Here are a few tips!
- Set the scene: The point of a wine tasting is to enjoy each sip and chat with friends, rather than to power through as much wine as possible, so make your guests want to stay awhile. Set up your tasting somewhere comfortable, and lay out everything your guests will need during the tasting, including glasses, paper for taking notes, a pitcher of water, and a bucket for pouring out unwanted tastes.
- Move from lighter to heavier wines: This may be a wine tasting cliché, but that doesn't mean it isn't true! Each wine affects how the next one tastes, so start with lighter wines, like whites, sparkling wines, or Pinot Noirs, and transition to heavier reds like Cabernets and Syrahs.
- Provide small bites to pair with each taste: It can be overkill to serve a full meal alongside a wine tasting, but having small snacks on hand that pair nicely with your wines will enhance the overall experience, and keep your guests from getting too hungry! Clif Winery offers a variety of paprika-spiced almonds, dried cherries, and roasted pistachios that pair perfectly with different varietals.
More wine tasting tips after the break!
Having fresh herbs on hand is essential if you're an avid home cook — or bartender! But unless you have a flourishing herb garden, it can be frustrating to purchase bunches of fresh herbs every week, only to watch them wilt and dry out in a couple days. Luckily, there are a few easy tweaks you can make to your herb storage to keep them fresher longer, allowing you to add more flair to your dishes and drinks!
- Parsley and cilantro: These delicate herbs are a lot like fresh flowers, so treat them the same way. Trim their stems as soon as you get them home, and stick them in a small glass full of water (bud vases or empty milk or cream bottles work well). Spritz them with water, cover them loosely with a plastic ziplock bag, and put them in the fridge. Every couple days, change out the water and give the stems another small trim to keep them fresh.
- Mint and basil: Follow the same steps as above, minus the plastic bag-fridge step. Mint and basil do better at room temperature; mint, in fact, is so weed-like, if you put it in front of a sunny window, it may even start to send roots down into the water and sprout new leaves.
- Rosemary, thyme, and oregano: These hardier herbs will brown and mold if kept in water. Wrap them loosely in damp paper towels and then in plastic wrap, and keep them in the crisper or in your fridge door — the warmest spot in the fridge is ideal. Swap out the paper towels for fresh ones every couple days.
Any tips to add for storing fresh herbs?
Source: Flickr User suzettesuzette
This twist on the French 75 incorporates muddled strawberries for an even more Springlike feel, and the inclusion of gin and elderflower liqueur makes it more evening-appropriate than its brunchy cousin the mimosa.
For optimal flavor, enjoy it as a pre-dinner drink on a sunny deck. Sound enticing? Get the recipe!
This stew utilizes canned cannellini beans and precooked chicken sausage to whip up a meal in minimal time. Diced tomatoes add acidity, and fresh kale adds texture and earthiness. If you've got more time on your hands, use dried beans or uncooked sausage. Whatever you choose, pair it with a crusty baguette and a glass of Pinot for the perfect Fall dinner.
For the no-fuss recipe, keep reading.