Before you start chopping up a storm in the kitchen, make sure you've got basic knife skills in place. Not sure how to make those fancy French cuts — rondelle, julienne, brunoise, we're looking at you — a reality? Watch our primer on basic knife techniques, and you'll be a master before you know it.
What's keeping you from composting? Is it too stinky? Does it attract fruit flies in your kitchen? Or does it just seem too difficult to bother with? Whatever your excuse is, these tips will help dispel your fears or bad experiences with composting so you can feel good about filling the green bin.
- Get rid of the stink and flies: While there are some airtight compost bins with charcoal lids that help prevent smells from getting out, here's a guaranteed stink-proof method. Place all the food scraps in a compostable green bag and store it in the freezer until the bag is full.
- Stop trashing your food: The compost bin can be the new home of all of your food scraps including vegetables, eggshells, coffee grinds, meat, bones, and leftover cooked food. Just remember to remove any stickers, plastic, or foil from the food.
- Toss the packaging: If it's made of wood, paper, or compostable plastic, then it belongs in the compost bin. If it came from the ground, it's compostable, so even greasy pizza boxes can go in there. (Plastics labeled "biodegradable" are not compostable.)
- Research where you can compost: If you have access to a backyard, set up your own composter or reach out to the city for a green compost collection bin. If you live in a large city, see if your apartment building has a green bin or ask your landlord to request one. Otherwise, most farmers markets will have a compost drop-off for you to contribute to each week.
- See the amazing results: If you compost and recycle regularly, you'll soon notice that you barely have any trash — I toss one bag of trash a week, if not once a month. Thanks to composting, the days of stinky trash are gone, as my trash bin only holds nonrecyclable packaging, plastic wrappers, and bags.
What are your tips for smarter composting?
At the beginning of 2013, we vowed to make a slew of improvements in the kitchen, and while the first two months of the year have flown by, we remain resolute in our mission to stick to our culinary goals. Feeling inspired to join us? Then check out these 20 culinary resolutions that you, too, can hope to cross off your list.
Hoping for an easy way to broaden your culinary horizons? Look no further than a new cuisine. Before you raise your hand in protest to even more restaurant dining, hear me out: the best way to familiarize oneself with a particular country's food is by actually cooking it yourself.
We promise this proposition will be both fun and easy, thanks to the following tomes, each of which is written by a foremost expert in the cuisine. Behold: 10 definitive international cookbooks that are essential to any globe-trotter's kitchen.
Has Grüner Veltliner's consonant-heavy name put off your interest in enjoying a bottle? Fret no more! Pronounced GROO-nur velt-LEE-ner, this Austrian gem is more than worth the enunciation effort, as is evident on the first sip of the mineral-rich white. Even better, thanks to its relatively limited prominence in the US market it's often a great bargain buy, with quality far surpassing its moderate price tag — many exceptional bottles are in the $15-$25 range. But before you snap up a bottle (or two) to try, let's delve briefly in the nitty-gritty of this superb varietal:
- While Grüner Veltliner is Austria's national grape — and commands the greatest acreage of any grape grown there — it's also grown (in much smaller quantities) in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and regions in Washington, Oregon, and California.
- Grüners are known for having a marked sense of terroir, making the region from which they hail a particular point of interest. Much of the crop comes from the rocky terraced river banks of the Danube river in the northern part of Austria, which lends a pronounced mineral note to the wine — something we can certainly get behind.
Just as Champagne wineries in the Champagne region of France have struggled to control their authentic designation of origin, so too have Prosecco wineries in Italy. Up until 2009, Italian winemakers called both the sparkling wine and the grape it is made from Prosecco. However, after years of other winemakers capitalizing on the Prosecco name, the Italians decided to fight for DOCG status (a quality assurance label put on every bottle guaranteeing the product is authentic and from a particular growing region in Italy). During the complicated process, officials formally changed the name of the Prosecco grape to an old synonym, Glera, to help further authenticate and demarcate true Prosecco wines from Italy. Here are some other reasons why you should care about the Glera grape:
- The Glera grape originates from Prosecco, Italy, a Northern Italian village about a half hour from Venice. While some claim the grape has been cultivated since Roman times, the first written account of the Glera grape dates back to 1772.
- Each bottle of DOCG-certified Prosecco must contain at least 85 percent Glera grapes.
- Golden Glera grapes have been cultivated to ferment into a crisp, clean, and slightly fruity sparkling wine, unlike Champagne, which tends to have some yeasty flavor and body. This difference in flavor occurs because the second fermentation process differs from Champagne. Glera grapes undergo a second fermentation in large steel tanks (rather than in the individual Champagne bottles).
- To find the highest-quality Prosecco, look for the Prosecco Superiore DOCG-labeled wines. These are grown in the same historical area called the Veneto, a hilly cluster of towns between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. We recently tried Sorelle Bronca Extra Dry ($18), a Prosecco Superiore DOCG, made from 100 percent Glera grapes (most from organic farmers). It pleased our palates with its fine bubbles and refreshingly light flavor.
Hearing words like "tannins" and "oxidation" may make you feel like you're back in chemistry class, but they're oh-so important to the wines we enjoy on the regular. Don't let them intimidate you, though — getting familiar with wine's most common terms can be as easy as pouring a glass of red at the end of a long day. Brush up on these words, and you'll be moving past "sweet" and "dry" in no time so that when you go wine tasting again, you'll be the pro with all the insider knowledge.
- Acidity: The bitter or sour flavors that a wine gives off.
- Aeration: The act of exposing wine to oxygen to let it "breathe" and mix with air. This is meant to open up the wine's aromas and soften up the flavor.
- Appellation: A specific geographic region where a wine comes from.
Keep reading for more glossary terms
While we often talk about wine as a pairing with food, it's also a great ingredient to go in food. Cook up these eight recipes that give your favorite whites and reds a different function — braising and simmering included. Whether you use your party leftovers or brand-new bottles, we'll cheers to their newfound purpose in the kitchen.
Ever since I had my first sip of Carignane (from Sonoma County's Qualia wines), I've been a woman obsessed, seeking out the light and juicy red at every opportunity. Once considered barely drinkable dreck, Carignane — also known as Carignan (France), Carignano (Italy), or Cariñena (Spain) — has recently begun to overcome its unsavory reputation, as is evidenced by its increasing prominence, and I couldn't be happier. Here's why you should care:
- Originally the most planted grape in France (grown primarily in the southern Languedoc region), the grape suffered from overabundance, poor stewardship, and a quantity over quality mentality. Until recently, it was most commonly utilized in harsh, prohibitively astringent, generic vin rouge blends and garnered little respect in the wine world.
- Over the past few decades, yields have dramatically decreased with about a 50 percent reduction in vine acreage, largely in part due to EU subsidies that encouraged vintners to pull up large crops of the grape, leaving behind primarily older-growth grapes. With this shift came an uptick in quality, as older vines tend to produce a more concentrated, less harsh flavor, as Carignane, like many high-yield grapes, tends to suffer from dilution of flavor.
We've entered the last week in our new series, Six Weeks of Culinary Resolutions, wherein we vow to tackle a different gastronomic goal each week.
Surely you know how to drink wine — but do you know how to really taste it? In week six, we'll show you how to expand your wine knowledge, learning how to better taste and understand the vast, complicated world of wine.
Stay tuned for features on everything from obscure wine varietals (Carignane, anyone?) to how to visit wineries and talk to sommeliers. Got any special requests for us? Be sure to leave them in our comments below.
Tasting and Pairing Wine
How to pair wine
To make wine explode, pair it with popcorn
Our favorite sparkling wines
Top white wines under $15
Best reds under $15
Top Italian wine picks
What to do with your leftover wine
Wine Varietals and Regions
Get into the Grüner Veltliner groove
Why you should care about Carignane
What to know about Grenache
Hail to Glera, the grape responsible for Prosecco
Champagne: how it's made
What you should know about New Zealand's Sauvignon Blancs
Why isn't Riesling found in most wine blends?
4 lesser-known wine varietals you should know
5 reasons you should be drinking wine from Rioja
Burning question: what's a meritage blend?
Further Suggested Reading
Learn how to make a basic red wine sangria
What makes wine kosher, anyway?
Wine by the numbers: what goes into the cost of a glass?
Eat, don't drink your wine: recipes to use up those reds and whites