Tag Archives: everything

Everything You Need to Turn Your Kitchen Into a Cookie Factory

It’s cookie baking (and swapping, and sharing) season—which means you’re turning your kitchen into a cookie factory, right? Before you get going on all those recipes, make sure you’re fully prepared. This means stocking up on all the tools you need to make and package your goodies. From precut parchment paper (trust us, you’ll never buy a roll again) to sturdy boxes that will ensure your cookies hold up during long-distance shipping or schlepping, here’s what you’ve got to have on hand.


You’ve Never Heard of Hybrid Grapes, And They’re Everything You Want to Be Drinking Right Now

Park the Prius because today’s hottest hybrids aren’t for driving. They’re for drinking. After a week spent neck-deep in hybrid grapes during a recent trip to Vermont, I’m now convinced that these long-ignored fruits are responsible for some of the most exciting wines in America, if not the world.

I’m talking bottles of La Crescent that crackled with the acidity of a dozen grapefruits and sang like Annette Funicello’s “Pineapple Princess”—the grape should have the world’s best Rieslings shaking in their boots. I tried Frontenac Noirs that gave me goose bumps, tasting like spiced cranberries rolled up and smoked in violets, and Marquettes that left my insides as fuzzy as my favorite sweater. Discovering these unsung grapes—add Baco Noir and St. Croix to that list too—inspired the same feeling as coming across a new wine region: exciting to explore and delightful to drink. Get yourself a bottle from Barnard, Vermont, winemaker La Garagista and you’ll see.

But wait. If they’re so damn good, why haven’t you heard of them until now? Well, that’s because hybrid grapes are the black sheep of the vine. Disparaged. Maligned. Tied up and gagged in the basement. The industry at-large would rather you didn’t know about them. And that’s exactly why I’m here to proselytize for them, champion them, and declare that we should all be drinking a whole lot more of them.

But first, how they—and their unfair reputation—came to be.

In the late 19th century, phylloxera, an insect that attacks grapevine roots, destroyed most of Vitis vinifera—the OG winemaking grape species—in a very black plague–like fashion. But no one wanted to stop drinking wine, so in the early 20th century, humans did what they always do and found a way to keep producing it: by crossing two or more different grape species (typically Vitis vinifera and Vitis labrusca, in case you, you know, care) to create hybrid grapes.

The genetic diversification made these American-made, lab-grown miracles not only more resistant to phylloxera, but also more impervious to fungal diseases (like powder mold) and more tolerant of cold climates. When they debuted in the early 1900s, they were a hit across the chilly climes of New England and the Midwest. Europe, on the other hand, used them for like a minute before deciding hybrids weren’t bougie enough. France even went so far as to ban hybrid grapes for commercial wines in 1934, and in 1955 the country made it illegal to sell wines made with them. Austria allows the use of hybrid grapes today, but they’re relegated to the lowest ranking appellation classification. Even the natural wine scene has its gripes, calling hybrids inherently unnatural because they are genetically engineered.

TL;DR: Hybrid grapes are the mutts of the wine world, and for decades the wine industry has basically been the American Kennel Club, shunning them and the wines they produce for not being purebred. Their critics claim the fruits do not demonstrate the depth or subtleties of Vitis vinifera and that their wines are “foxy”—and not in the 1970s funk kind of way. In wine jargon, foxy describes juice that smells and/or tastes like musky Welch’s grape juice, which is not a good vibe. (Vitis labrusca is also known as the fox grape, which gives you an idea of where the disdainful descriptor came from.)

And yes, while I was out there in Vermont, I did run into Brianna—a polarizing hybrid grape that probably incited the whole species’ negative reputation in the first place: Brianna can be “foxy” as hell. But out of the dozens of wines I tried in five days, I had only one bottle of Brianna that was truly gross. To me that says, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t discriminate against an entire genre of wines that are perfectly delicious and disease resistant because of a few bad Briannas.” We all had a few bad Briannas our graduating year of high school; that doesn’t mean our entire class was worthless!

Here’s the thing: Today’s wine drinkers forego the “rules” of the old guard. We embrace experimentation, and we’re not afraid of grapes we’ve never heard of. We actively seek out new experiences in bottles of wine, and we want everything that hybrid wines represent. So, it’s up to us to spread the word and give these wines a seat at the table. Let’s start looking for them, asking for them, and purchasing them. There is no supply without demand.


Gifts for the Food Lover Who Has Everything

People who love to cook and drink already have the basics: a good chef’s knife, a solid cutting board, and a Dutch oven that will last for life. Treat them to these next-level presents they’ll fully appreciate but probably never buy for themselves.

Brush Up Those Chops

Any home cook worth his or her hand-harvested sea salt knows how to, well, cook. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she can pull off a make-ahead, multicourse dinner party. Instead of signing her up for a class at a local cooking school, give her online courses she can take whenever she wants from the comfort of her own kitchen.

Décor for Thought

While foodies are usually happy to shell out for good ingredients, they may not always spring for flowers. Brighten up a friend’s dining room table or desk with a customizable monthly or bimonthly floral subscription. Or go all out with a one-time delivery of a big-impact flower arrangement.

An Upgraded Coffee Experience

A fine bottle of wine is a nice present, but it’ll be gone in an evening. Give the gift of exceptional coffee every single morning with a Nespresso VertuoPlus. It can brew five different single-serve cup sizes—from a shot of espresso to a 14-ounce Alto, all with silky smooth crema—at the touch of a button. Plus, the Nespresso capsules are fully recyclable, so the recipient and Mother Earth will thank you.

And why stop there? Extend your coffee experience with the Nespresso Vertuo travel mug, made from double-walled stainless steel, for taking your coffee to go.

Skin Therapy

People who cook a lot also tend to do a lot of dishes, which can dry out their skin. While dishwashing gloves can help with that, they don’t make a great stocking stuffer. What does: a luxurious hand moisturizer. Look for ingredients such as coconut oil or shea butter for extra hydration and a rich feel.

Stylish Function

For a gift that is equal parts beauty and performance, upgrade a loved one’s stovetop with a stunning copper sauté pan made to heat up rapidly and cool down quickly. A perfect excuse to make dinner plans for two. Seared halloumi, anyone?

Sweet Treats

Know someone with a sweet tooth? Skip the time it takes to make them a tasty treat and buy direct from one of the nation’s best bakeries, many of which now ship their from-scratch, fresh-baked cookies, pies, and cupcakes nationwide. Another option: Pints of artisanal ice cream packed in dry ice so they’re guaranteed to arrive frozen.


Bad Roommate Stories: She Was a Terrible Roommate But I Loved Everything She Cooked

Roommates come into your life for a reason, a season, and to teach you how to cook. It was Emily (not her real name), my first roommate post-grad, who taught me how to eat seasonally, purchase pantry staples like red wine vinegar and dijon mustard, make homemade tomato soup, and more. Alas, I never got the chance to thank her for these things, because we weren’t on speaking terms when the lease ended. Emily was a domestic goddess, but she was also a roommate from hell.

To be fair, she would say the same about me. I’m self-aware enough to know that I am the world’s worst dishwasher, but I like to think I make up for it by always deep-cleaning the fridge and throwing away expired food, like the bottle of ketchup that had been crusting over since Obama was president.

I met Emily a few days after moving to New York, via her roommate listing online. I came to tour the apartment with its small, white kitchen and gas stove. I liked Emily. She too had recently moved to the city, enjoyed cooking, and was writing for a local restaurant blog. It was a year-long lease, what could go wrong?

In the beginning, nothing. I admired Emily every time she went to the local farmers’ market and brought home in-season produce like Brussels sprouts and chard to be roasted and sautéed, while I schlepped to the supermarket around the corner and purchased out-of-season tomatoes to top tacos I made from a boxed kit.

Before I met Emily, my idea of cooking was limited to what I was exposed to growing up in Illinois and Georgia, and boy, did I love casseroles. In college, my go-to meal was baked spaghetti made with cream of mushroom soup, lean ground beef, and pre-shredded cheddar cheese. Post-grad, it was a lot of boxed macaroni and cheese and steamed broccoli.

From the couch, eating whatever frozen Trader Joe’s meal I’d thrown together, I’d watch Emily make her own marinara sauce with canned tomatoes simmered in olive oil, garlic, and herbs. I watched her make her own salad dressing, whisking together the simplest of ingredients—oil, vinegar, salt and herbs. I vowed never to buy bottled dressing again.

We prepared meals mostly for ourselves, only sharing unless we made too much of something: a pan of lasagna, a tray of blueberry muffins. I didn’t mind. I absorbed every detail of how to become a better cook just by watching. I learned the difference between a microplane and grater. I learned to roast a chicken, which I did alongside mashed potatoes for a guy I’d been dating, who bailed on dinner at the last minute. That was one of the few meals Emily and I shared.

After six months of living together, my cooking was improving, but our relationship was not. At first, Emily and I were always pleasant to each other, and the disagreements we did have were standard roommate spats revolving around who never took out the garbage (Emily) and who was half-assing the dishes (me).

But when I started hearing Emily and her boyfriend having loud sex, on more than one occasion, with her bedroom door half-open, that was the beginning of the end. From then on, everything about each other got on our nerves. When our lease ended, Emily decided to move in with a friend down the street. By this point, we were barely on speaking terms.

On the eve of her leaving, we got into an argument over slights that had been compounding: the cleaning or lack thereof, her boyfriend. She complained about how often she had to sweep because my curly brown hair was everywhere. Meanwhile, I had recently found a long blonde hair tucked inside my underwear when I went to the bathroom at work. I was always unclogging the tub drain. At one point during this fight, Emily lunged towards me to make her point clear. For a split second, I thought, “Is she going to hit me?”

She didn’t. She left the next day, and my new roommate, who responded to my own online listing, moved in a few days later, with her own set of spices, pans, and recipes. Emily will never know, but I continued to cook more for myself. She didn’t get to see me bring home a tote of Honeycrisp apples from the farmers’ market to make an apple pie for my new roommate, nor did she see me make my own tomato sauce, using in-season cherry tomatoes, which I served over pasta with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano that didn’t come from a green can.

It’s been five years since Emily moved out, and we don’t keep in touch. But whatever she’s doing, I hope she’s still making her bomb marinara and salad dressing and feeling fabulous while doing it. I know I am.

A marinara sauce we can all agree on:


Chef Angie Mar Learned Everything About Shrimp Scampi from Ina Garten

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In honor of Ina Garten’s guest editing week, we asked chefs and celebrity fans to share their favorite Barefoot Contessa recipes as part of our series “How Easy Is That?” Below, Angie Mar, chef-owner of The Beatrice Inn in New York City, recounts making shrimp scampi for her family when she was 15.


I come from a very large family of food lovers and restaurateurs, so food is something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve loved Ina since I was a teenager, and gravitated toward watching Barefoot Contessa because her style of cooking very much reflects how a lot of the women in my family approach it. Unlike a lot of semi-homemade BS cooking shows, she actually cooks real food for her friends and Jeffrey. So I watched her, and then I did the same for my family.

When I was 15, I saw her make linguine with shrimp scampi, so I scribbled down the ingredients, went to the store, and just cooked it. I have always been an instinctual cook, so I don’t think I followed the recipe to a T, but picking up tips, like not fully draining your pasta water, were hugely valuable to me. I was tasked with making after-school meals for me and my two younger brothers, and this was always a highly requested recipe. It was easy and quick to make, and we all fell in love with it. We’d often sit on the sofa and eat it while watching Ina on TV and doing—or not doing—our homework.

It was also a source of inspiration for future meals. I often made other versions of this dish, adding clams or squid into it, or whatever the market had that looked good. That’s something fantastic about a tried-and-true recipe—it’s always there for you to rely on, even if you change some of the components.

I connect with Ina because we both relish our time in the kitchen and focus on using simple ingredients—while making sure they are the best ingredients possible. At the end of the day, no matter how complicated our recipes are at The Beatrice Inn, when I go home, that’s how I like to cook. I live in New York and have a small kitchen, so I want things that will be super easy and won’t require a lot of cleanup, but I don’t mind taking the time to make something delicious.

Although I haven’t made this particular recipe in a very long time, I am writing a cookbook right now and there’s a langoustine and spaghetti that very much stems from all of that after-school cooking of Ina’s recipe: an homage to the same shrimp scampi that I made when I was 15.

As told to Alyse Whitney


Ina Garten’s Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

From Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Serves 6

I wrote this recipe for my column in Martha Stewart Living magazine called “Entertaining Is Fun.” Except for the shrimp, you probably have most of the ingredients around the house and when you’re late from work, it’s a quick meal to pull together for dinner. Buy peeled and deveined shrimp and it’s even faster!

Vegetable oil

Kosher salt

1½ pounds linguine

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

5 tablespoons good olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)

2 pounds large shrimp (about 32 shrimp), peeled and deveined

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup chopped fresh parsley

Grated zest of 1 lemon

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)

½ lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds

¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Sauté for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of salt, and the pepper and sauté until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.

Recipe reprinted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style: Easy Ideas and Recipes That Make Everyone Feel Like Family. Copyright © 2002 by Ina Garten. Photographs copyright © 2002 Maura McEvoy. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.