Friday, February 7, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Shopping For Rice

Rice is one of the most versatile foods on the market.  It can be used in casseroles, soups, salads, and even desserts.   But there are many types of rice so how do you know which to use?   Here are just a few of those available and a little about them.

White rice - There are actually 3 types of this rice.  You can find long, medium and even short grain.  The shorter the grain, the more starch it contains.  Because it is the starch that causes rice to stick together when cooked, long grain rice cooks up lighter and fluffier than short grain rice.  (That I didn't know.  There have been times that I've bought just "white rice" not paying attention to what size it might be.  This piece of info makes me understand why my rice is sometimes too sticky for some of the dishes I'm making.)

Arborio rice - This is a short grain white rice that is preferred in risotto.  Being a short grain, it gives the creaminess needed for this dish.  This is usually found in larger supermarkets and specialty food stores.  (I've actually never bought this rice.  I have tried making risotto and had come out without the creaminess that I felt it should.  Now I know that I either buy the Arborio or at least use short grain.)

Instant and quick-cooking rice - This rice is popular because of its short cooking time.  Instant and quick-cooking rices are partially or fully cooked before they're packaged.   (I normally use the longer cooking rice but do keep a variety of the boiling bags on hand for quick use.  The flavor isn't as strong and the texture may not be as uniform but it works when I'm in a hurry.)

Brown rice - This is unpolished rice grain.  It has the bran layer still intact.  It's pleasantly chewy and nutty in flavor but requires a little longer cooking time then white rice.  (I've never been a fan of brown rice.  Don't really know why.  But I have found that I actually love the brown rice boiling bags.  I like the texture and flavor.  So if you're like me and don't care for brown rice, try the boiling bags.)

Converted rice - This is also called parboiled rice.  This white rice is steamed and pressure-cooked before it's packaged.  The process helps to retain nutrients and keeps the grains from sticking together when cooked.  (This I didn't know.  I've seen packages that say converted rice and have even bought it but never really knew the difference between it and regular white rice.)

Aromatic rice - The aroma of basmati, Texmati, wild pecan and jasmine rice is irresistible.  Their flavors range from toasted nuts to popped corn.  Look for them in food markets featuring Indian or Middle Eastern foods or in some of the larger supermarkets.  (My favorite is Basmati.  I love it's nutty flavor.  I use it not only in regular dishes but I really like it in my dessert rice dishes.  If you've not tried this one, you should.  I've tried the Jasmine but keep going back to the Basmati.  I've not tried the Texmati nor the Wild Pecan.  I actually haven't seen them in my local stores.  If you've tried either of these, please comment on their taste and texture.)

Wild rice - This is actually not a grain at all.  Wild rice is a marsh grass.  It takes about three times longer to cook than white rice but the nutlike flavor and chewy texture are worth the wait.  You do need to wash wild rice thoroughly before cooking.  (This is another favorite for me.  I had no idea it wasn't really a rice but now that I know this and look at it closely I can see that it doesn't really look like rice.  No matter what it is, I love it and love cooking with it.)

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