Cooking with Honey

I recently had a booth at our town’s Honey Festival where I showcased five different goodies make with honey as well as Honey Ginger Lemonade. I was humbled by so many of you who stopped by, sampled these goodies and signed up for my emails. In honor of that, I thought I would write this Cooking Tip on how to cook with honey.

Honey is a delightful sweetener and is lovely to have in your arsenal. Because honey attracts and holds water, it can add great moisture to your baked goods. It can also act as a binder and thickener for sauces, dressings, marinades and dips.

There are, however, some cautions about cooking with honey. You cannot make a 1-to-1 swap from your recipe’s current sweetener (such as granulated sugar) to honey.  With so many wonderful recipes that were created with honey as an ingredient, I encourage you just to find this type of recipe. Someone has already done all the experimentation to come up with the right mix and amount of ingredients.

If you would like to convert a recipe from it is current sugar to honey, here are some guidelines.

  • Begin by only substituting half of the amount of sugar in the recipe with honey. You might be able to up this as you continue experimenting but if you do it all at once, your recipe is likely to fail.
  • Because honey is a liquid sweetener, reduce the liquid in your recipe by ¼ cup for each cup of honey used.
  • In cookie recipes where the only liquid is eggs, increase the flour by 2 tablespoons per cup of honey.
  • Honey is an acidic ingredient. Therefore, add about ½ teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.
  • Reduce your oven temperature by 25-75° to prevent over-browning as honey browns faster than sugar.
  • Choose your honey carefully. Very strongly flavored honeys should be used judiciously and are best in items such as spice cakes, spicy marinades and glazes (jerk spice, spare ribs, BBQ sauce). For a lighter dish, choose a lighter honey.

One wonderful characteristic of honey is that it is its own preservative. Therefore, it keeps for years although the flavor is best within a year of harvesting.

Store it at room temperature in your pantry. If you put honey in the refrigerator, it accelerates crystallization. Speaking of that somewhat irritating aspect of honey, what do you do with your honey when it has crystallized? Do not throw it away; it is not an indicator of spoilage, impurity, age or quality. Rather, it is a natural process that occurs when the glucose molecules align into orderly arrangements known as crystals.

You can reverse crystallization by any of the following methods.

  • Place the honey in a jar in warm water. Allow it to sit until the crystals dissolve.
  • Bring a pan of water to a boil, turn off the heat, place the honey container in the water with cap open & leave until both have cooled.
  • Microwave it in 10-second increments until the crystals dissolve.
  • For a more permanent solution, you can add corn syrup (assuming you have no objections to this ingredient). Because crystallization can only occur if all the sugar molecules are of the same structure, by adding something different (such as corn syrup), it will not crystallize. You do not need much – stir in 2 teaspoons of corn syrup per cup of honey.

Honey is such a wonderful ingredient and I would suspect we all have some in the pantry. It is great to spread on your bread or drizzle in your oatmeal. It is also an ingredient that has so much more to offer. Go someplace where you can taste all the different varieties, choose what you enjoy and have fun!

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How can water be confusing?

My wonderful husband recently made some home-made elderflower cordial. It is a concentrate and should be diluted about 4:1 with water. We like using a sparkling water and so, off to the supermarket I went. As I looked at all the varieties of water – both carbonated and noncarbonated, I was somewhat amazed. As we have well water at our home and it is very tasty well water, we do not buy any bottled water. I must admit that it was a bit confusing – leading me to share what I learned with all of you in this Cooking Tip.

On the shelf were various names – club soda, tonic water, carbonated water, sparkling water, sparkling mineral water and seltzer water. All of these are types of carbonated drinks, but they vary in processing methods and added compounds.

Carbonated water—This is a generic term referring to any water that has dissolved carbon dioxide, either naturally or introduced in an artificial manner. It can be used to refer to any of the following waters.

Club Soda – This is water that is termed “artificially effervescent” as it is carbonated by the injection of carbon dioxide gas. It is made from plain water that is sourced from anywhere and then processed into club soda. There are also commonly added minerals such as potassium sulfide, sodium chloride, disodium phosphate and sodium bicarbonate. It is also infused with mineral salts to enhance its taste and bubbles but that does give it a slightly salty taste.   It is also known as “soda water”. Many soda pop flavors are made by combining soda water with flavors.

Tonic Water – What makes this carbonated beverage is the addition of quinine as well as the fact that it is sweetened. The sugar content is similar to other sodas. Quinine is a compound isolated from the bark of cinchona trees and is what gives tonic water a bitter note. In Colonial India, the British inhabitants would generally mix quinine in water as a defense against malaria. Later, it was mixed with gin to make it more palatable. Over time, the quinine amount decreased and now it is used only for flavoring. Today, tonic water is usually used for cocktails made with gin or vodka.

Sparkling mineral water – This is water that comes from a natural well or spring. It is ready for consumption in its natural state direct from its source and draws its flavor from the minerals that are dissolved in it naturally. Some brands do, though, have additional carbonation added. To add a bit of confusion, not all mineral waters are carbonated; some are still.

Seltzer – This is a more naturally effervescent carbonated water because it is similar to most natural waters drawn from artesian wells that pass through mineral layers. There are no added salt or potassium minerals giving it a more natural water taste. Its name derives from Selters, a town in Germany that is popular for its natural springs. It entered the American market as an alternative to buying pricier mineral waters that are often imported. It is available plain or in a variety of flavors. It is also known as “sparkling water”.

Here is a chart that shows you the differences in calories and other nutritional components.

  Club Soda Seltzer Sparkling Mineral Water Tonic Water
Calories 0 0 0 124
Protein 0 0 0 0
Fat 0 0 0 0
Carbs 0 0 0 32.2 g
Sugar 0 0 0 32.2 g
Sodium 3% of the RDI 0% of the RDI 1% of the RDI 2% of the RDI
Calcium 2% of the RDI 0% of the RDI 6% of the RDI 0% of the RDI
Zinc 1% of the RDI 0% of the RDI 0% of the RDI 2% of the RDI
Copper 1% of the RDI 0% of the RDI 0% of the RDI 1% of the RDI
Magnesium 1% of the RDI 0% of the RDI 0% of the RDI 0% of the RDI

For my purposes of diluting the elderflower cordial to make a lovely, refreshing summer beverage, plain sparkling water or seltzer was the right choice. I could have used sparkling mineral water but the minerals that are added could definitely change the flavor. Since I did not want any other added components, I stayed away from either club soda or tonic water. You may have a different purpose in mind or want a different flavor. With this information, you should be able to make an informed choice.

Cake Pan Math

Have you ever seen a cake recipe that sounded scrumptious and you decided you just had to make it? Then, as you are reading the recipe (hopefully before you started baking), you notice it calls for a size of cake pan that you do not have. You do have other cake pans, though, and you wonder if you can just use those. In this Cooking Tip, I will give you some guidelines for doing just that. If you are math-averse, you may want to stop reading and just run out for the specified pan size — assuming you have storage space for one more pan! However, if you are willing to bear with just a bit of figuring, read on.

At its most basic, you want to know the capacity of your cake pan and then find another pan with the same or similar capacity. For square pans, that is pretty easy. Just multiply length by width. For example, if you have an 8-inch square pan, multiply 8X8 to get 64. For your 9X13 pan, you get 117.

For a round pan, you have to reach back to what you learned in school. Do you recall that equation Pir2? That is “Pi multiplied by the radius squared.” Oh yeah, you remember hearing that somewhere, don’t you? And, Pi is 3.14. Well, in reality it is more than that, but 3.14 will suffice for our purposes.  (If you care to read about it in-depth, here is an article from Wikipedia. Let’s do an example for a 9-inch round pan. The diameter is 9 inches, which makes the radius 4½ inches. So, we get 3.14 x 4.52 = 3.14 x 20.25 = 63.6. Round it up to 64. If you shriek at even this little bit of math, here is an online calculator that will do it for you.

Remember the capacity of the 8-in square pan? It was 64. Bingo – an easy swap for an 8-in square pan would be a 9-in round pan since they both have the same capacity. (Note: this assumes a pan depth of 2 inches.)

Let’s get a bit more complicated. If you have a recipe for a cake made in a 9×13 pan and you want to make two round layers, what do you do?

Step 1: Figure the capacity of the 9×13 inch pan. Easy – 9 X 13 = 117.
Step 2: Figure the capacity of your round pan. If it is 9-inch, we already know it is 64. Doing the same calculation for an 8-in round, you get 50.
Step 3: Divide the capacity of your bar pan (117) by 2 since you want to put the batter in two pans. That gives you 58.5, which lies in between the capacity of the two round sizes.
Step 4: Make your choice. If you divide the batter into the two 8-in pans, the batter may overflow the pans. If you use the 9-in, the layers may be shorter than you want. So, if you have never made the recipe before, the safer bet would be the 9-inch pans. If you have made the recipe before in the recommended pan size (something I would highly recommend the first time you make it), how high did it rise in that pan? If it had a high rise, you would definitely want go with the 9-inch. If, however, it really did not rise that much, you might be fine with the 8-inch.

Another option is to use an oval-shaped casserole dish although the end shape may not be what you are looking for. To do that, we need to do a bit more figuring. Let’s say you have an 8×12 inch oval dish. Measure from the center to the top – 4 inches. Then, from the center to the side – 6 inches. The equation is now 4 in X 6 in X 3.14 (pi) = 75. Compare this to the capacity in the recipe to see if it might be a viable alternative. For example, this would be too large if the recipe calls for an 8-in square pan (capacity of 64) but not too bad if it calls for a 9-in square pan (81). One caveat – most oval casserole dishes are not made of metal as cake pans are. Rather, they are usually stoneware, ceramic or glass. You might need to tweak the oven temperature and/or baking time but that is another discussion.

Do you love the look of a Bundt cake? Do you have a Bundt cake pan that you barely use? Most recipes that are to be baked in a 9×13 pan can be baked in a Bundt pan. (This only works for a standard butter/oil cake, not for sponge or angel food cakes.) For here, we look at volume rather than capacity as how would you ever calculate the capacity of a Bundt pan???

Bundt cake pans are usually 10-cup or 12-cup but this is just the actual volume you would find if you filled it with water and measured how much water you used. Since the cake will rise to fill the Bundt pan, you cannot put that much batter in the pan. What you need to know is how much batter you can actually bake in that pan. Experts tell us that for a 10-cup Bundt, the batter amount would be about 6 cups. A 12-cup Bundt pan can take up to 7¼ cups of batter.

It just so happens that a 9×13 cake is usually equal to about 6 cups of batter – an amount that would be just fine in your Bundt pan. It may not bake in the same amount of time as it would in the 9×13 pan. Just think about how much thicker the batter is in that Bundt pan. Start checking your cake at the recommended bake time but do not be surprised if you need to add up to 30% more time.

There is much more that could be said but I think the above should suffice for most of your cake baking needs.

Nut and Seed Oils

I am teaching a class on how to cook with all those wonderful summer berries – both sweet and savory dishes. One of the recipes is for a Strawberry & Mango Salad with a Champagne Vinaigrette. The latter is made with walnut oil. Walnut oil is only one of a myriad of nut & seed oils and I wonder how many of you use any of them. In this Cooking Tip, I will tell you about some of these delicious oils. I will discuss best uses for the different types as well as their respective smoke points. The lower the smoke point, the less appropriate it is for high heat cooking.

Nut and seed oils are used mostly for flavor. They are considered seasoning oils rather than cooking oils. Some can handle high heats; some cannot. If they are used in hot dishes, they are usually added at the last minute. Most nut and seed oils do not have a long shelf life and so should be purchased in small amounts. They need to be stored in a dark, cool place. Many should be refrigerated.

Walnut
This is a topaz colored oil with a rich/nutty flavor. The best walnut oil is said to be made from walnuts from the Périgord and Dordogne regions in France. As with most of these oils, it does not have a long shelf life and should be kept in a cool, dark place. Some recommend against putting it in the refrigerator as the cold could cause a deterioration in flavor. Not all agree with this, though.

It is wonderful in salad dressings (as in my recipe) but may be used in baking, especially if the item also contains walnuts. It is also nice with poultry, fish or veggies.

Smoke point
Unrefined – 320°F
Semi-refined – 400°F

Almond
This is oil is made from sweet almonds and is pale in color. It is primarily used in baking and confectionary. If heated gently with slivered almonds, it is great to serve with fish or green veggies.

Smoke point – 420°F

Hazelnut
This is a very richly flavored oil that is produced mainly in France. It is paired with very good vinegars for salad dressings or as a marinade for fish/poultry. Its delicate flavor is lost when heated but it can be whisked into a sauce at the very last minute. It can also be used in baked goods in combination with hazelnuts.

Smoke point – 430°F

Peanut
Although peanuts are actually a legume and not a nut, I will list it here. Since it is almost tasteless and usually has a high smoke point, it is good for more general use such as in salads, cooking and frying.

The cold pressed variety has a mild peanut flavor that is good with fruit-flavored vinegars for salad dressings. It also has a lower smoke point then refined peanut oil.

Smoke point
Unrefined — 320°F
Refined – 440-450°F

Pumpkin seed
This oil is either dark brown or green in color and has a pleasant flavor of toasted pumpkin seeds. It is popular in Austria, where most of it is produced. It is used as a last minute seasoning for steamed veggies or fish.

Smoke point — 320°F or less

Sesame oil
All sesame oils are aromatic and the most common are able to withstand high temperatures.

There are three varieties.

European sesame oil is cold-pressed and is light in color and nutty in flavor.

The Asian variety is made from toasted sesame seeds and is darker with a more pronounced flavor.

Middle Eastern sesame oil is lighter in flavor than Asian and has a deep golden color.

Smoke point
Unrefined — 350°F
Semi-refined – 450°F

Pistachio
This oil has a beautiful green color and is usually used in cookies, cake and ice cream.

Smoke point – 250°F

Pecan
Pecan oil is light and mild and is great in baked goods and in dressings, sauces and marinades.

Smoke point – 470°F

Macadamia nut
This oil is very light in color with a mild, buttery taste.

Smoke point – 390°F

I took a look at my regular supermarkets and, without resorting to online sources or specialty stores, I could easily find peanut, sesame, avocado and walnut oils. A couple of stores carried almond oil and occasionally macadamia and pumpkin oil. What can you find in your stores? Let me know.

Even though I could find these oils, not all of them were unrefined. Unrefined oils are less processed and thus, have a fuller flavor and, according to some, more of the healthy antioxidants we seek. However, this also means their smoke point is lower. The choice is up to you.

If you have never tried a nut oil, I encourage you to do so. They are a very nice addition to your culinary arsenal!

Pesto — make it your own!

I was making sandwiches for lunch the other day and wanted something different. Off to the freezer I go where I found cubes of three kinds of frozen pesto – classic Genovese pesto, basil pesto with manchego cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto. Out came the latter, which I then mixed with grilled and chopped red onion & mayo. I proceeded with spreading that on some nice bread, topping with ham and grated Parrano cheese, brushing a bit of olive oil on the outside of the bread and finishing the sandwiches off on my stovetop grill. Very yummy if I do say so myself. That got me thinking that Pesto might be a good topic for a Cooking Tip.

Pesto is such a delicious sauce and requires no cooking. Classic pesto (aka Genovese pesto) is made from fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. Traditionally, it is made in a mortar and pestle although modern cooks tend to use a food processor or blender. The different methods give different results. The mortar/pestle will give you a coarser pesto with a fresher basil flavor where as the food processor results in a finer texture with a less fresh (but still yummy) flavor.

There are many different recipes for classic pesto. Although they all have the same basic ingredients, they may use different ratios of ingredients. I encourage you to try different recipes until you find the one (or ones) you like. Techniques will vary, too. Some will have you put all the ingredients in the blender (or food processor) at once, blend and finish with seasoning with salt to taste. Others will have you blend all the solid ingredients to a paste and then stream in the olive oil to the desired consistency and ending with salt to taste. Others will have you hold off on the cheese, only adding it just before serving. Another method is to start by grinding the garlic and salt to a paste followed by the pine nuts and grinding again. Then, basil leaves are pounded into the mixture. Cheese is next and it is finished by drizzling in the olive oil as desired.

Some professionals recommend blanching the basil leaves before using to help keep the color as green as possible. The blanching supposedly deactivates the enzymes that cause the basil to turn brown. Testing by TheKitchn.com did show this to be true but there was a downside – the pesto made with blanched basil tasted less fresh with less basil flavor.

SeriousEats.com did a different type of testing. They made pesto with three variations. The first was made classically with fresh basil using a mortar/pestle. The second used fresh basil but made in a mini food processor. The third was also made in the mini processor but rather than fresh basil, they used basil that had been frozen and then defrosted. The theory for this latter technique was that freezing leads to cell rupture thereby releasing more flavor into the pesto. Their interpretation of the results was that the classical method produced the best pesto – very creamy with the brightest flavor. They thought the pesto made with the fresh basil in the mini processor was the worst – gritty texture with flavor that was too mild. The final batch – made with frozen basil and the mini processor – fell in the middle. It did have a nice creamy texture and improved flavor over batch #2. However, they still preferred the classic approach. They did conclude, though, that if you do not want to go the mortar/pestle route, at least throw the basil in the freezer before putting it in the processor.

Find your preferred technique and then mix up the ingredients. Use different herbs (cilantro, parsley, arugula, spinach, mint or a combination) or swap out the pine nuts for almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios or walnuts. You could also vary the cheese from Parmesan to another hard cheese such as pecorino, asiago or manchego. Add some citrus for a bit of zip.

How about that sun-dried tomato pesto I used in my sandwich? It does have some of the classic ingredients (basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, olive oil) but adds roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste and chili powder.

You may store your homemade pesto in the refrigerator. Just put it in the smallest container possible, pack it down to eliminate air pockets and either pour a thin layer of olive oil over it or put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the pesto before covering the container. It should keep in your refrigerator for up to a week. Or, do as I do. Spray an ice cube tray with nonstick spray, spoon the pesto into the compartments and freeze. Once frozen, you can remove from the ice cube tray and store either in a freezer bag or other freezer-safe container. You may lose some of the vibrant green color but I think that is a fair trade-off for always having homemade pesto at your fingertips.

Rarely does one make pesto as an end in itself. It is always an accompaniment to something else. The most common is as a pasta sauce, usually thinned out a bit with the pasta water. How about spreading it on a sandwich or on a pizza crust? Dollop it on your grilled chicken breast. It is classic served with potato gnocchi.

You will note that I did not give you any one recipe. That is because I think (unlike many culinary professionals) that there is not just one way to do things or one recipe that is the best. You need to find what is best for you. That depends on your taste, your kitchen equipment, your available time, your budget for ingredients as well as your interest in simple versus more complex techniques. Find what works for you and then branch out and experiment. Have fun and realize that there do not have to be so many hard and fast rules in cooking!

Mustard — Love it or Hate it?

Mustard is one of those ingredients of which I am not a fan. I use it in cooking but refrain but spreading it on a sandwich, a burger, etc. This Cooking Tip is for those of you who (like my husband) love mustard. Real mustard aficionados may want to visit the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin. It boasts having “more than 6,090 mustards from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.”

Mustard is made from ground mustard seeds that are mixed with liquid. Different types of mustard seeds yield different levels of spice. Yellow seeds are the mildest with brown and black having a higher spice level. The seeds on their own really have no heat; it is only when they are combined with liquid that the enzymes present in the seeds help to release the compounds that account for the heat of mustard. The more acidic the liquid, the slower this reaction occurs resulting in a longer-lasting heat. This is why mustards made with vinegar hold their heat whereas ones made with water lose their pungency more quickly. Even the temperature of the water affects the flavor. Hot water tends to deactivate the enzymes and break down some of the heat compounds. This is why the mildest mustard you can buy is that made from yellow seeds and abundant vinegar. On the other end of the heat scale is mustard made with brown or black seeds and cold water.

Here are a few of the mustard varieties that you may see on your supermarket shelves.

Yellow mustard – made from yellow mustard seeds, this variety is mild rather than spicy. It is what we think of when we grab for that American-style mustard. Its yellow color comes from the mustard seeds as well as the addition of turmeric. The liquid used is a mixture of vinegar and water. Although not very hot, its flavor still has a sharp note. It is a favorite for topping a burger or hotdog.

Brown mustard – made from the small and hotter brown mustard seeds and less vinegar than the yellow variety. It is more assertive and spicier as well as being more coarse (due to leaving the bran on the seeds). At times, other spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg are added. Because of its full flavor, it stands up well to meats such as pastrami, roast beef and sausages, earning it the name “Deli” mustard.

Dijon mustard – this variety was first made in 1865 in Dijon, France. It is made from the hotter brown mustard seeds and originally the liquid was “verjuice”, an acidic juice made from unripe grapes. Today, low acidity liquids such as white wine are used. Both the brown seeds and the lower acidity result in a strong and sharp flavor. Because of its smooth texture, it is a favorite for salad dressings or creamy sauces. It is considered a medium-hot mustard.

Whole-Grain mustard – also known as Coarse mustard. The seeds are only ground enough to make a paste yet leave a coarse texture with bits of mustard seeds. The different brands will have varying heat levels.

Honey mustard
– a mixture of honey and mustard, usually on a one-to-one ratio. The mustard is generally of the milder, yellow variety. Because its flavor is on the sweet side, it is often served as a dipping sauce.

Hot mustard – the high heat level comes from using brown or black seeds along with cold water. Chinese hot mustard is of this variety.

English mustard – this is really just a type of Hot mustard. The one we usually see is Coleman’s, which is made from a mixture of yellow and brown mustard seeds. By not using vinegar, the goal is for an increased heat level. However, since it uses both yellow and brown seeds, it is not quite as hot as Chinese mustard.

German mustard – these mustards cannot be put into one category. Rather, they range from sweet to spicy and from fine to coarse. Some also add other ingredients such as horseradish.

Beer mustard
– in this type of mustard, beer is the typical liquid although vinegar may be added. Since there is less acid, the heat level is significant. The flavor of the beer can vary from mild to strong depending on which beer is used. Similarly, Spirit mustards use spirits rather than beer although vinegar is typically also added. Whiskey and bourbon are common.

There are also many creative variations although they are certainly not as common on our supermarket shelves. These include mustards that use wines other than white wine, mustards flavored with horseradish, sriracha & balsamic vinegar. Other sweet mustards such as Pecan/Honey & Brown Sugar are also made.

Although mustards made with acidic liquids retain their punch longer than those made with water, all mustards will lose some of the pungency over time. Therefore, buy it in small quantities and store it in the refrigerator once opened.

If you do not think you like mustard, perhaps this guide will help you find a mustard you like. But, then again, if you are like me, none will make it onto my bratwurst!

 

 

40,000 Varieties of Rice

A while ago I wrote a short Cooking Tip about rice. In that Tip, I discussed the different varieties in terms of grain size. In this Tip, I would like to expand on what I wrote previously. According to SeriousEats.com, there are over 40,000 varieties of rice. I don’t know about you but I cannot imagine that. We will only cover a very small number of these types.

To recap on grain size, rice comes in short-, medium- and long-grain. Short grain means each kernel is only slightly longer than it is wide. Examples include sushi rice as well as packages just termed “short grain”. Medium-grain rice is about two times as long as it is wide. Examples include Arborio and Valencia. Long grain rice is three to four times longer than it is wide. Jasmine and Basmati are in this category.

Another point to understand is that rice contains two kinds of starches – amylose and amylopectin. Different varieties contain different ratios of these starches and that leads to a different result when cooked.

A higher proportion of amylopectin (as found in short and medium grain rice) means that the rice softens more completely and thickens sauces better. The grains have a greater tendency to cling together and make rice sticky when cooked. This makes them great for risotto, rice pudding or sticky rice.

If amylopectin is low and amylose high (as in long grain rice), each cooked rice grain is dry and fluffy and remains separate. This is a perfect type of rice to use in pilafs, fried rice or as a side dish.

Here is a list of just a few rice varieties that are available.

You might just read Long Grain rice on the package at your supermarket. It is probably what most people have in their pantries and can be bought in both white and brown.

Basmati rice is the “go to” rice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. More than 70% of the world’s supply of this rice comes from India. It is very fragrant with a somewhat nutty flavor. Being a long-grain rice, it works great in pilafs or as a side dish for curries. It is available in both white and brown.

Jasmine rice is what you find served with Thai meals. It has a floral aroma with a slightly sweet flavor. Even though it is a long grain rice, it does become slightly sticky when cooked. You can find it in both white and brown varieties.

Arborio rice is best known as “risotto” rice although this is not the only rice that is used to make risotto. It is the most available in our supermarkets, though. Because it is high in amylopectin starch, when cooked correctly, it is chewy and creamy – making it ideal for risotto and rice puddings.

Carnaroli rice is another Italian rice that is perfect for risotto and rice puddings. It has a firmer texture and holds its shape better than Arborio.

Valencia/Bomba rice is a Spanish short grain rice with kernels that are almost spherical. It is the rice most commonly used in paella. As it is highly absorbent, it requires more water to cook than other varieties. Due to its high amylose starch content, it does not stick together.

Brown rice is a whole grain rice. It comes in short, medium and long grain varieties. It is processed by only removing the outer, inedible husk. As opposed to white rice, the germ and bran is left intact. This results in a denser texture with a nutty flavor and preferred by nutritionists because of its higher fiber and vitamin content.

Red rice is also known as Wehani if American-grown. Imported versions are called Himalayan, Bhutanese or Camargue rice and it takes its name from the red color. It is considered another whole grain rice and thus is touted for its higher nutritional content.

Black rice is sometimes labeled as Forbidden rice, Japonica or Emperor’s rice. It is very high in a certain antioxidant (the same one as found in eggplant and blueberries) and this is the reason for the black color. It turns a purple or lavender color when cooked. It is not only very flavorful but very high in nutritional value.

Glutinous rice (sticky rice, sweet rice) is very sticky when cooked due to the low amylose content. When ground, it is known as mochiko or sweet rice flour. Despite the name “glutinous”, this rice does not contain any gluten. Glutinous actually means “glue like”.

Sushi rice is a short grain Japanese rice. It is sticky in texture but not quite as much as glutinous/sticky rice. The rice is rinsed to remove the outer coating, boiled and then mixed with a vinegar mixture. In fact, the word sushi translates to “vingarized rice”.

Wild rice is not a rice. Rather, it is a seed of a grass that is native to North America. It takes much longer to cook and has a very chewy texture. It is another good source of nutrients.

You might see something called Parboiled or Converted rice. It has been treated with steam pressure before milling, which produces a tan grain that is firm & stays separate when cooked.

Instant rice has been partially or completely cooked and so, only takes only a few minutes to prepare. What you gain in convenience, though, you lose in taste and texture.

So many rice varieties to try. If all you eat is white rice, I encourage you to try some of the other types. You may be pleasantly surprised!