Rice

Regular milled white rice has been milled to remove the outer bran coating.This process removes some vitamins and minerals, but it produces a white, lighter-textured product that most people prefer.White rice appears in several forms:

Enriched rice has received a coating of vitamins to compensate for some of the nutrients lost in milling.

Short-grain and medium-grain rice have small, round kernels that become sticky when cooked.They are used for such preparations as rice pudding and rice molds. In addition, the regular boiled rice used in Japanese cuisine for everyday eating and for making sushi is short-grain rice.

Long-grain rice has long, slender grains that stay separate and fluffy when properly cooked. It is used for side dishes, entrées, casseroles, and so on.

Parboiled or converted rice is a specially processed long-grain rice. It has been partially cooked under steam pressure,redried, and then milled or polished.This process results in a higher vitamin and mineral content.

Parboiled rice is the most widely used in food service.The grains stay firm, separate, and light, and the product holds well in the steam table without becoming mushy or sticky. However, the flavor and texture are not like those of regular long-grain rice, so it is not always preferred by all customers.

Converted rice takes slightly more liquid and time to cook.

Instant rice has been precooked and dried so it can be prepared quickly. It does not hold well after cooking, and the grains quickly lose their shape and become mushy. Brown rice has had the bran layer left on, giving it a light brown color, a slightly coarse, crunchy texture, and nutty flavor. Brown rice is available as short, medium, or long grain. Brown rice takes about twice as long to cook as white rice.

Arborio rice is one of several Italian varieties of a type of short-grain rice that is essential for making the highest-quality risotto (see p. 623). It is the variety most often found here and the one specified in recipes.Two other varieties used for risotto but less widely available are carnaroli and vialone nano.

Basmati rice is an extra-long-grain rice widely used in India and surrounding countries. It has a distinctive nutty flavor. Brown basmati rice is also available. Jasmine rice is a long-grain white rice from Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is very fragrant, a little like basmati rice but more delicate or floral. Wehani rice is another aromatic rice, red in color, with a rich, earthy flavor.

Wild pecan rice is a cultivated, not wild, long-grain rice from Louisiana. It is aromatic, with a nutty flavor,from which it gets the name pecan.

Glutinous rice, also called sticky rice, is a sweet-tasting short-grain rice that becomes quite sticky and chewy when cooked. It is used for a number of special dishes, including desserts, in Chinese and Japanese cuisines. It is often cooked by soaking and steaming rather than boiling (see the recipe on page 668). Contrary to what you may read elsewhere, however, it is not the rice used for sushi, which is made with regular Japanese short-grain rice.

Wild rice is not a type of rice but an unrelated grain, so it is discussed with specialty grains below.

Corn

Unlike other grains,which have a husk covering each seed, corn has a set of husks covering the entire seed head, or ear.Also unlike other grains, corn is eaten as a fresh vegetable, although different varieties are grown as grain and as a vegetable.

Corn as a grain is not often cooked whole. More often,it is ground into cornmeal and cooked into a porridge or used in baked goods. Meal can be defined as a coarsely ground grain, as distinguished from flour, which is finely ground grain. Common corn-meal is yellow or white,depending on the variety of corn it is made from.

Polenta is Italian-style cornmeal. Polenta has become popular in North America in recent years. Its preparation and uses are explained and illustrated on pages 632-633.

Hominy is corn that has been treated with lye.When it is cracked into a coarse meal,it becomes grits, popular in the southern United States and wherever the foods of the South are appreciated. Hominy in whole-grain form is known in Mexican cuisine as pozole (poh soh leh). It requires several hours of simmering.

Blue corn, usually available as blue cornmeal, is derived from early varieties of corn grown by Native Americans.

Wheat

The most common use for wheat is to be made into flour. The milling process for white flour separates the bran and germ. Wheat germ and wheat bran can be purchased separately.They are usually used as additions to baked goods and some other dishes to enrich their nutritional content and to add flavor interest.

Whole wheat grains that have been cut into smaller pieces are called cracked wheat. This product is often added to breads and also can be cooked like pilaf (see p. 623).

Whole wheatberries are the whole grain minus the hulls.They are generally cooked by boiling or simmering, but cooking time can be several hours. Soaking overnight reduces the cooking time to about 1 hour.

Bulgur is a type of cracked wheat that has been partially cooked or parched. It is usually available in coarse, medium, and fine granulations. Its cooking time is shorter than regular cracked wheat and, in fact, the fine granulations can be prepared simply by pouring boiling water over them and letting them stand for 12 hour. This type of bulgur is often served cold, mixed with lemon juice,olive oil, chopped scallions, and fresh herbs.

Green wheat is wheat that is harvested while it is immature and dried. It can be cooked like cracked wheat. Couscous (koose koose) is not actually a grain, although it resembles one.It is made from semolina wheat, a variety of high-protein wheat, and is sort of a granular pasta. It is cooked by soaking and then steaming, using a fairly time-consuming process. Instant couscous is prepared simply by adding the dry product to hot or boiling water and letting it stand 5 minutes.

Other Grains

Wild rice is not actually rice but is the seed of a grass native to the northern United States and Canada.The grains are long, slender,hard, and dark brown or nearly black in color. Because of its unique nutty flavor, scarcity, and high price,wild rice is considered a luxury food.

Top row: quinoa, triticale, pearl barley. Bottom row: blue cornmeal, pozole, bulgur wheat.

Wild rice is now widely cultivated, but the cultivated type is slightly different from that which is harvested in the wild. Grains of cultivated wild rice are generally larger and firmer, but the texture of the cooked rice is coarser and the flavor less complex. Cultivation has helped reduce the price of wild rice, however.

Farro (far oh) is a wheat-like grain that may be an ancestor of modern wheat. It has been used in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years and is still widely known in Tuscany and other parts of Italy. Farro has a flavor similar to that of wheat. It is higher in protein than wheat and can often be eaten by people who have wheat allergies. In North America, farro is known as spelt, although the Italian name is catching on. (Some sources argue that spelt and farro are different grains, but according to the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute,"the only registered varieties of farro belong to T.spelta or spelt." Kamut (kah moot),like farro,is an ancient relative of wheat. It is similar to spelt in composition and flavor.

Buckwheat is technically not a grain because it is the seed not of a grass but of a plant with branched stems and broad, arrow-shaped leaves. Whole buckwheat is often ground into flour.When the grains are crushed into coarse pieces, they are called buckwheat groats and can be cooked like rice.Toasted buckwheat is called kasha.The toasting gives it a nutty flavor. Kasha is popular in Eastern European and Jewish cooking. Kasha is also cooked like pilaf (p. 623).

Barley is usually purchased as pearled barley,which has been milled to remove the outer bran layers. It is commonly used in soups, but it can also be cooked by the pilaf method and served like rice, although it has a longer cooking time. Oats are most familiar in North America as a breakfast food. Steel-cut oats are whole grains that have been cut into small pieces, somewhat resembling cracked wheat.They are usually cooked as a porridge. Rolled oats are whole grains that have been steamed until soft and then flattened between rollers.This processing reduces their cooking time considerably. If they are cooked and not just softened during the steaming process, they become instant oats.These need no additional cooking, only reconstituting with boiling water.

Millet is a small, round yellow grain that is an important food source in much of Africa and Asia. It has a high protein content and a mild flavor. Millet is often used as bird seed in North America. It can be cooked like rice.

Quinoa (keen wah) is a grain native to the South American Andes that has only recently become an occasional feature of North American menus. Quinoa is very high in good-quality protein and lower in carbohydrates than other grains. It is a tiny, round grain with an ivory color and a mild, delicate flavor.When cooked, the germ of the grain unwinds, making it look as though each grain has a tail. Before cooking, quinoa must be washed and rinsed well to remove a bitter coating that occurs naturally on the grain. Triticale is a high-protein hybrid of wheat and rye. It is often ground into flour, but it can also be cooked whole like rice.Triticale has a nutty, sweet flavor. Amaranth is a tiny, yellow-brown seed with a somewhat spicy, nutty flavor when cooked. It contains high-quality protein and thus is useful in vegetarian diets.

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