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Thumb_brown-white-riceWhat's the difference between white rice and brown rice?

Thumb_brown-white-riceWhat's the difference between white rice and brown rice?

Brown rice and white rice are the same grain. White rice is brown rice that has been stripped of its fibrous layers of bran and then polished smooth and white. Those outer layers contain most of the fiber and nutrients of the grain. (They also give brown rice a nuttier, chewier flavor and texture.) So, which is better? It depends on what you're in the mood for. We enjoy the complexity and wholesomeness of brown rice. But we also appreciate a simple, soothing bowl of white rice, which cooks faster and has a light, fluffy texture that balances acidic and spicy dishes, like a stir-fry or vindaloo. And while brown rice is great for the heart, white rice is easier on the stomach, making it a suitable base for comforting Greek Lemon-Egg Soup.

Thumb_354050728_1bde95c683What is kosher salt?

Thumb_354050728_1bde95c683What is kosher salt?

Kosher salt is a bright-tasting white, coarse-grained salt made without additives (such as iodine). It is called kosher salt in North America (elsewhere it's referred to as coarse-grain salt) because it is used to aid in the preparing of kosher meat that is salted after butchering in order to draw out the animal's blood. Kosher salt works particularly well because its large grains don't immediately dissolve on the surface of meat, drawing in liquid instead. But you don't have to keep kosher to appreciate kosher salt, a favorite of cooks everywhere for its large flaky texture and clean taste that works in a variety of dishes. If you're new to kosher salt, be aware that it doesn't always dissolve completely in baked goods and that its grains vary in size according to the manufacturer, so be sure to check the box for measurement conversions. The large flakes of kosher salt make it a nice finishing salt to sprinkle on dishes before serving.

Thumb_557155701_76a010eb1aMeasuring freshly ground black pepper

Thumb_557155701_76a010eb1aMeasuring freshly ground black pepper

When a recipe calls for "freshly ground black pepper," it usually does so without suggesting an amount. In the instructions of the recipe, you’ll be told to "sprinkle [something] with freshly ground black pepper" or "generously season both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper" or "add freshly ground black pepper to taste." In general, this makes sense. Cooking with black pepper is one of those things you just get a feel for as you spend more time in the kitchen. And descriptive measurements like "sprinkle" and "generously season" are hard to screw up: a light sprinkle is not going to be drastically different from a heavy sprinkle. Still, we've been keeping track of pepper amounts for a while now, because we want our descriptive measurements to be more or less the same from recipe to recipe. How much pepper do we mean when we write "generously season?" What is the ideal amount of a Cookthink "sprinkle?" And of course, there are times when it helps to have an exact amount for freshly ground black pepper. For certain casseroles and papillotes -- dishes that can’t be tasted for seasoning as they cook -- it's nice to have an exact baseline amount of pepper so that you don’t have to tweak it too much at the end for taste. The problem is that it’s near impossible to grind accurately into any measuring spoon smaller than a tablespoon, and few recipes call for that much pepper. So how do you measure freshly ground black pepper? One easy way is to go by turns of the grinder. I’ve carved an “X” onto the side of mine, a short and simple model with three settings: coarse, medium, fine. I set the grind to medium and made 8 full rotations into a small bowl. Using a 1/8 teaspoon, I shoveled the ground pepper into another 1/8 teaspoon. Too much. I started over and stopped at 4 full rotations. It was a little light, so I made another full turn and got an almost level 1/8 teaspoon with 5 total rotations of the grinder. I did the same for 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon. I got the results you’d expect: 1/8 teaspoon = 5 full rotations 1/4 teaspoon = 10 full rotations 1/2 teaspoon = 20 full rotations 1 teaspoon = 40 full rotations I repeated this in both the fine and coarse settings, and found them close enough to the medium not to worry too much about it. So are these measurements helpful? In writing and testing recipes, yes. In practice, probably not, though I have often wondered, while standing over a stew grinding away, just how much pepper I’m adding. Now I know. - Chip