Q: There are so many varieties of rice available. How are they different from one another, and how do I choose which to buy?
- Jimmy Kirch, Englewood, Colorado
A: The nuances in flavor between these whole-grain varieties can add dimension to your dishes. Here's when to use which rice and why.
WHITE: Mild-tasting white rice is the most common variety; it's great as a supporting player when you want other flavors to shine. It pairs well with most dishes.
ARBORIO: This short, wide-grain rice, best known in risotto, has a high starch content. As it cooks, the starch is released and lends a creaminess to the dish.
JASMINE: An aromatic long-grain rice with a sweet flavor, jasmine rice is similar to basmati and commonly served in Thai cuisine. It is very light and fluffy, almost dry, when cooked.
BROWN: Brown rice features a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It takes longer to cook than many types, and its outer layer, or bran, keeps it from absorbing sauce the way white rice can. Use it in pilafs, rice cakes and stir-fries.
SUSHI: Sushi rice (also known as glutenous or pearl rice) is starchy and sticky. It's used in sushi (naturally) and some Japanese desserts.
BLACK: Sometimes called purple or forbidden rice, black rice cooks much like brown rice, and its antioxidant levels are on par with those of blueberries. Try this sweet and nutty type in Asian dishes and stir-fries.
BASMATI: This Indian long-grain rice is delicious on its own or with curries and other spicy dishes. When cooked properly, it should be very light.
Q: I'm a first-time fish owner. Any tips for tank setup?
- Kimber Rutledge, St. Charles, Missouri.
A: Arranging your tank properly ensures that your pet has a smooth transition to its new home. Follow these steps from Stephen Zawistowski, science adviser emeritus for the ASPCA:
1. Buy a 20-gallon tank. Not only will your fish have plenty of room to swim, but it's easier to maintain healthy water conditions in a larger aquarium.
2. Fish like to hide and have a place to relax. Use plastic plants or other tank décor, such as a treasure chest, to add camouflage.
3. You'll need a filtration system to keep the water fresh and eliminate waste. Choose either an easy-to-clean filter that hangs on the tank's side or an invisible version that hides under the gravel, which is admittedly a little more trouble to clean.
4. Fill the tank to 1 inch below the rim with tap water (65 degrees Fahrenheit for goldfish; 78 F for tropical fish). Most fish thrive in water with a pH of about 7 - neither acidic nor alkaline - so test the pH with a kit and use a chemical neutralizer to adjust the level. (Both are available at pet stores.) Then let the water sit for a few days before introducing your new pet.
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