Pliage des serviettes

More than wiping excess food on the lips, an attractively folded napkin is like a small piece of art welcoming you as you sit down on your table.  Usually set at the center of a table setting, some table napkins are folded in various ways, from familiar shapes, flowers, and sometimes animals.

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Rice

Rice is an essential facet of many world cuisines–from Asian countries where it is a primary food to European and North American countries that use rice as its main ingredient, accompaniment, and even as seasoning (fermented rice) and alcoholic beverage (rice wine like the Japanese sake).

In Asia, rice is invariably a fundamental part of the daily meals. Served with viands of meat, vegetables, sauces, and soups, rice is boiled, steamed or fried. One can have it for breakfast as fried rice. For lunch and dinner, it’s a really hearty meal that the family looks forward to. Without it, the meal would not be complete.

There are several varieties of rice all over the world. But it is the white rice, which has been polished and its germ and bran removed, that is considered the best variety not only for its color but most especially because it is much more delicious to eat unlike brown rice and red rice which does not produce the same aroma and texture as the polished variety.

In Italian cuisine, rice is prepared into risotto which uses Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano varieties. Thick, chewy and saucy, the risotto is a dish that is seasoned with assorted ingredients from herbs to wild mushrooms (a perfect complement to the rice as its canvass) to cheese and spices. The fundamental step in making risotto is to stir fry it with the onions and olive oil before water is added for it to cook down.

Rice grains become fluffy and tender when it is cooked. While the Italians have their risotto, the Spanish have their paella. It’s a festive dish because of its color, the ingredients that make up its flavor base (seafood, chicken, meat which are sometimes all contained in a risotto), and how the whole paellera with which it is cooked can be presented on the table for everyone to dig in.

For breakfast or when someone is sick, rice can be cooked down into a delicious porridge, flavored with chicken and ginger. Unlike the substantial risotto and the festive paella, the rice porridge is a watered down meal that aims to restore one’s health rather than enrich it with fancy ingredients.

As a sweet ending, rice transforms into rice pudding–and it can be both the white glutinous rice and the black rice, varieties that thicken and do well when cooked with sugar and coconut milk.

Chocolate

As a drink or a little square of candy to end the day, chocolate is tough to not love. Usually connected with Valentine’s Day, giving chocolates as gifts is the general symbol of indicating love and affection. Chocolates in reality contain endorphins, which give a boost in the mood, generating that feeling of euphoria or happiness, that same happy feeling one gets post-workout. Definitely J.K. Rowling got that part right in her Harry Potter books, giving chocolate to anyone who has survived a dementor attack. Going back to chocolate and love, during Valentine’s Day or any other particular occasion, it is not unusual to see sights of bringing chocolate candies with roses to a loved one or serving chocolate cake. Even a mug of hot chocolate with a marshmallow gives that satisfying feeling after a bad day or a sapping day at work.

As candies, chocolates have ranged from bars, to squares, fun shapes, filled ones, lollipops, and so on. Plain milk, dark, white, or marbled, they can be mixed with marshmallows and fillings for a unique texture or flavor. Although artisan brands and combinations are procurable at most supply stores, homemade chocolate candies can be made at the comfort of your own homes as there are easy-to-do recipes to make them from store-bought books to simply searching them online. Compound chocolate is also available in baking and confectionery supply stores, which can be melted and poured into moulds and frozen until hard and ready for boxing. Making your own chocolates can be a fun way to make gifts and giveaways for Christmas or parties.

Cakes, ice cream, and cookies are also other ways on how chocolate can be integrated into a foolproof dessert. In ice cream, it can even be used to jazz up plain vanilla ice cream by shaving some chocolate on top, or adding something sweet to yogurt. Classic chocolate chip cookies can be also presented as gifts or for that chocolate lover friend you have, make chocolate dough and overdose on the chocolate chips.

Chocolate is an ingredient that’s hard to go wrong. It gives literally a dose of happiness at first bite. Whether served warm as pie or as a mug of goodness, enjoyed as it is dipping fruits in it or in a candy bar, or enjoying it cold as a milkshake or ice cream, it is enough to bring a smile to anyone who loves it. Dementors be warned.

Sweet Butter

Sweet butter is not literally sweet. In essence, it is “a type of unsalted butter made from fresh pasteurized cream,” as specified in the Oxford English Dictionary. Most often, these are the sticks of butter you will find at the supermarket which are labeled as “unsalted butter,” but in reality, when a butter is called sweet butter, it pertains to the use of fresh sweet cream during the butter production and not the salt content.

The use of the pasteurized cream is important as it helps determine the variety used in the manufacture of butter. According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, there are two types of butter obtainable in the U.S. market. First is the one made from sweet cream or called as sweet cream butter and in the form of lightly salted, unsalted and whipped. On the other hand, cultured cream butter has a richer flavor and originally used in European butters.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grading scheme used in butters, the ones labeled as U.S. Grade AA are described as having a “delicate, sweet flavor, with a fine, highly pleasing aroma,” is made from ” high-quality fresh, sweet cream,” has a “smooth, creamy texture with good “spreadability,” and “may possess a slight feed and a definite cooked flavor.”

In the U.S., sweet butter is similar to unsalted butter. A tip from the USDA indicates that “unsalted butter may be labeled “sweet” or “unsalted” butter.” The same applies also to Canada, which identifies sweet butter as such: it is “also labelled “unsalted butter”, sweet butter is the same as churned butter but made without any added salt. Sweet butter doesn’t stay fresh as long as salted butter so should be used soon after purchase.”

With that differentiation in mind, the use of sweet butter would depend on the dish you are making. Generally speaking, sweet butter can be employed in both baking and cooking. Just read the label if you opt to cook with unsalted or salted butter and use the butter as indicated in the recipe.

Dishes that benefit from the use of butter in cooking include the Hollandaise sauce, béchamel sauce and during stir-fries or pan-frying. When baking, shortbread cookies, sugar cookies, pecan sandies, and simple butter-centered cookies and cakes would bring out the optimal flavor and depth of the sweet butter. The all-butter pie crust (also known as pate brisee) should also be part of the list. So buy the best that you can.

Onions

Taking onions gives you a world of health benefits. Not only do they offer flavor, they supply the body with nutrients and phytochemicals to ward off diseases. They are rich in vitamin C, folic acid and are good sources of dietary fiber. Iron and calcium are also existing in the onion’s long list of healthy components. Furthermore, it has no fat and is low in sodium.

Other minerals found are magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium, phosphorus and fluoride.

Nutritionists exalt the goodness of foods with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are found in onions, through a flavonoid called quercetin. Quercetin has been determined to get rid of free radicals in the body, decrease the chances of coronary heart diseases and help regenerate the supply of Vitamin E in the body.

More significantly, quercetin has been linked to prevention of certain cancers, such as those affecting the colon, breast, gastric system, ovaries and lungs.

According to the National Onion Association, studies in Netherlands demonstrated that onions have a higher content of quercetin than those found in apples and tea. A medium-sized bulb is estimated to carry 20 to 50 mg of quercetin. That’s sheer onion power for unexcelled health!

Apart from quercetin, they also carry phytochemicals like disulfides and vinyl dithiins that are anti-microbial in nature. It can only mean that you get less risk for cancer and other debilitating diseases.

Knowing these vital details encourages you to include at least one serving of onions in your meal plan on a daily basis. Half of a medium onion would be equal to one serving.

The appropriate way of fixing onions ensures getting the optimal health benefits. Cut them in thin slices so they evenly cook. Let them rest for about five minutes to reinforce their healthy juices. These compounds that make you teary-eyed when you cut them are called thiopropanal sulfoxide, which increases the health factor in this vegetable. Hence, every time you feel like crying over the kitchen counter when slicing onions, just remember that you’re acquiring nutrition for your well-being. Exposure to heat is another aspect that you have to look into. Cook onions at low or medium heat for up to 15 minutes to ensure that the phytonutrients remain intact.

There are easy-to-do serving options that you may also try. Make your guacamole dip by combining it with tomatoes, jalapeno and avocado. Sautéing them can redefine the smack of vegetable dishes. Simple drizzle olive oil on top of Italian salads with sliced onions, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes for a tongue-teasing starter.

Gourmet recipes

Butter

Butter is that golden yellow, melt in the mouth piece we spread on our bread, bake with our cookies and cake, and cook with our popcorn and other dishes. It’s a well-loved dairy product all over the globe – from the United States to India where it is made into clarified butter or ghee.

 

In the United States, butter is officially defined as “the food product usually known as butter, and which is made solely from milk or cream, or both, with or without common salt, and with or without additional coloring matter, and containing not less than 80 percent by weight of milkfat, all tolerance having been allowed for,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Congress of 1923 from which it was legislated.

To fix a pound of butter, about 10.5 to 11 quarts of milk is needed for its cream which is churned into butter. According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, two types of butter are sold in the United States. One is the sweet cream butter (further sub-divided into salted, unsalted and whipped butter) while the other is cultured cream butter.

 

The sweet cream butter is the most popular type of butter for daily use. In particular, the lightly salted butter is the butter of choice for common cooking (such as stir frying, making butter garlic bread, etc.) while the unsalted butter is ideal in making cookies, cakes, pies and pastries.

The fundamental steps in preparing butter, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, include separation of the cream from the milk, legal pasteurization, aging (for proper churning and texture consistency), ripening, churning, draining of the buttermilk, washing, working and then packaging. Butter is ordinarily sold and used in the shape of solid blocks and sticks of various sizes as well as in individual portions (the ones we can acquire from the hotel breakfast buffets or airline meals with bread).

Butter has many applications. In choice cooking, it can be melted and used in stir frying or frying of chicken, fish, and vegetables. It can also be blended with herbs, frozen and then served up on top of steaks. Butter is also perfect in enhancing sauces, as spread, and as oil (like the clarified butter or ghee). In baking, it’s an ideal element in cookies, cakes, and pastries because of its milkfat content and flavor. It’s not just the color that’s gold, but it is in essence gold in the kitchen.