"I meet a lot of people that are daunted by cooking rice," says Cheetie Kumar, chef of Garland restaurant in Raleigh, NC. "I think the first step is to buy good quality rice—whether it's Carolina gold from Anson Mills or a good-quality aged Basmati from the Indian market. It's worth it to spend a little extra." Although rinsing the rice several times to straw out the starch adds more prep time, it's an easy process and also well worth it. Kumar's method produces tender, not mushy grains that "stand tall on their own, shoulder to shoulder with their compatriots," as she puts it. This recipe works well for most types of long grain white rice. Aged rice has a stronger aroma and a drier texture, which helps the grains stay separate. The black peppercorns or cardamom seeds are a nice accent but really not necessary, as the rice itself has such a lovely aroma on its own. Use a heavy bottomed stockpot to cook the rice, which will prevent any browning on the bottom.