Straight Outta My Kitchen’s Culinary Vocabulary
* Appearing In Alphabetic Order
A la minut – Cooked to order.
A La, Au, Aux – French terms meaning “served with” or “served in the manner of”.
Abalone – A mollusk, related to a sea snail, similar in flavor to a clam. It may be cooked by various methods and is best suited to very long or very short cooking times. Also called “Awabi” in Japanese cuisine and “Loco” in South American cuisine. It has been over-harvested and is very expensive when available. A small amount is being commercial raised.
Achar – Very spice relish from the cuisine of India and the Caribbean Islands. Achar may be made from fruits and vegetables.
Acidulated Water – A mixture of water and a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice, used to purify or prevent discoloration in meats and vegetables.
Adobo – Paste or sauce made from chiles, vinegar, and other seasonings. Used as a seasoning for meats.
Adzuki Beans – Small reddish brown beans.
Agnolotti – A small half-moon shaped ravioli.
Aiguillette – Long, thin slices of poultry breast or some other meats.
Ail – French word for “garlic”.
Aioli – A cold egg and oil emulsion with olive oil and garlic. Many variations of this sauce are made. See the definition under rouille.
Ajo – Spanish word for “garlic”.
Al Carbon – Spanish term for a dish relating to grilled or containing meat.
Al Dente – A term, meaning “to the bite”, used to describe the correct degree of doneness for pasta and vegetables. This is not exactly a procedure, but a sensory evaluation for deciding when the food is finished cooking. Pasta should retain a slight resistance when biting into it, but should not have a hard center.
Al Forno – Italian term describing a dish cooked in the oven.
Al Pastor – A term used in Spanish and Italian referring to a dish cooked in the style of shepherd cooking, usually over a grill or spit.
Albumen – The protein of egg whites.
Alfredo – A pasta sauce originally consisting of butter, cream, and the finest parmesan cheese available. Modern versions add garlic, peas, and less expensive parmesan. All of these will make fine sauces, but nothing can compare to the original version.
Allemande – A sauce made of Veloute (usually veal), a liaison and lemon juice.
Almond Paste – A sweet paste made from finely ground blanched almonds mixed with powdered sugar and enough glucose or syrup to bind it together.
Amandine – A French term for any dish with almonds. Alternate spelling is almondine.
Amchoor – Sour, unripe mangoes that are dried and sold in slices and powder. Its primary use is in Indian cooking, giving foods a sweet/sour flavor.
Anchoiade – A dip made of pureed anchovies mixed with garlic and olive oil. Raw vegetables and bread are served with this dip.
Andouille – A sausage made from the stomach and the intestines of pork. The sausage is dried and smoked, then boiled or steamed to finish cooking. Andouille sausage is used regularly in Creole cooking, but it is popular in French cooking as well. The Creole version of this sausage is much spicier than those made in France.
Angelica – Licorice flavored stalks from these plants are candied and used primarily in pastry making. Angelica is also used to flavor liqueurs.
Anna Potatoes – The name for a potato pancake made of thin slices of potato which are assembled in concentric circles and cooked with liberal amounts of butter. The cake is then baked until crisp and golden brown.
Annatto Seed – Also called achiote seed, these seeds are used as a food colouring and a spice in cooking from Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Antipasto – ‘The Italian word for snacks served before a meal. These are dishes to peak one’s appetite, not quench it. This may consist of one or more dishes of all types of food. Common elements of an antipasto table are cured meats and salamis, olives, marinated vegetables, and cheese.
Arrowroot – This is a starch similar in appearance and qualities as cornstarch.
Arroz – Portuguese word for “rice”. It is not a Spanish term.
Artichoke – A name shared by three unrelated plants: the globe artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke and Chinese (or Japanese) artichoke. Considered the true artichoke, the globe artichoke is cultivated mainly in California’s mid-coastal region. It is the bud of a large plant from the thistle family and has tough, petal shaped leaves. They are available year-round, with the peak season March through May. Buy deep green, heavy for their size artichokes with a tight leaf formation.
Asafetida – A spice used in India and the Middle East for cooking or as a condiment to be sprinkled over food after it has been cooked. It has a bitter taste and a pungent aroma similar to garlic and truffles.
Aspic – A jelly made from stock, fumet, wine, or fruit juices used to mold dishes. These preparations are often elaborately decorated for use on buffets. Both savory and sweet foods are set in aspic. Cubes of aspic are a common garnish to fine pGtTs and foie gras.
Aubergine – The French word for eggplant.
Aurore – This is a term associated with sauces that have tomato puree or concasse added to it.
Baba – A small cake made from enriched yeast dough, often flavored with candied fruits, and soaked with a rum or Kirsch syrup after baking. This dough is also used to make the larger savarin.
Baekenhofe – An alsacienne stew made of pork, lamb, and beef layered with potatoes and onions. The meat is first marinated in wine and herbs for a minimum of 24 hours, then assembled and baked in a paste sealed casserole until the meat is buttery tender. The juices are reduced and the top is browned under the broiler. Crisp bacon and fried leeks are used to garnish this dish.
Bagna Cauda – Meaning “warm bath”, this is a dip made of anchovies, olive oil, and garlic. Unlike the French anchoiade, this is served warm and is not emulsified. Bread and raw vegetables are served with this dip.
Bain-Marie – Simply a water bath. It consists of placing a container of food in a large, shallow pan of warm water, which surrounds the food with gentle heat. The food may be cooked in this manner either in an oven or on top of a range. This technique is designed to cook delicate dishes such as custards, sauces and savory mousses without breaking or curdling them. It can also be used to keep foods warm.
Baked Alaska – A dessert comprised of sponge cake topped with ice cream and covered with meringue. The dessert is then placed in a hot oven to brown the meringue before the ice cream can melt.
Baking Powder – A leavening agent combining an acid with bicarbonate of soda to form the gas which enables baked products to rise. The chemical reaction between the acid and the soda produces carbon dioxide to leaven the product. The most common form of baking powder is the double acting variety, which produces gas upon mixing and again at high temperatures. Always store this tightly covered.
Baking Soda – A leavening agent which is used as an essential ingredient in baking powder. When used alone as a leavener, recipes must include some type of acid to neutralize the resulting sodium carbonate in the finished product. Buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, and citrus juice are adequate acid to use. You may also use baking soda to help neutralize the acid in recipes that call for large amounts of fruit.
Baklava – A very sweet dessert made of layers of flaky pastry filled with a mixture of ground nuts and sugar. The pastry is sliced, baked, and brushed with a honey syrup flavoured with lemon or rose water.
Ballottine – A pÉtÇ-like dish in which forcemeat is stuffed back into the boneless carcass from which the forcemeat was made. This may include fish, poultry, game birds, or even some cuts of meat. The mixture is wrapped in muslin and poached or braised. These dishes may be served hot or cold.
Balsamic Vinegar – A wonderfully fragrant vinegar made from the juice of Trebbiano grapes. The juice is then heated and aged in wooden barrels, evaporating and concentrating in flavor. The resulting vinegar is deep rich brown with a sweet and sour flavor. Well aged balsamic vinegars are very costly, some reaching an astronomical $200 an ounce. Most balsamic vinegars found in the US are not “aceto balsamico tradizionale”, but un aged balsamic vinegar. These vinegars lack in body and flavor that the well-aged balsamic vinegars possess, yet have a fair sweet and sour balance of flavor not found in any other vinegars.
Bangers – British colloquial term for sausages. “Bangers and mash” are sausages and mashed potatoes.
Barding – The practice of wrapping lean cuts of meat to be with thin slices of back fat. The converse of this is larding, in which long strips of fat are inserted into the cut of meat to keep it moist during cooking.
Barquette – A small oval shaped pastry shell with either sweet or savory fillings.
Basquaise – Food prepared in the style of Basque which often includes tomatoes and sweet or hot red peppers.
Bavarian Cream – A cream made with pastry cream lightened with whipped cream and stabilized with gelatin. This cream may then be poured into molds, or used as a filling for cakes or pastries. Bavarian cream is often flavored with fruit purees or alcohol
Bearnaise – This is the most notable of all the hollandaise sauce variations. It is made with a wine and vinegar reduction flavoured with tarragon. This sauce makes a good companion to grilled meats and fish.
Bechamel Sauce – This is a white sauce made with milk or cream and thickened with a roux. Bechamel sauce is generally used as a base for other more complex sauces, though it may be used alone for binding or moistening.
Beignet – A French term for a type of doughnut. Dough or batter is deep fried and dusted w/sugar or glazed with a flavoured syrup.
Belle Helene – Best known as the name of a dessert with poached pears, ice cream, and chocolate sauce. It is also a term used in French cookery as a name for a garnish to grilled meat dishes.
Benne Seeds – An African term for sesame seeds.
Beurre Blanc – An emulsified sauce made of a wine or vinegar reduction blended with softened butter. This may be flavored in many ways, for fish, vegetables, and poultry dishes. This is a very tricky sauce and does not hold for long periods of time. Because of this, modern versions add a touch of cream to stabilize the sauce for longer periods of time.
Beurre Manie – A mixture of flour and butter kneaded to a smooth paste. This is then used in small quantities to adjust the thickness of sauces and stews. The sauce must then be boiled briefly to remove the starchy taste of the flour. For this reason, beurre manieÇ is used in situations where only a small quantity is needed.
Biscotti – Dry Italian cookies flavored with almonds, chocolate, or anise seed, used for dunking in coffee and sweet dessert wine.
Bisque – A rich shellfish soup made with the shells of the animal. The soup is enriched with cream and Cognac and garnished with pieces of the shellfish meat. This name is also used to describe vegetable soups prepared in the same manner as shellfish bisques.
Bistella – See pastilla for a definition.
Blanch – Cooking foods in boiling water for a brief period of time. This applies primarily to vegetables so as to reduce their final cooking time. But blanching may be done to fish or meat as well.
Blanquette – A stew of white meats, usually veal, without initial browning. The sauce is thickened with roux and enriched with cream.
Blini – A small pancake made of buckwheat flour and leavened with yeast. These pancakes are often brushed with large amounts of melted butter and served with caviar and sour cream. Other versions may be made of vegetable purees or semolina flour.
Blintz – A stuffed crepe or thin pancake. The filling is usually made of a fresh cheese or cottage cheese, and often topped with fresh fruit or fruit preserves.
Boletus – A family of wild mushrooms known for their rich taste and meaty texture. Porcinis and cepes are two members of this family of mushroom.
Bollito Misto – An Italian stew consisting of various cuts of meat, including zampone, boiled in a rich broth with vegetables. The whole dish is served with cornichons, pickled onions and a variation of chutney called mostarda di Cremona. These are whole or large pieces of fruit cooked in a spicy mustard flavored syrup. Other common sauces are salsa verde and mayonnaise.
Bordelaise – This is a term primarily used to describe a brown sauce that includes shallots and red wine. Some versions of this sauce include slices of bone marrow added at the end of cooking. Fish dishes with this name will be cooked with white Bordeaux wine.
Borscht – A rich soup from Eastern Europe containing beets or cabbage. Other ingredients may include potatoes, beans, meat or sausage. The best known of these soups is a cold version based on beets and served with sour cream, but hot versions are very common.
Bouchee – A small round puff pastry shell used for sweet or savory fillings.
Boudin – Smooth sausages of two types. Boudin blanc contain veal, pork, and chicken. Boudin noir are made with blood and rice or potatoes. The latter type are popular in European and Creole cooking.
Bouillabaisse – A rich fish stew from southern France. This was once a poor man’s meal made of any fish available. Modern versions include lobster and shrimp. The broth is flavored with garlic, orange peel, fennel, and saffron. Olive oil is added to the stew and rapidly boiled to blend it into the broth. The stew is served with croutons and rouille, a variation of aioli.
Bouquet Garni – A sachet of herbs, containing parsley, thyme, and bay leaf. Variations may include rosemary, marjoram, fennel, leeks, celery leaves, and black pepper.
Bourguignonne – Foods cooked in the style of Burgundy. This includes red wine, mushrooms, pearl onions, and bacon.
Bourride – Another fish stew from southern France. Here the broth, in which large pieces of fish are poached, is strained and thickened with aioli. The two are then served together in shallow bowls with bread or croutons.
Bran – The outer husk of grains such as wheat, containing a high percentage of fiber. White flours have the bran removed. Whole wheat flours may contain all or part of the bran.
Brandade – A puree of salt cod mixed with olive oil and potatoes. Another version of brandade is covered with Gruyere cheese and browned in the oven. Both are served with croutons.
Bresaola – A cured and dried beef filet from Italy with a more delicate texture but stronger flavor than that of prosciutto. A Swiss version of this is called bundnerfleisch. This style is pressed into a rectangular shape and has a bit drier texture than bresaola. Both are served thinly sliced with bread and fruit or pickled vegetables.
Brioche – A very rich bread with butter and eggs. Brioche is baked in many shapes though the brioche e tete is best known. The dough can be flavored with nuts or candied fruit, as well as herbs and spices. It may also be used to wrap foods like coulibiac. Slices of toasted brioche are the perfect companion to foie gras and gravlax.
Brochette – Skewers of meat, fish, or vegetables that are grilled over a flame and simply served.
Brunoise – A very fine dice usually applied to vegetables.
Bruschetta – Grilled slices of bread brushed with olive oil and fresh garlic. This was the original garlic bread.
Bucatini – Long, narrow tubes of pasta usually served with a hearty meat sauce.
Buffet – A vast array of hot and cold foods, often elaborately garnished.
Bulghur – Cracked wheat made from the whole kernel that has been cooked and dried. Most commonly used in breads and tabbouleh salad.
Butter – A cooking and eating fat that is made from sweet or sour cream and, by federal law, must contain a minimum of 80% butterfat. Butter absorbs odors easily and is highly susceptible to rancidity. To avoid either of these problems, store butter in the refrigerator no longer than 2 weeks. For longer storage, butter may be frozen for up to 6 months without deterioration.
Butter-Cultured – Cultured butter is butter churned from cultured cream (cream fraiche). Most butter produced in the U.S. before 1920 was cultured butter, but in the 20’s, the U.S. Government guaranteed the sale of every pound of butter produced, so quality became a non-issue and sweet cream butter prevailed.
Buttermilk – Originally a by-product of butter making, buttermilk is commercially produced by adding lactic acid culture to skimmed or partially skimmed milk.
Calabacita – A variety of summer squash found in Latin American and Mexican cooking.
Calamari – The Italian word for squid.
Caldo Verde – A Portuguese soup made from a sharp flavored cabbage, potatoes, broth, and olive oil. Sausage is then cooked in the soup.
Calzone – A half-moon shaped pizza turnover, often served with sauce over the top rather than inside.
Canape – Small open-faced sandwiches served as snacks or for lunch. They may be served hot or cold, but they are often elaborately garnished.
Cannelloni – An Italian dish made of sheets or tubes of pasta filled with meat, cheese or fish, sauced and baked au gratin. Variations of this use thin pancakes, called crespelle, which are similar to crepes and are filled and cooked in the same manner as the pasta.
Cannoli – A crisp pastry tube filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate chips, and candied fruit. Cinnamon and vanilla are common flavourings for this cheese mixture.
Caper – The pickled bud from the caper bush which is used in sauces and as condiments for smoked fish and nicoise salad.
Capicolla – A coarse Italian pork sausage. Usually highly seasoned, this sausage is served cold, thinly sliced, as for prosciutto.
Capon – A castrated chicken that is savoured for its delicate taste and texture. Once castrated, the chicken would become fattened, yielding tender, juicy flesh. This method of raising chickens is not practised much anymore, since most chickens are butchered at a young age and still very tender.
Caponata – Best known as a spread or cold salad containing eggplant, celery, tomatoes, raisins, and pine nuts seasoned with vinegar and olive oil. Modern variations will add other vegetables such as zucchini and season it with fresh herbs.
Capsicum – The family name for sweet and hot peppers.
Carbonara – An ultra-rich pasta sauce consisting of pancetta, eggs, and parmesan cheese. Actually less of a sauce than a preparation, hot pasta is tossed with the rendered pancetta fat, the eggs, and then the cheese. Crisp pancetta and black pepper are tossed into the pasta just before serving.
Cardamom – Aromatic seeds used for baking, flavoring coffee and exotic Scandinavian and Indian dishes. Excellent when freshly ground. Botanical name: Elettaria cardamomum.
Cardinal – Fish dishes which have sauces made with lobster fumet and are garnished with lobster meat.
Cardoon – A vegetable from the artichoke family that looks like celery. Cardoons may be eaten raw or cooked and served like any vegetable.
Carob – The seed from the carob tree which is dried, ground, and used primarily as a substitute for chocolate.
Carpaccio – An Italian dish made of paper thin slices of beef dressed with olive oil and parmesan cheese. Slices of raw white truffles are an excellent partner to this dish.
Cassoulet – A dish from southwest France consisting of white beans and an assortment of meats like confit, lamb, pork, and Toulouse sausage. The dish is enriched with large amounts of duck fat and is baked until the top is brown and crispy. Variations of this dish include seafood and lentils. This dish is very substantial and needs nothing else to be served with it but a bitter green salad to cut through the richness.
Caul Fat – The stomach lining of pork which is used in place of back fat for pates and to encase crepinettes.
Caviar – These are the eggs of sturgeon that have been salted and cured. Grading for caviar is determined by the size and color of the roe and the species of the sturgeon. Beluga caviar, which is the most expensive of the three types of caviar, are dark gray in color and are the largest eggs. Ossetra caviar are light to medium brown and are smaller grains than beluga. Sevruga caviar are the smallest grains, the firmest in texture and are also gray in color. Pressed caviar is made of softer, lower quality eggs and have a stronger, fishier flavor. The term malossol is used to describe the amount of salt used in the initial curing process. The roe from other fish such as salmon, lumpfish, and whitefish are not considered caviar, regardless of their label. They should be addressed as roe. Caviar should be served as simply as possible. Traditional accompaniments, inspired by the Russians, are sour cream, blinis, and ice cold vodka. Lemon and minced onion are often served with caviar, but their flavors will only detract from the pure delicate flavor of the caviar.
Celeriac – The root of a type of celery with a firm texture and a clean, sweet flavor of celery.
Cepes – A wild mushroom of the boletus family known for their full flavor and meaty texture.
Cervil – A mild-flavored member of the parsley family, this aromatic herb has curly, dark green leaves with an elusive anise flavor. Though most chervil is cultivated for its leaves alone, the root is edible and was, in fact, enjoyed by early Greeks and Romans. Today it is available dried but has the best flavor when fresh. Both forms can be found in most supermarkets. It can be used like parsley but its delicate flavor can be diminished when boiled.
Chai – The Indian name for tea, often served with milk and sugar.
Chanterelle – A wild mushroom with a golden color and a funnel-shaped cap. The whole mushroom is edible and is savored for its exquisite flavor and firm texture when cooked.
Chantilly – This is a name for sweetened whipped cream flavored with vanilla. The term may also be used to describe sauces that have had whipped cream folded into them. This includes both sweet and savory sauces.
Chapati – A whole wheat Indian flatbread that can be grilled or fried.
Charcuterie – The French word for the variety of pork preparations that are cured, smoked, or processed. This includes sausages, hams, pates, and rillettes. This term may also imply the shop in which these products are sold and the butchers who produce it.
Charlotte – The name for two different desserts. The first preparation is made of slices of bread which are lined in a mold, filled with fruit, and baked until the bread acquires a golden color and crisp texture. The second version, similar to the first, lines a mold with cake or lady fingers and is filled with a bavarian cream. These may also be filled with whipped cream or even a fruit mousse. More elaborate versions layer the cake with jam, then slices of this cake is used to line the mold.
Charmoula – A sauce and marinade used in Middle Eastern cooking made of stewed onions flavored with vinegar, honey and a spice mixture called “rasel hanout”. This is a complex spice mixture containing cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, cumin and sometimes paprika and coriander. This sauce is used on meat and fish and can even be adjusted to make a unique vinaigrette.
Chateaubriand – A thick slice of beef from the heart of the tenderloin, grilled or saut‚ed and simply sauced. Many restaurants claim their chateaubriand to be the head of the tenderloin, cut for two, which is roasted and carved tableside.
Chaud-Froid – Meat or fish that has been poached or roasted, chilled and served cold, masked with a thick sauce and glazed with aspic. The whole preparation was once quite popular and used consistently on elaborate buffets. Modern tastes have moved away from this style of food, opting for cleaner, less adulterated flavors.
Chayote – A pear shaped squash, used in Latin American cooking, with a taste of zucchini. Chayote may be eaten raw or cooked as you would any summer squash.
Cherimoya – Also called the custard apple, this is a tropical fruit with a creamy texture and sweet pineapple flavor.
Chevre – The French word for goat, generally referring to goat’s milk cheeses.
Chiboust – A custard made originally as the filling for the gâteau Saint-Honor, consisting of pastry cream lightened with Italian meringue and stabilized with gelatin.
Chicharron – Crispy fried pigskin used in Mexican cooking for salads, fillings and snacks.
Chiffonade – A very fine julienne of vegetables usually associated with leafy herbs, lettuces, or greens.
Chilaquiles – A family style Mexican dish of refried corn tortillas simmered in a sauce of tomatoes, chiles, and garlic. This is a highly seasoned dish, often served as a brunch or lunch dish with eggs or grilled meats.
Chili Rellenos – A Mexican dish consisting of a batter-fried, cheese stuffed, pablano chili pepper.
Chinois – French word for “Chinese”. Also refers to a “China Cap”, a very fine mesh, conical strainer.
Chipotle – A dried and smoked jalapeño which can be found dried or reconstituted and sold in tomato
sauce. These chiles are extremely hot and caution should be taken when using them in cooking.
Chive – Related to the onion and leek, this fragrant herb has slender, vivid green, hollow stems. Chives have a mild onion flavor and are available fresh year-round. They are a good source of vitamin A and also contain a fair amount of potassium and calcium.
Chocolate – A product of cocoa beans in which the chocolate liquor is mixed with cocoa butter in various proportions to produce the different varieties of chocolate. Bitter chocolate has no additional ingredients added. Other varieties of chocolate have additional cocoa butter added, along with sugar, milk, and vanilla.
Chorizo – A spicy pork sausage from all Hispanic countries, ranging in seasoning from mild and sweet to fiercely hot. Hotter versions come from areas of Spain and Portugal. Mexican versions contain a large variety of chiles and have a mealier texture and more complex flavor. Some of them even use fresh herbs giving it a green color. Portugal makes a cousin to this sausage called the linguisa, that is smoked and much hotter.
Choron – A variation of Bearnaise sauce with tomato puree or concasse added.
Choucroute – An Alsatian specialty consisting of sauerkraut that is simmered with assorted fresh and smoked meats and sausages. This is a grand dish served on huge platters so that diners may witness all of the components displayed at one time. The kraut is first washed, then seasoned with garlic, caraway seeds, and white wine. The meats are layered in the casserole with the kraut and cooked until all the meat is tender and the flavors have blended together. Pork sausages, smoked pork shanks and shoulders, and fresh pork loin are all used. A variation of this, though not actually called a choucroute, is a whole pheasant cooked in sauerkraut with champagne. There are other recipes that consist of solely fish in with the sauerkraut. This can be quite delicious if properly prepared.
Chutney – The name for a large range of sauces or relishes used in East Indian cooking. Fresh chutneys have a bright, clean flavor and are usually thin, smooth sauces. Cilantro, mint, and tamarind are common in fresh chutney. Cooked chutneys have a deeper, broader flavor.
Cioppino – A rich fish stew from San Francisco made with shrimp, clams, mussels, crabs, and any available fish. The broth is flavored with tomato, white wine, garlic, and chile flakes. This stew needs no other courses served but a simple green salad and a lot of sourdough bread.
Civet – A French stew usually containing game, though duck and goose are used. The meat is marinated in red wine for long periods of time, then stewed with pearl onions and bacon. The sauce was once thickened with blood, but that is a method not used much anymore.
Clafouti – A dessert of fruit, originally cherries, covered with a thick batter and baked until puffy. The dessert can be served hot or cold.
Clotted Cream – This specialty of Devonshire, England (which is why it is also known as Devon cream) is made by gently heating rich, unpasteurized milk until a semisolid layer of cream forms on the surface. After cooling the thickened cream is removed. It can be spread on bread or spooned atop fresh fruit or desserts. The traditional English “cream tea” consists of clotted cream and jam served with scones and tea. Clotted cream can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to four days.
Cock-a-Leekie – A thick Scottish soup made with chicken, leeks, and barley. Modern versions have lightened up this soup by using a chicken broth garnished with leeks and barley.
Cocoa Powder – This is the dried powder formed from chocolate liquor after the cocoa butter content has been reduced. This mixture is then dried and ground into a fine powder. Dutch process cocoa has been treated with alkali to give a darker appearance and less bitter taste. Breakfast cocoa has sugar, milk solids, and other flavorings added to it.
Coconut Milk – This is not the liquid that is found in the center of coconuts, but a thick liquid made by steeping fresh grated coconut in hot water. The hot water helps to extract the fat from the coconut meat, which carries so much of this flavor.
Coeur à la Crème – Meaning “the heart of the cream”, this is a soft cheese dessert where the mixture is drained in a mold to help it set. The cheese is then turned out onto a platter and served with fruit and bread.
Coeur e la Creme – Meaning “the heart of the cream”, this is a soft cheese dessert where the mixture is drained in a mold to help it set. The cheese is then turned out onto a platter and served with fruit and bread. Alternate versions use mixtures of ricotta and cream cheese and flavored with liquor and citrus juice. This is then molded and served with a berry coulis.
Collard Greens – One of a variety of “greens” with a firm leaf and sharp flavor.
Colombo – A West Indian stew seasoned with a spice mixture of the same name. This is similar to curry powder, containing coriander, chiles, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, and garlic. The stew may contain pork, chicken, or fish. Vegetables are cooked in the stew and rice and beans are served on the side.
Compote – Dried and fresh fruit cooked with sugar to a jam like consistency, brief enough to allow the fruit to retain their individual identity.
Concasse – The term for chopping a vegetable coarsely. This is used most often when referring to chopped tomatoes.
Conchiglie – Large shell shaped pasta noodles. These are often stuffed and baked au gratin. Small shells are called conchigliette.
Confit – This is a preparation for meat to preserve it for long periods of time when fresh meat would be scarce. The meat is first salted to remove moisture. It is then cooked at the lowest of simmers, submerged in fat, until the meat is buttery tender. After the meat is cooled, it is stored in crocks and covered with the fat to prevent exposure to air. The whole crock is stored to help age the meat. During this aging period the meat develops a new flavor, completely different from its original state. When ready to eat, the meat is fried in a skillet or grilled until the skin is crisp and the meat is warmed through. Duck confit was once served with potatoes fried in the same duck fat as the confit. This practice is less popular now, but good companions to the confit are lentils or bitter green salads to balance the richness of the meat. Fatty meats such as duck, goose, and pork work best in confit. Confit is an indispensable component in cassoulet.
Consomme – A clarified broth used as a base for sauces and soups.
Coppa – The loin or shoulder of pork that is cured, cooked and dried. It is served thinly sliced for antipasto or on sandwiches or pizza.
Coq au Vin – A chicken stew flavored with red wine, bacon, mushrooms, and pearl onions.
Corn Syrup – Dextrose, maltose, or glucose obtained by converting starch with acids. This syrup is used in baking, primarily to prevent the crystallization of sugar.
Cotechino – A fresh pork sausage with a very fine consistency and delicate flavor. It contains a small amount of ground pork rind, coteca in Italian, thus giving it the name.It is a large sausage, about 3″X 9″, used in stews and pasta e fagioli.
Coulibiac – A Russian pie made with alternating layers of salmon, hard cooked eggs, rice, mushroom duxelle, and vesiga. Vesiga is the spinal marrow of sturgeon and has all but disappeared from commercial markets. The dough used to wrap the pie can be pate brisee, puff pastry, or brioche dough. Crepes are often layered in the bottom of the pie.
Coulis – A puree of fruit or vegetables, used as a sauce or flavoring agent to other sauces or soups. As sauces, they are thinned down just enough to reach the proper consistency, but not so much as to alter the intense flavor of the puree.
Courgette – The French word for zucchini.
Court-Bouillon – A well-seasoned cooking liquor, sometimes made with broth, used to poach fish and shellfish. Court-bouillons mainly consist of wine, water, herbs, and onion. Vinegar is sometimes added to the bouillon to help set the fish and enhance its white color. Truite au bleu is a perfect example of this technique.
Couscous – A pasta made from semolina (which itself is a flour made from Durum wheat).The name couscous also refers to the famous Maghreb dish in which semolina or cracked wheat is steamed in the perforated top part of a special pot called a couscoussiere, while chunks of meat (usually chicken or lamb), various vegetables, chickpeas and raisins simmer in the bottom part. The cooked semolina is heaped onto a large platter, with the meats and vegetables placed on top. Diners use chunks of bread to scoop the couscous from the platter.
Crackling – Crispy pieces of skin remaining after the fat is rendered. Commonly made from pork, duck, and goose it is used in salads, stuffings, and seasonings.
Cream – This is the portion of milk that rises to the top when milk has not been homogenized. Cream is defined by its varying amounts of butterfat content. Half and half cream is a mixture of milk and cream, resulting in a butterfat content of 12%. Sour cream and light cream have a butterfat content of 18-20%. Heavy cream will have no less than 30% butterfat, averages around 36%, and will go as high as 40%.
Creme Anglaise – This is a custard made of milk and eggs. It is used both as a sauce for desserts and as a base for mousses.
Creme Caramel – Like the Spanish flan, this is a baked custard that is flavored with caramel. When the dish is inverted, the caramel creates a sauce for the dessert.
Creme Fraiche – A naturally thickened fresh cream that has a sharp, tangy flavor and rich texture. This is an expensive item to buy, but a good substitute can be made by mixing heavy cream with uncultured buttermilk and allowed to stand, well covered, in a tepid place until thickened.
Creme Patissierre – This is a thick pastry cream made of milk, eggs, and flour. Other versions of this use all or a portion of cornstarch.
Crepaze – A cake made of crepes layered with vegetables, cheese, or ham. The cake is then baked to blend the flavors and help set it so that it may be cut into wedges.
Crepe – A very thin pancake used for sweet and savory fillings.
Crepinette – A small sausage patty wrapped in caul fat. They are filled with ground pork, veal, or poultry and fried or grilled. Some are shaped into balls. You may also use cooked meat or vegetables to flavor a forcemeat in the crepinette.
Crespelle – An Italian pancake, similar to a crêpe, used in place of pasta in preparations of dishes like manicotti and cannelloni.
Croque-Monsieur – The French version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with Gruyere cheese.
Croquembouche – A grand dessert made up of cream puffs that are dipped in caramel and assembled into a large pyramid shape. The whole dessert is then brushed with more caramel and elaborately decorated.
Croquette – A thick patty made up of cooked foods. These patties or balls are breaded and fried or saut‚ed. Vegetables, fish, or meat may be used in croquettes.
Crostini – Toasted bread slices which are brushed with olive oil and served with tomatoes, pumate, cheese, chicken liver mousse, bean puree, or tapenade. These are the Italian version of canap‚s.
Croutons – Bread that is cut into smaller pieces and toasted or fried until crisp. This includes cubes for salads and slices for soups and hors d’oeuvres.
Crudite – A selection of raw vegetables served with a dip.
Culatello – The heart of the prosciutto.
Cumberland Sauce – An English sauce used for ham, game, and pâtés. The sauce is made of currant jelly mixed with lemon and orange juice and port wine.
Curry Powder – This is a mix of spices that we have come to know of by the Muslim variety found in stores. Yet this is a mixture that is unique to everyone’s kitchen. They may be mild with spices like cumin, fennel, and coriander; or heated up a bit with chiles and pepper; or fragrant with cinnamon and saffron. All of these are considered curry powders and all of them have distinctly different applications. Look under the definition for garam masala for more information.
Cuttlefish – A cousin to the squid, that is also prized for its ink sac as well as its flesh.
Dacquoise – A cake made of nut meringues layered with whipped cream or buttercream. The nut meringue disks are also referred to as dacquoise.
Daikon – A large oriental radish with a sweet, fresh flavor. Can be as fat as a football but is usually 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Use raw in salads, shredded as a garnish or cook in a variety of ways including stir-fry.
Dal – This is the Indian term for all varieties of dried beans, split peas, and lentils. There are many different varieties of dal, all of which have a specific use in Indian cooking.
– The Larousse Gastronomique describes a ‘darne’ as a transverse slice of a large raw fish, such as hake, salmon or tuna.
Dashi – A Japanese fish stock made with dried bonito and kombu seaweed. This is used for soups, sauces, and marinades.
Daube – A stew consisting of a single piece of meat such as a shoulder or joint. The meat is stewed in a rich, wine laden broth with herbs and vegetables. The broth is then thickened, reduced and served with the slices of meat and accompanying vegetables.
Dauphine – The name for little puffs made of potato puree, that are mixed with choux paste and deep fried.
Dauphinoise – The name of a potato gratin with lots of cream and garlic, all topped with Gruyere cheese.
Deglaze – A process of adding liquid to a hot pan in order to collect the bits of food which stick to the pan during cooking. This is most common with saut‚ed and roasted foods. Wine, stock, and vinegar are common deglazing liquids.
Demi-Glace – A rich brown sauce comprised of espagnole sauce, which is further enriched with veal stock and wine and reduced to proper consistency. This is a very long procedure and requires constant skimming. A quick version of this involves reducing brown veal stock to which has been added mirepoix, tomato paste, wine, and brown roux. The latter recipe saves time, but never reaches the intensity of flavor as does the former method. Due to the quantity and length of time required to prepare it, it is not usually made in the home. However it is available for home gourmands.
Devon Cream – Please see “Clotted Cream”
Dijonnaise – This is a name given to dishes that contain mustard or are served with a sauce that contains mustard.
Dim Sum – A selection of small dishes served for snacks and lunch in China. These dishes include a wide selection of fried and steamed dumplings, as well as, various other sweet and savory items.
Ditalini – Short pasta tubes.
Dolma – A cold hors d oeuvre made of grape leaves stuffed with cooked rice, lamb, and onion. They are marinated with olive oil and lemon. Vegetarian versions of this are also made.
Dry Aging – A process usually referring to beef. This process not only adds flavor but tenderizes the beef through enzyme action. Maximum flavor and tenderness is achieved in 21 days.
Duchess – The name for potato puree that is enriched with cream, then piped into decorative shapes and browned in the oven. They are often piped around the rim of a platter onto which a roast or whole fish may be served.
Durian – A large fruit from southeast Asia that has a creamy, gelatinous texture and a nauseating smell similar to that of stinky feet. The flesh is savored by many from this area, but outsiders find it a difficult flavor to become accustomed.
Duxelle – Finely chopped mushrooms that are cooked in butter with shallots and wine. When cooked dry, duxelle make a good filling for omelets, fish, and meat. They may also be moistened with wine or broth and served as a sauce. Duxelle are also flavored with fresh herbs and brandy or Madeira.
Effiler – To remove the fibrous string from a string bean; to thinly slice almonds.
Egg Threads – Lightly beaten eggs that are poured slowly into a hot broth, creating irregular shaped threads used to garnish soups.
Emincer – To cut fruit into thin slices, shorter than for julienne. This term is most often used when referring to meats, but it also applies to fruits and vegetables.
Empanada – A small savory pie from Spain and South America. Fillings may be made of meat, seafood, or vegetables. The fillings can be seasoned in many ways. Those from around Spain are flavored with peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Those from South America have a sweet/sour undertone from the addition of raisins and green olives. Crusts may be made from bread dough or flaky dough like pate brisee and puff pastry.
Entrecote – A steak cut from the rib section of beef. It is boneless and has a very thin layer of fat. Though steaks cut from the loin ends of the rib are a finer quality steak, the whole rib may be used for entrecete. The term is sometimes used referring to a strip steak. This is not an accurate description. This cut of beef is called the faux-filet or contre-filet.
Escabeche – A highly seasoned marinade used to flavor and preserve food. Fish and chicken are the most common foods used for escabeche. First the meat is fried and placed in a dish large enough to hold all of the food in one layer. Then a marinade made of onions, peppers, vinegar, and spices is poured over the food while hot. The whole dish is then allowed to rest overnight and served cold.
Escalope – A thinly sliced food similar to a scallopine. This may consist of meat, fish, or vegetables.
Espagnole Sauce – This is the foundation of all of the brown sauces. A number of modifications have been made of this sauce since its conception. The sauce is now made of a rich brown veal stock thickened with a brown roux. The sauce is then simmered with a mirepoix, bouquet garni, and wine. The long, slow cooking help to purify and concentrate its flavor. It is finally strained through very fine muslin. Demi-glace and glace de viande are all structured around a fine espagnole sauce.
Falafel – A Middle Eastern specialty consisting of small, deep-fried croquettes or balls made of highly spiced, ground chickpeas. They are generally tucked inside pita bread, sandwich style, but can also be served as appetizers. A yogurt or tahini-based sauce is often served with falafel.
Farfalle – Bow tie shaped pasta.
Fava Bean – This tan, rather flat bean resembles a very large lima bean. It comes in a large pod which, unless very young, is inedible. Fava beans can be purchased dried, cooked in cans and, infrequently, fresh. If you find fresh fava beans, choose those with pods that are not bulging with beans, which indicates age. Fava beans have a very tough skin, which should be removed by blanching before cooking. They are very popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. They can be cooked in a variety of ways and are often used in soups. Also called faba bean, broad bean and horse bean.
Feijoa – A fruit grown in New Zealand with a thin green skin and a flavor reminiscent of strawberry, banana, and pineapple.
Feijoada – A Brazilian dish very similar to cassoulet, made with black beans. Sausage, bacon, ham, and various cuts of pork are cooked in with the beans. The traditional accompaniments are plain white rice, cooked greens, fresh orange slices, and a very hot sauce, similar to pico de gallo, called molho carioca. Toasted cassava flour is used as a condiment, to be added by each diner. This too is a very substantial dish and needs little else to accompany it.
Fen Berry – Fen Berry is another name for a small variety of cranberry – also known as cram-berry, crawberry, moss-millions, sow-berry, sour-berry, marsh wort, bog-berry and swamp red-berry. It is found in many English recipes.
Fenugreek – A very hard seed grown in the Middle East, which is used as a spice. Its dominant flavor and aroma is recognizable in commercial curry powders.
Fettuccine – Flat narrow pasta noodles less than wide and a bit thicker than tagliatelle.
Ficelle – The French word for string. This is a term used in cooking to describe foods that have been tied to a string and cooked in a broth. This was a practice in villages when a communal pot was used to cook food. The string was used in order to allow the owners to identify and recover their piece of meat. This is generally applied to tough cuts of meat that require long periods of cooking. Yet, some restaurants are using the term to describe a more tender cut of meat that is poached in a rich broth. Beef filet and duck breasts are two good choices for this type of preparation.
Financier – A small cake or cookie that is made with ground nuts and whipped egg whites. These are soft like sponge cake, and have a rich flavor of nuts.
Fines Herbes – A mixture of chopped fresh herbs consisting of tarragon, parsley, chervil and chives. Dried herbs may also be used, but their delicacy is lost.
Finnan Haddie – The Scottish name for smoked haddock.
Five Spice Powder – A dry spice mix used in Chinese cooking consisting of cinnamon, star anise, pepper, clove, and fennel.
Flan – This is a term that may be used to describe two different preparations. The first use of this word is describes an open top tart that is filled with pastry cream and topped with fruit. Flan is used in Spanish and Mexican cooking to describe an egg custard that is baked in a large shallow dish, and flavored with caramel. The dish is inverted when served and the excess caramel is used as a sauce for the flan. The flan may be flavored with orange, anise, cinnamon, or liqueur.
Fleuron – A small crescent shaped pastry made of puff dough that is used to garnish fish dishes and soups.
Florentine – This is used to describe foods that are cooked in the style of Florence. The word is most commonly associated with dishes containing spinach and sometimes a cream sauce. Steak cooked ala Florentine is a large T-bone steak, rubbed with olive oil and garlic, grilled and served with fresh lemon on the side.
Flour – This is the finely ground grain of wheat, corn, rice, oat, rye, or barley. Unless specified, this term refers to wheat flour. Flour is milled from a variety of wheats containing different amounts of protein. The different levels of protein give each flour unique qualities. All-purpose flour is the most commonly used, especially by the domestic market. This flour is milled from both hard and soft wheats, giving it the strength needed in bread baking, but leaving it tender enough for cakes and pastries. Bread flour has a higher protein content so that it may withstand the constant expansion of the cell walls during proofing and baking. Cake flour is milled from soft wheat, thus containing a very low protein content and preventing the development of gluten. Pastry flour is of relatively low protein content, containing just enough to help stabilize the products during leavening. Whole wheat flours are milled from the whole kernel, thus giving it a higher fiber content and a substantial protein content. Semolina is milled from hard durum wheat, being used mainly for commercial baking and pasta production.
Focaccio – An Italian flatbread made with pizza or bread dough, that can be baked plain or topped with onions, zucchini, eggplant, cheese, or whatever you choose.
Foie Gras – This literally means goose liver, but the term is used to describe the fattened liver of both duck and geese. The birds are force fed a rich mixture to help expedite this process. These livers are praised for their delicate flavor and rich, buttery texture. The largest production of commercial foie gras is done in France and Israel. The US will only allow this product to be imported in a cooked stage, either canned, vacuum-sealed, or frozen. These are inferior products and will never highlight the true delicacy of foie gras. But fresh foie gras is now available from breeders in the US. These foie gras are very fine specimens, but a very high price goes along with them. Foie gras is prepared in a vast number of ways, though one should remember to keep these as simple as possible to avoid masking the flavor of this treasure.
Fondant – This is an icing made of sugar syrup and glucose, which is cooked to a specific temperature and then kneaded to a smooth, soft paste. This paste can then be colored or flavored and used as an icing for cakes and petit fours.
Fondue – There are several different types of fondue, the most notable of which is cheese fondue. This is a Swiss specialty in which cheese is melted with wine, eggs, and seasonings and served with bread and fresh vegetables. Fondue Bourguignonne is a pot of hot oil into which the diners will cook strips of meat and dip them into an array of sauces on the table. Similar to this is fondue Chinois where the hot oil is replaced by a rich chicken or meat broth. The meat, and fish too, are then cooked in this stock and dipped in sauces. The Japanese have a dish called shabu shabu, which is similar to this type of fondue. Named for the swishing sound that the meat makes in the broth, this dish is also served with vegetables and noodles in to be eaten along with the meat. A chocolate fondue is a chocolate bath, flavored with liqueur and eaten with bread and fruit, like fresh berries. These are all dishes eaten as much for their social qualities as their culinary grandeur. Their popularity in the US has diminished over the last 15 years, only being seen in ski resorts and at private dinner parties.
Fonduta – An Italian style fondue made of Fontina cheese and served over toast or polenta. Exceptional with truffles.
Fougasse – A flatbread from France that was once served sweetened with sugar and orange water. It is now more commonly seen as a bread eaten with savory dishes. In this case, the dough is brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs or salt before baking.
Foyot – This is a variation of a bearnaise sauce with the addition of a well reduced meat glaze.
Frangipane – A pastry cream made of butter, eggs, flour, and finely ground almonds or macaroons. Modern versions will use a combination of cornstarch and flour. The nuts must be very finely ground for this to be successful. This type of raw cream is baked in the pastry shell or crepe. Frangipane is also the name for a type of panada used in making forcemeats.
Fricassee – A stew prepared without the initial browning of the meat. Though chicken is the most common form of this type of stew, fish, vegetables, and other meats are prepared in this manner.
Frittata – An Italian open-faced omelet.
Fritter – Food that has been dipped in batter and deep fried or saluted. These may consist of vegetables, meat, fish, shellfish, or fruit. The food may be dipped in the batter or mixed with the batter and dropped into the hot fat to form little balls. Japanese tempura fried foods are a type of fritter, though this term is not applied to it.
Fritto Misto – An Italian mixed fried platter, similar to the Japanese tempura platter. A mixture of vegetables, meat, and fish are dipped in a light batter and quickly deep fried to prevent a saturation of grease into the food.
Fruit Pectin – A substance found naturally in fruits such as apples, quince, and all citrus fruits. Pectins ability to gel liquids makes it a key ingredient in jelly and jam making. You can purchase pectin in powder or liquid form, or use high pectin fruits in the recipe.
Fugu – Japanese for swellfish; globefish; blowfish; ballonfish; puffer. Fugu is caught in winter only, and it is eaten as chiri-nabe (hotpot) or fugu-sashi (raw fugu, sliced paper-thin). Only licensed fugu chefs are allowed to prepare this fish in Japan, since it contains a deadly poison.
Fumet – An aromatic broth made for use in soups and sauces. The flavor of a fumet is usually concentrated on one item, though multiple ingredients may be used. The stock is then reduced to concentrate this flavor. Fish and vegetable broths are more commonly called fumets, but meat may also be used.
Fusilli – Spiral shaped pasta. Some versions are shaped like a spring. Other versions are shaped like a twisted spiral.
Galanga – A root spice related to ginger, which has a musky flavor reminiscent of saffron. It is found dried whole or in slices, and also in powder.
Galantine – A pate-like dish made of the skin of a small animal, most often chicken or duck, which is stuffed with a forcemeat of this animal. Additional strips of meat, blanched vegetables, and truffles are also layered with the forcemeat. This is then wrapped or tied and poached in broth. Galantine are always served cold with their aspic, where as ballottines may be hot or cold. These terms are often used interchangeably.
Galette – This is French for pancake, usually sweet, made of batters, doughs, or potatoes. Brioche-type dough or puff pastry are often used. Small short butter cookies were once also called galettes. The term has now been stretched to include preparations made of vegetables or fish. Different from a croquette, these cakes are not breaded.
Garam Masala – This is an Indian curry mixture with a more complex flavor and aroma. The mixture is always made fresh by the cook, never purchased pre-ground. The mixture may include cumin, fennel, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, pepper, chiles, and caraway. These spice mixtures vary greatly between cooks and different dishes. Garam Masala is also used as a condiment, being added to a dish at the end of cooking.
Gazpacho – A cold vegetable soup served throughout all of the Spanish countries. The most common version is one made with a coarse puree of fresh tomatoes flavored with vinegar and olive oil, embellished with diced raw vegetables like onions, cucumbers, and peppers. A light gazpacho is made with a puree of cucumber, and served with an array of garnishes for the diner to choose from. Roasted almonds, avocadoes, and croutons are common garnishes.
Gelatin – A protein produced from animals, used to gel liquids. It is found in granular and sheet form.
Gelato – An Italian frozen dessert, whose popularity has overwhelmed the US, is made of whole milk and eggs. This gives it richness without flavors becoming masked by the fat from cream. The flavors are very intense and the texture is soft and silky.
Genoise – A very rich sponge cake made with eggs and butter. This may be eaten as is with whipped cream or fruit, but also used as the foundation for many other cake preparations.
Ghee – The Indian name for cooking fat. Most commonly used is clarified butter made from the milk of buffaloes and yaks. In regions where milk is unobtainable, mustard and sesame oil are used.
Glace – A highly reduced stock used as an essence in flavoring sauces and enriching soups and stews. Veal glace is used for all meat preparations and stands up the best to the long reduction required. Fish and shellfish glaces are used, but their flavor can become edirtye tasting and bitter from too long of a reduction.
Gluten – The protein found in wheat flours.
Gnocchi – These are small dumplings made with flour, potatoes, and eggs. Other versions include spinach, semolina, sweet potatoes, chopped herbs, and parmesan or ricotta cheese. Once the gnocchi are made they are cooked in boiling water, and then sauced or tossed with melted butter. Some recipes call for cooking the gnocchi in broth. Gnocchi is also the name of a pasta with a similar shape.
Gougere – A savory pastry made of choux paste flavored with cheese. This may be made in individual puffs or piped into a ring of puffs, which is served with a pool of sauce in the center of the ring.
Goulash – A Hungarian soup/stew made with beef and liberally seasoned with paprika. Some versions add gremolata at the very end of cooking or sprinkled over the top.
Granita – A coarse fruit ice similar to sorbet, without the meringue, which is often flavored with liqueurs
Granola – A combination of assorted toasted grain (oats), dried fruits and nuts usually served as a breakfast cereal. Some blends are sweetened with honey and/or brown sugar.
Gratin – Dishes cooked in the oven which form a crust on the surface. This is expedited by placing the dish under the broiler. Bread crumbs and cheese are often sprinkled on top of these dishes to help form the crust.
Gravlax/Gravadlax – Whole salmon fillets that have been cured with salt, sugar, and pepper, then flavored with dill. The salmon is then sliced paper thin and tradionally served with pumpernickel bread, sour cream, capers, onion, and lemon.
Grecque – Foods that are prepared in the style of Greece. This is usually used for dishes with lemon, garlic, and olive oil. But the addition of tomatoes, peppers, and fennel often allows a dish to be called … la grecque.
Gremolata – A mixture of chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon peel. This is added to stews at the end of their cooking time to add a pungency to the dish. Used in some recipes for osso buco a la Milanese, and Hungarian goulash.
Grissini – Italian bread sticks.
Gruyere – A moderate-fat cow milk cheese with a rich, sweet, nutty flavor that is prized for both out-of-hand eating and cooking. It is usually aged for 10 to 12 months and has a golden brown rind and a firm, pale-yellow interior with well-spaced medium-size holes.
Guacamole – A dip made of mashed avocadoes seasoned with onions, tomatoes, chiles, and cilantro. This is mostly eaten as a dip for fried corn chips, but it is also very good with raw vegetables. You may also use it as a filling for burritos and tacos.
Gumbo – A thick soup/stew made with meat or seafood served over plain white rice. Okra, filé powder, and roux. All methods are acceptable, and all are considered traditional.
Harissa – A spice mixture used as both a condiment and a seasoning. Harissa contains chiles which are ground with cumin, garlic, coriander, and olive oil. It becomes a thick paste that is used as is in cooking or diluted with oil or stock to be used as a condiment.
Hoisin Sauce – A rich, dark, sweet barbecue sauce used in Chinese cooking for marinades and basting. Hoisin sauce is easily recognizable in Mu Shu pork and Peking duck. The sauce is made from soybean flour, chiles, red beans, and many other spices.
Hollandaise Sauce – This is the most basic of the egg and oil emulsified sauces. The only flavoring is fresh lemon juice. This sauce must be kept warm, as excessive heat will cause it to break. Because this is kept warm, it is not safe to keep it for long periods of time and should never be reused from another meal period.
Horn of Plenty Mushroom – This is a wild mushroom with a hollow, funnel-shaped cap and is dark gray or black in color. Because of this, it also has the name etrumpet of deathe. This mushroom is somewhat stringy, but has a robust flavor and may be used to flavor sauces, soups, or any other mushroom preparation.
Hyssop – Any of various herbs belonging to the mint family with aromatic, dark green leaves that have a slightly bitter, minty flavor. Hyssop adds intrigue to salads, fruit dishes, soups and stews. It is also used to flavor certain liqueurs such as Chartreuse.
Iago – A small British pastry or petit four.
Ibrik – A small, long-handled Turkish pot with a bulbous bottom, narrow waist and flared top.
Icefish – See rainbow smelt.
Icelandic lobster – See Norway lobster.
Infusion – An infusion is the flavor that is extracted from any ingredient such as tea leaves, herbs or fruit by steeping them in a liquid such as water, oil or vinegar.
Involtini – Thin slices of meat or fish which are stuffed and rolled. They may then be sauteed, grilled, or baked.
Jambalaya – A Creole version of paella, though more highly spiced. The only consistent ingredients among all of the jambalaya recipes are rice, tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Ingredients used for jambalaya are ham, oysters, chicken, Andouille sausage, duck, shrimp, and game birds.
Jerusalem Artichoke – A tuber, also called sunchoke, with a very firm flesh and a flavor reminiscent of globe artichokes. These are used as a vegetable, in soups, or cooked and served in salads.
Jicama – A large bulbous root vegetable with a thin brown skin and white crunchy flesh. Its sweet, nutty flavor is good both raw and cooked. It is a fair source for vitamin C and potassium.
Julienne – Foods that are cut in long, thin strips. The term is usually associated with vegetables, but may be applied to cooked meat or fish.
Jus – A rich, lightly reduced stock used as a sauce for roasted meats. Many of these are started by deglazing the roasting pan, then reduced to achieve the rich flavor desired. A jus lie is one that has been slightly thickened with cornstarch or flour.
Kalakukko – A Finnish dish of bread filled with fish.
Kebab – Also spelled kabob, these are skewers of meat, fish, or vegetables grilled over a fire. All countries serve some version of this dish.
Kedgeree – A British variation of an Indian dish with rice, smoked fish, hard cooked eggs, and béchamel sauce flavored with curry. Finnan Haddie is most often used, but smoked sturgeon or salmon are excellent substitutes.
Kefir – A fermented milk drink similar to a lassi, flavored with salt or spices. Where available, kefir is made with camel milk.
Ketchup – A term derived from Asian cookery, this sauce is known to be a sweet sauce made from tomatoes. Other forms of ketchup are made from walnuts, mushrooms, and grapes.
Kirsch – A clear brandy distilled from cherry juice and pits. In cookery, it is most prominently known as a flavorful addition to fondue and cherries jubilee.
Kombu(Konbu) – A large edible seaweed used in Japanese cooking.
Kugelhopf – A yeast cake from Alsace baked in a large crown-like earthenware dish. It is similar to brioche, though less rich, and flavored with currants or golden raisins and almonds. This is mainly eaten for breakfast.
Kumquat – A very small citrus fruit with the unique quality of having a sweet skin and bitter flesh. These are used in pastry making, preserves, and chutneys.
Langouste – The French name for the spiny lobster, differentiating from Maine lobsters in that they have no claws. Langoustes are warm water crustaceans that can be found in the south Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and off the coasts of South America, Australia and the West Indies.
Langoustine – The French name for Dublin prawn. These are small pink crustaceans resembling crayfish, with a taste and texture closest to lobster. Their claws are quite long but have no edible meat in them. Like the langouste, these are found in warm waters.
Larding – A technique by which thin strips of back fat, or vegetables, are inserted into a piece of meat. These strips help the meat to remain juicy during cooking. Larding with vegetables gives the meat a contrast of color plus the addition of flavor. This practice is not used as often now because of the higher quality of meat available to us.
Lasagna – Sheets of pasta which are layered with sauce and cheese and baked au gratin. Meat, fish, shellfish, and vegetables are all used as fillings for this dish. Recipes from northern Italy are simple preparations consisting of little more than sauce and cheese. Contrary to this is lasagna al forno, filled with a rich bolognese sauce. Southern Italian versions are more elaborate calling for the addition of sausages, mushrooms, and anything else they may have on hand.
Lassi – A frothy yogurt drink, sweet or salty, flavored with pistachios, cardamom, cumin, or rose water.
Lefse – A thin, flat potato pancake, about the consistency of a tortilla and cooked by similar method. Very mild, starchy, slightly sweet taste. Lefse is enhanced by the addition of peanut butter, brown sugar, or lutefisk.
Liaison – The process of thickening a sauce, soup, or stew. This includes all rouxs, starch and water mixtures(slurries), beurre mani‚, and egg yolks with or without cream. Egg yolks must be tempered with hot liquid before adding to the liquid in order to prevent curdling.
Limousin Beef – A breed of cattle which is naturally lower in fat and cholestrol. These cattle were brought to the United States from France around 1930.
Linguine – Long, oval shaped pasta noodles. Hand cut versions of this are very narrow flat noodles.
Linzertorte – An Austrian pastry comprised of a short crust dough flavored with ground almonds and hazelnuts, cinnamon, and lemon zest. This is then spread with raspberry jam and topped with a cross-hatch of dough. Almond paste is sometimes layered underneath the raspberry jam. Other versions of this use fresh cranberries or apricots in the filling.
Lobster Mushroom – A wild mushroom that has a firm texture and a red and orange color like lobster shells.
Lutefisk – A Norweigan fish dish of dried cod, cured in lye, then reconstitued by boiling. Traditionally served with clarified butter or in white sauce and served with lefse. In its finest form, lutefisk has a delicately mild buttery flavor and flaky consistency. In its not-so-fine form, it is reminiscent of fish-flavored gelatin.
Lychee – A small fruit from China and the West indies, with a hard shell and sweet, juicy flesh. The flesh is white with a gelatinous texture and a musky, perfumed flavor.
Lyonnaise Sauce – A classic French sauce preparation made with sautéed onions, white wine and demi-glace. The sauce is strained before being served with meats and sometime poultry.
Lyonnaise, à la – A French term for “in the manner of Lyons” Dishes include onions which have been cooked golden brown and seasoned with wine, garlic, and parsley.
Macaire – A potato pancake made with seasoned potato puree.
Macaroon – A small round cookie that has a crisp crust and a soft interior. Many versions bought commercially have been thoroughly dried. These cookies may be made from almonds, though coconut is common in the US. The may also be flavored with coffee, chocolate, or spices. Amaretti, from Italy, are a type of macaroon.
Macedoine – A mixture of fruit or vegetables. Vegetable macedoine are cut into small dice and used as a garnish to meats. Fruit macedoine are cut in larger pieces and often marinated in sugar syrup with liqueur.
Macerate – Soaking fruit or vegetables in wine, liquor, or syrup so that they may absorb these flavors. Salt and sugar macerations are used to draw excess moisture out of the food for a secondary preparation. This is done for canning, jam and preserve making, and to remove bitter flavors from vegetables.
Mache – A wild lettuce with small round leaves that may be used for salads or cooked and used as you would spinach. The taste is a little less pronounced than spinach. Mache grows wild, and can be found in the fall. It is cultivated in France, Italy, and the US from September to April.
Madeleine – A small shell shaped cookie or cake made from a rich batter similar to gＯoise. These may be flavored with almonds, lemon, or cinnamon.
Magret – The breast meat from a mallard or Barbary duck. These ducks are specially raised for foie gras. Their breasts are large and have a much thinner layer of fat than do the Peking or Long Island duckling.
Maitre d Hotel Butter – This is the most common of all the compound butters. It is flavored with lemon and chopped parsley and used to garnish fish and grilled meats. Garlic may be added, but it would then be called escargot butter.
Marengo – A chicken stew made with wine, tomatoes, and garlic. The stew is served over toast, garnished with crayfish and fried eggs. The modern versions of this omit the eggs and substitute shrimp for the crayfish. Of course, other liberties have been taken with this recipe to include black olives, peppers, and veal. The dish is rumored to have been named for the dish served to General Bonaparte after his army s defeat of the Austrians in the battle of Marengo.
Margarine – A solid fat invented in 1869 by the French chemist Henri Mege-Mouries. Margarine was first invented to replace butter in cooking and baking. It was then made solely of beef fat. Margarine is now made with a variety of fats, alone or with others, along with the addition of water, whey, yellow coloring, and vitamins. Beef fat is still used today, but with a higher consciousness toward a healthier diet, it is very rare.
Marzipan – An almond paste with the addition of egg whites. This mixture is kneaded into a smooth paste and used to wrap or layer cakes and candies. Marzipan is also shaped into figures of animals, fruits, and vegetables, and sold in pastry or candy shops.
Mascarpone – A rich triple cream, fresh cheese from Italy with a texture resembling that of solidified whipped cream.
Matafan – A thick pancake eaten sweet as a snack, or savory as an accompaniment to cheese. They are also made with bacon, spinach, and potatoes.
Matelote – A French fish stew made with wine. The Alsatian version of this dish is made with freshwater fish, Riesling wine, and thickened with cream and egg yolks. The Normandy version includes seafood and is flavored with cider and Calvados. These stews are normally embellished with pearl onions and mushrooms.
Matjes Herring – A reddish herring that has been skinned and filleted before being cured in a spiced sugar-vinegar brine.
Mayonnaise – This is the mother of all of the cold egg and oil emulsified sauces. Commercial versions are made with inferior oils and are far to thick for proper utilization. A hand made version has a rich, subtle flavor and silky texture. You should always use a neutral oil or a good olive oil. Avoid using an extra-virgin olive oil, which will offer too strong of a flavor for most usage.
Melba – The name of a popular dessert invented by Auguste Escoffier. Poached peach halves are served with vanilla ice cream and topped with fresh raspberry sauce.
Menudo – A soup similar to pozole with the addition of tripe and meat broth. This, too, is served with assorted condiments for the diners to choose from.
Meringue – Whipped egg whites to which sugar has been added to form a stiff paste. These are used to lighten mousses, cakes, and pastry creams. Unsweetened versions are used to lighten forcemeats. Meringue is also baked in a very low oven, forming crisp shells which are filled with fruit or ice cream. Small dried meringue shells are called vacherin.
Mesclun – This is a mix of very young lettuces and greens. Often this mix is stretched with herb or flower sprigs and bitter greens. These greens should be dressed very lightly, with only best oil and vinegar, so that their flavor will not be masked.
Mignonette – This is a term used to describe coarsely ground pepper used for au poivre preparations and in bouquet garni. This is also used to describe small round pieces of meat or poultry.
Milanese – This is used to describe foods that are dipped in egg and bread crumbs, sometimes parmesan cheese, and fried in butter.
Mille-Feuille – Small rectangular pastries made of crisp layers of puff pastry and pastry cream. This may also include savory fillings of similar presentation. The word mille-feuille means a thousand leaves.
Mincemeat – A sweet spicy mixture of candied and fresh fruits, wine, spices, and beef fat. Earlier recipes for this used beef or venison meat and beef fat. It is used primarily as a filling for pies served during the Christmas holiday season.
Minestrone – An Italian vegetable soup with beans and pasta or rice. This may contain any number of vegetables, but for authenticity, meat is never added.
Mirepoix – A mixture of chopped onion, carrot, and celery used to flavor stocks and soups. Ham or bacon are sometimes added to a mirepoix, depending on the specific preparation.
Mirin – A non-alcoholic version of sake/rice wine. It is sweet and syrupy.
Mise en Place – A term used in professional kitchens to describe the proper planning procedure for a specific station.
Miso – A paste made from fermented soy beans. This is used in Japanese cooking for sauces and soups.
Molasses – This is a syrup resulting from the crystallization of raw sugar from the sap. Additional processing results in darker and stronger tasting molasses called black strap.
Mole – An assortment of thick sauces used in Mexican cooking made of chiles. These sauces are made with one or many chiles, and flavored with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nuts, seeds, and chocolate. Their flavor is rich, smoky, and very complex. Some recipes are made with fresh herbs and have a green color. Chicken, turkey, and pork are then simmered in this sauce.
Monosodium Glutamate – A sodium salt found in wheat, beets, and soy bean products. It is used extensively in Chinese cookery, and thought to help accentuate the flavors of certain foods. Many people suffer serious allergic reactions to this so widespread use has been reduced to the commercial food processing industry.
Morel Mushroom – This is a wild mushroom with a honeycomb cap and hollow stem. These are very dirty mushrooms and must be cleaned carefully. Morels possess a wonderful earthy flavor, making them good candidates for soups, sauces, and fillings.
Mornay Sauce – A béchamel sauce with Gruyere cheese, sometimes enriched with egg yolks. It is used mainly for fish and vegetable preparations.
Mortadella – Large,lightly smoked sausages made of pork, beef, or veal. These are specialties of Bologna, which is where the US version of this sausage gets its name. Mortadella is a very smooth, pink sausage with a subtle creamy texture. They are studded with cubes of pork fat and peppercorns.
Mostarda di Cremona – These are fruits cooked and marinated in a spicy, mustard flavored syrup. It is a classic accompaniment to bollito misto. These fruits are also used in sauces for veal, and assorted stuffed pasta fillings.
Moussaka – A layered dish of eggplant and lamb with tomatoes and onions. This is all bound with bechamel sauce and cooked au gratin.
Mousse – Sweet or savory dishes made of ingredients which are blended and folded together. These mixtures may be hot or cold, and generally contain whipped egg whites to lighten them. Cream is also used to lighten these dishes, though when used in large quantities, these preparations are called mousselines.
Mousseline – As stated above, these are fine purees or forcemeats that have been lightened with whipped cream. The term is also used to describe a hollandaise sauce which has unsweetened whipped cream folded into it.
Mousseron Mushroom – A wild mushroom with an off-white to beige color. The flavor is full-bodied and the texture is fleshy like bolets.
Mulligatawny – A curried chicken soup adapted by the British from India. Originally the soup was enriched with coconut milk and embellished with almonds and apples. Newer versions make a lighter broth and flavor this with curry and coconut.
Nage – An aromatic broth in which crustaceans are cooked. The shellfish is then served with this broth. The most notable of these dishes is lobster la nage.
Nantua – A name given to dishes containing crayfish. This includes crayfish tails and sauces made with a crayfish fumet.
Navarin – French stew made with mutton or lamb and onions, turnips, potatoes, and herbs.
Nicoise – Foods cooked in the style of Nice. These dishes may include garlic, Nicoise olives, anchovies, tomatoes, and green beans. Salad Nicoise is the most famous of all these dishes, consisting of potatoes, olives, green beans, and vinaigrette dressing.
Noisette – A small round steak, made of lamb or beef tenderloin.
Noisette Butter – Whole butter which has been cooked until it reaches a rich, nutty brown color and aroma.
Nori Seaweed – Thin dry sheets of seaweed used in Japanese cooking. It is mainly used to wrap sushi and as garnish for other cold presentations.
Nougat – A candy made from sugar and honey mixed with nuts. This mixture is then formed into slabs and sliced.
Nougatine – A darker candy, made of caramel syrup and nuts. This is rolled into thin sheets and formed into cups or bowls to serve as a vessel for other candy or fruit.
Nuoc-Mam – This is a Vietnamese fish sauce made with fermented fish or shrimp. Another name for this is nam pla.
Nutella – A commercial brand of gianduja. This is a creamy paste of chocolate and hazelnuts treasured in Italy. This is used in candy making, for flavored milk drinks, and when thinned out, spread on bread as a quick snack.
Oeuf – The French word for egg.
Oeuf a la Neige – Sweet meringue puffs that are poached in milk and chilled. When served, these puffs are drizzled with caramel and served with creme anglaise.
Olive Oil – Olive oil has a very distinctive flavor, and has become more prominent in American cooking today. Gradings of olive oils are determined by the methods of extraction and the acid content of the resulting oil. Virgin oils are those obtained from the first pressing of the olive without further refinement. The finest olive oil is extra virgin, with an acid content of 1%. Following this are superfine at 1.5%, fine at 3%, and virgin at 4%. Pure olive oils are those which have been extracted by heat. These are of 100% olive oil, but their flavor can result in a harsh, bitter aftertaste. Pomace olive oil is refined from the final pressings and under heat and pressure. The taste is inferior to other olive oils and should never be substituted for them. Olive oil becomes rancid very easily, more so when exposed to heat or light. Always store tightly sealed in a cool, dark place.
Olives – This is the edible fruit of the olive tree. Found in both green(unripe) and black(ripe) forms, each must undergo a process to remove the bitterness found in them. This curing process is done with brine solutions, salt curing, and drying.
Opakapaka – Pink snapper. A local Hawaiian favorite, especially around the holidays.
Orzo – Small rice shaped pasta.
Oseille – French term for sorrel.
Osso Buco – An Italian dish comprised of crosscut slices of the veal shank braised with vegetables, aromatics, and stock. Milanese style is served with saffron risotto and gremolata.
Ouzo – A clear anise-flavored liqueur from Greece. It is generally mixed with water which turns it whitish and opaque.
Oyster Mushroom – A wild mushroom that grows in clusters on the side of trees. It is off-white to greyish in color and has a soft texture. These mushrooms have a very subtle flavor. They are also being cultivated in the US, making them readily available in markets and moderately priced.
Paella – A Spanish rice dish originating in the town of Valencia. There are hundreds of recipes for paella, all claiming to be authentic. The only ingredients that are necessary for paella are rice, tomatoes, and saffron. Other ingredients are chicken, chorizo, mussels, squid, peppers, and beans. More elaborate preparations include shrimp, lobster, and duck.
Paillard – A piece of meat or fish that has been pounded very thinly and grilled or sautéed.
Palmier – A cookie made of sheets of puff pastry that are rolled in sugar and folded to resemble palm leaves. These cookies are baked until the sugar becomes caramelized.
Pan-bagnat – A sandwich from southern France, consisting of small round loaves of bread which have been hollowed out and filled with onions, anchovies, black olives, and tuna, then drenched in extra virgin olive oil.
Panada – A thick paste used as a binding agent for forcemeats. Flour panadas are made in a style similar to choux paste. Other types use bread crumbs or potato puree.
Pancetta – Cured pork belly that is rolled and tied. Unlike American bacon, this is not smoked.
Panforte – A rich dense torte made of candied fruit and nuts.
Panino – The Italian word for sandwich.
Pannetone – An Italian cake made with a dough rich in egg yolks, traditionally served around Christmas time. The dough is studded with raisins, candied fruits, and occasionally pistachios.
Panzanella – A salad consisting of toasted cubes of bread tossed with vegetables and vinaigrette. The salad is then marinated for at least one hour. The bread should be very firm so that it will endure the soaking of dressing. Vegetables can include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and onions. Lots of garlic, capers, black olives, and anchovies are added to the salad.
Pappardelle – Wide flat pasta noodles served with rich, hearty sauces.
Pasilla Chili Pepper – Called a chilaca in its fresh form. The mature chilaca turns from dark green to dark brown. After drying (when it becomes a pasilla) it changes to a blackish-brown. It has a rich hot flavor and is generally ground and used for sauces.
Pasta e Fagioli – A rich bean soup with pasta, in which a large sausage(such as cotechino) has been cooked. The soup is eaten first, followed by the sausage served with mustard and bread.
Pastilla (Bistella) – A Moroccan pie made with chicken wrapped in phyllo dough. When finished cooking, the pastilla is dusted with sugar and cinnamon.
Pastry Cream – A cooked custard thickened with flour. Some versions may use cornstarch or a mixture of the two starches.
Pâté – A French term referring to pastes or pastry.
Pâté – A term referring to many different preparations of meat, fish and vegetable pies. The definitions of which have been altered through the years. Originally pat‚ referred to a filled pastry much like American or English pies. Now the term pâté en croute is used to describe these preparations. Pâté en terrine has been shortened to either pâté or terrine. A terrine is generally a finer forcemeat than that used for pâté, and is always served cold. Pâtés are coarser forcemeats and, as stated before, are often prepared in a pastry crust. We now use these terms interchangeably and inclusive of all styles of forcemeat. Look for definitions under ballottine and galantine.
Pâté Choux – A paste used to make cream puffs, eclairs, and other more elaborate pastries. It is made by adding flour to boiling water or milk, which has been enriched with butter. Eggs are then added into the paste to leaven it. Savory pastries such as gougere may also be made with this paste.
Pâté a Foncer – A shortcrust pastry dough made with butter and strengthened with water. Used as a lining for meat or fish pies.
Pâté Brisée – A short crust pastry dough made with butter and eggs.
Pâté Feuilletae – A dough comprised of many alternating layers of butter and pastry. This is an extremely versatile dough though preparation of it is labor intensive and very difficult.
Pâté Sablée – Another type of sweet, short crust dough.
Pâté Sucrée – A sweet, short crust dough for tarts and tartlets.
Paupiette – A thin slice of meat, like a scallopine, which is stuffed and rolled. These may also be made of fish or vegetables.
Penne – Quill-shaped pasta tubes with smooth sides. Those with ridges are called penne rigati. These are also called mostaciolli. Large quill-shaped tubes are called manicotti.
Perilla – A Japanese herb that has a dark, russet-purple dentate leaf. It has a complex sweetness, and is wonderful in meat sauces and to make vinegar with. (this definition courtesy of Joanna Sheldon)
Persillade – A mixture of chopped parsley and garlic, added to recipes at the end of cooking.
Pesto – A delicious sauce used for pastas, grilled meats, and poultry. This is made of fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. Some versions will also add parsley and walnuts or pine nuts. The ingredients are ground into a paste and moistened with the olive oil. Pesto is also used to describe similar sauces that contain other herbs or nuts.
Petit Four – A small cookie or cake served on elaborate buffets or at the end of a multi-course meal.
Pico de Gallo – Literally meaning “rooster’s beak”, this is a very hot, raw salsa made of fresh chiles, onions, and tomatoes.
Piroshki – Small Russian meat pies, like empanadas, eaten for lunch or snacks.
Pissaladiere – A southern French pizza consisting of a thick bread crust covered with cooked onions flavored with garlic. The pizza is then topped with black olives and anchovies.
Pita Bread – Flat round bread made with or without a pocket.
Poblano Chili Pepper – A dark, sometimes almost black green chili pepper with a mild flavor. Best known for its use in “Chili Rellenos”, a Mexican stuffed pepper.
Polenta – The Italian version of cornmeal. Coarsely ground yellow cornmeal is cooked with stock or water and flavored with onions, garlic, and cheese. Polenta may be eaten fresh out of the pot, as a perfect accompaniment to stews. Polenta may also be poured into a greased pan and allowed to set. It is then sliced, sautéed, and topped with cheese or tomato sauce. When cooked properly, polenta is a simple treasure.
Posole – Pozole – A Mexican soup containing hominy served with various ingredients to be added by each diner. The base of the soup is water flavored with onions, tomatoes(or tomatillos), and herbs. Hominy is cooked into this broth and condiments include minced onion, avocado, lime wedges, oregano, queso fresco, and fried pork skin. A similar soup to this is menudo. Without the pork skin, this makes a perfect vegetarian soup.
Praline – In French cookery this is a powder or paste made of caramelized almonds and/or hazelnuts. American cookery refers to a candy consisting of caramel and pecans.
Profiterole – A small puff made with pate choux usually filled an served as an appetizer.
Prosciutto – The Italian word for ham, usually referring to the raw cured hams of Parma. Though once impossible to obtain in the United States due to USDA regulations, fine prosciuttos from Italy and Switzerland are now being imported. These hams are called prosciutto crudo. Cooked hams are called prosciutto cotto. Prosciutto is best when sliced paper thin served with ripe figs or wrapped around grissini.
Pumate – Italian for sun-dried tomatoes.
Puttanesca – A piquant pasta sauce made of tomatoes, onions, black olives, capers, anchovies, and chile flakes. The hot pasta is tossed in this sauce prior to serving. Some recipes leave the ingredients raw, allowing the heat of the pasta to bring out the flavors.
Pyramide Cheese – A truncated pyramid is the shape of this small French chevre that is often coated with dark gray edible ash. The texture can range from soft to slightly crumbly and depending upon it’s age, in flavor from mild to sharp. It is wonderful served with crackers or bread and fruit.
Quahog – The American Indian name for the East Coast hard shell clam. It is also used to describe the largest of these hard shell clams. Other names used are, chowder or large clam.
Quatre-epices – A French spice mixture containing ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper. This mixture is used to season stews and pâtes.
Quenelle – A dumpling made from fish or meat forcemeat.
Quesadilla – Originally a corn masa empanada filled with meat then deep fried. Modern versions found throughout restaurants in the US are made with flour tortillas that are filled with cheese and folded over when cooked.
Quiche – An open top pie made of eggs, milk or cream, and anything else within reach. The most famous of these is the quiche Lorraine of Alsace, made with bacon and Gruyere cheese.
Quince – This yellow-skinned fruit looks and tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear. Its texture and flavor make it better cooked than raw. Its high pectin content make it ideal for use in jams, jellies, and preserves.
Quinoa – Pronounced (KEEN-wah). A natural whole grain grown in South America. Originally used by the Incas, it can be substituted for rice in most recipes. It is a unique grain in that it serves as a complete protein containing essential amino acids.
Radicchio – A member of the chicory family with red and white leaves. The different varieties range from mild to extremely bitter. The round Verona variety are the most common in the US. Radicchio is used most often in salads, but is quite suitable to cooked preparations.
Ragout – A French term for stew made of meat, fish, or vegetables.
Ras el Hanout – This is a powdered spice mixture, used in Arabic and north African cooking, with a sweet and pungent flavor. See the definition under charmoula for a description of the ingredients and its applications.
Ratatouille – A vegetable stew consisting of onions, eggplant, sweet peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes flavored with garlic, herbs, and olive oil. Traditionally simmered until all of the vegetables are quite soft and the flavor has blended into one, ratatouille takes on the appearance of marmalade. Newer versions reduce the cooking time, allowing the vegetables to retain some of their original identity.
Ravioli – Stuffed pasta dough served in broth or with sauce.
Remoulade – This classic French sauce is made by combining mayonnaise (usually homemade) with mustard, capers and chopped gherkins, herbs and anchovies. It is served chilled as an accompaniment to cold meat, fish and shellfish.
Rennet – An extract from the stomach of lambs and calves used in cheese making to coagulate milk. There are also rennets obtained from vegetables such as cardoons.
Rigatoni – Large pasta tubes with ridged sides.
Rijsttafel – A Dutch word, meaning “rice table”. It is a Dutch version of an Indonesian meal consisting of hot rice accompanied by several (sometimes 20 or 40) small, well-seasoned side dishes of seafoods, meats, vegetables, fruits, sauces, condiments, etc.
Rillette – A coarse, highly spiced spread made of meat or poultry and always served cold. This is called potted meat because rillettes are often covered with a layer of lard and stored for a period of time to age the mixture.
Risotto – An Italian preparation of rice resulting in a creamy liaison with stock and butter. This may be served as a first course, main course, or side dish and embellished with meat, seafood,cheese, or vegetables. The best known version of this dish is risotto ala Milanese, with saffron and Reggiano parmesan cheese.
Rissole – Small pies similar to empanadas and piroshki. They are filled with meat, vegetables, or cheese and deep fried.
Rissole – The British version of small savory pies.
Rosti – A Swiss potato pancake made from cooked potatoes, sometimes flavored with bacon.
Rouille – A thick sauce similar to aioli, made of dried chiles, garlic, and olive oil. Rouille is traditionally served with bouillabaisse and soup de poisson. Other recipes also add saffron and tomatoes.
Roux – A mixture of flour and fat used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. Though usually made with butter, rouxs are also made with bacon or poultry fats, margarine, and vegetable oil. The mixture is cooked for a brief time to remove the raw taste of the starch from the flour. Longer cooking results in a darker color, which is favorable in Creole cooking where rouxs are cooked for long periods until they reach a dark brown color.
Sabayon – See the definition under zabaglione.
Sable – A rich short cookies similar to shortbread.
Saffron – A spice consisting of the dried stigma of the Crocus sativus plant, originating in the eastern Mediterranean, now grown as well in Spain, France, and South America. It has a characteristic pungent aroma and flavor and bright yellow color. It is also very expensive and used sparingly. Saffron is indispensable in paella and bouillabaisse. A good substitute for the yellow color is tumeric, though nothing can replace its unique flavor.
Salt Cod – Cod that has been salted and dried to preserve it for long periods of time. Salt cod is evident in cuisines of the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. To reconstitute the fish, you must soak it in many changes of fresh water to remove the excess salt. You may then poach the fish until it is just flaking off the bone, or use it raw for other preparations.
Saltimbocca – An Italian dish comprised of thin slices of veal, rolled around ham and cheese, seasoned with sage and braised until tender.
Saltpeter – The name for potassium nitrate, which is used primarily in the meat industry to help preserve cured meats. It gives a distinctive pink color to hams and bacon. There are recent reports from the USDA that nitrates, and nitrites are carcinogenic.
Sambuca – An anise-flavored, not-to-sweet Italian liqueur which is usually served with 2 or 3 dark-roasted coffee beans floating on top.
Samosa – An Indian snack of deep fried dumplings stuffed with curried vegetables. Most common of the fillings is potatoes or cauliflower with peas.
Sangria – Spanish drink made from sweet red wine, pieces of fresh fruit (usually orange and lemon), spices (cinnamon,cloves)
Sashimi – A Japanese dish of raw fish, shellfish, and mollusks served with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled vegetables. Sushi is similar but it is served with vinegared rice, and may also include nori seaweed, vegetables, and strips of cooked eggs similar to omelets. A common accompaniment to this is pickled ginger.
Satay – Also spelled sat‚ and sateh. These are pieces of meat or fish threaded onto skewers and grilled over a flame. Several variations of these are seen throughout Southeast Asia. A spicy peanut sauce is served with meat satay in Vietnam and Thailand.
Savarin – A ring-shaped cake made of a rich yeast dough, soaked with a rum syrup, and filled with pastry or whipped cream.
Scampi – Another word for langoustine. This word is used in the US as a description of shrimp broiled with butter, lemon, and garlic.
Scone – A small, lightly sweetened pastry similar to American biscuits, often flavored with currants.
Sea Urchin – A round spiny creature found off the coasts of Europe and America. The only edible portion is the coral, usually eaten raw with fresh lemon juice.
Semifreddo – Meaning “half cold”, this is gelato with whipped cream folded into it.
Semolina – A coarse flour made from durum wheat, used in making pasta and bread.
Seviche – A Spanish dish of raw fish, scallops, or shrimp marinated in citrus juices until the flesh becomes “cooked”. Onions, peppers, and chilies are then added to finish the dish.
Shortbread – A butter-rich cookie from Scotland, often seasoned with lemon, cinnamon, ginger, almonds, and cumin.
Shoyu – Japanese for Soy Sauce.
Skate Wings – This is the edible portion of the skate. The flesh, when cooked, separates into little fingers of meat and has a distinctive rich, gelatinous texture. The taste is similar to that of scallops.
Smorgasbord – A Swedish buffet of many dishes served as hors d oeuvres or a full meal. Similar buffets are served throughout Scandinavia, as well as the Soviet Union. Common elements of a smorgasbord are pickled herring, marinated vegetables, smoked and cured salmon and sturgeon, and a selection of canapés.
Soba Noodle – Buckwheat noodles resembling spaghetti, used in Japanese cooking.
Sorrel – Low perennial herb with acid leaves. It is used to flavor sauces.
Soy Sauce – A condiment from Southeast Asia and Japan made from fermented soy beans. There are different varieties of soy sauce available. Darker, stronger sauces are used for cooking while lighter ones are used as sauces and seasonings. Japanese soy sauce is called shoyu.
Spatzle – This is a coarse noodle from Alsace and Germany made of flour, eggs, oil, and water. The soft dough is dropped into boiling water(with a spatzle press) and poached until cooked through. The noodle is then fried in butter or oil and served as a side dish to meat dishes. Spatzle may also be flavored with cheese, mushrooms, and herbs.
Speck – Cured and smoked pork flank.
Spiedini – An Italian word for skewers of meat or fish grilled over a flame or under a broiler.
Spring Roll – Thin sheets of dough which are filled with meat, seafood, or vegetables and rolled into logs. Spring rolls are most often deep fried, though they may also be steamed. Chinese versions use wheat doughs, while the Vietnamese and Thai versions use a rice paper wrapper.
Stock – A flavoured broth from meats, fish, shellfish, and vegetables. These are the basis of sauce and soup making.
Strudel – Paper thin pastry rolled around sweet fillings of fruit, nuts, or cheese. Savory versions of this are similar to the Russian coulibiac.
Sugar Syrup – Differentiating from natural syrups, this term refers to a solution of sugar and water. Simple syrups are made with equal quantities of water and sugar. Heavy syrup is made with twice as much sugar as water. These types of syrups are used in making sorbets, soft drinks, and for soaking cakes.
Sweetbread – The culinary term for the thymus gland of an animal. Those of veal and lamb are most commonly eaten. The pancreas is also considered a sweetbread, but its taste and texture is inferior to that of the thymus gland.
Syllabub – An English dessert comprised mainly of whipped cream sweetened with sugar and flavoured with sherry, brandy, or Cointreau. Lemon zest, fruit preserves or puree may also be swirled into the cream.
Tabasco Sauce – A thin spicy sauce made of vinegar, red peppers, and salt, developed in America by Edmund McIlhenny at his home on Avery Island before the U.S. Civil War. McIlhenny Company is the sole supplier of Tabasco® Pepper Sauce to this day. This sauce is commonly used with Creole food, chili con carne, and eggs.
Tabbouleh – A Lebanese salad made of softened bulghur tossed with vegetables and seasoned with lemon and mint.
Tagine – A Moroccan dish named after the cooking utensil in which it has been cooked. These stews may contain poultry, fish, meat, or vegetables and are highly spiced with sweet overtones common in North African cuisine.
Tagliarini – A flat ribbon pasta, narrower than tagliatelle, measuring approximately 3mm across.
Tagliatelle – A flat ribbon pasta, narrower than fettuccine, measuring approximately 6mm across.
Tahini – A paste made from sesame seeds, used primarily in hummus and baba ganoush.
Tamarind – This is the fruit pod of trees originally from Africa, now common in Asia, India, and the West Indies. The taste is bittersweet with citrus overtones. The pulp is very sticky and difficult to work with. Common forms sold are syrups and bricks of the pulp. It is used extensively in dishes of these regions as well as in candy and drinks.
Tapenade – A paste made from cured black olives seasoned with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, capers, lemon, and marc or cognac. This is common in Provence, where it is served with croutons and raw vegetables to dip. This also makes a good sauce for grilled meats and strong flavored fish.
Taramasalata – A Greek dip made of olive oil and fish roe with the consistency similar to that of mayonnaise. American versions commonly use salmon, whitefish, or carp roe. This is served with raw vegetables and bread or croutons.
Tartare – This is a term which has several meanings. It is often used to describe the preparation of raw beef called steak tartare. Raw beef is chopped finely and served with minced onion, parsley, capers, and seasoned with anything from Worcestershire sauce to Tabasco sauce. Tartare sauce describes a mayonnaise based sauce with capers, onion, hard cooked eggs, cornichons, and herbs.
Tarte Flambé – An Alsatian pizza with a thin crust topped with fresh white cheese, onions, and bacon. This is also called an Alsatian firepie.
Tarte Tatin – A type of tart in which the pastry is baked on top of the fruit, then inverted when finished baking. Apples are traditionally used, becoming soft and caramelized during baking.
Terrine – See the description under pƒt‚s.
Tiramisu – An Italian dessert which gained dramatic popularity in the US. Tiramisu consists of sponge cake, soaked with an espresso syrup and layered with a sweetened mascarpone cheese and chocolate sauce.
Toad in the Hole – An English dish consisting of pieces of meat or sausages covered with batter and baked in the oven.
Tocino – Cured ham with added colour.
Tofu – Also called bean curd, this is made from processed soy beans. It comes in various degrees of firmness and is a very high source of protein.
Torta Rustica – A large pie similar to coulibiac, filled with salmon, cabbage or spinach, eggs, and mushrooms. Other versions use meat or sausage in the filling. The crust is usually made of bread dough and sprinkled with salt before using.
Tortellini – A stuffed pasta made from little rounds of dough, then twisted to form dumplings. Fillings can be made with anything and are served sauced or in a simple broth.
Tortelloni – This is a larger version of the tortellini.
Tortilla – A thin pancake made of cornmeal or flour. They are served both soft and fried, being an integral part of Mexican and Latin American cooking.
Tournedo – A slice of beef from the heart of the tenderloin, approximately an inch thick. This term is rarely used in America today, being replaced by filet of beef or filet mignon.
Tourte – Similar to pâté en croute, these are pies made in a round shape and served cold. They are generally highly seasoned and preparations are indicative to the region they are from
Trennette – Flat noodles, wider than fettuccine, that have one flat edge and one scalloped edge.
Tripe – The stomach of beef, pork, and sheep.
Truffle – This is a tuber of unusual flavor and aroma. It is savoured in Italian and French cookery, and due to its scarcity, draws a very high price. The truffle has yet to be successfully cultivated, though a fine substitute is now being grown in California. The black truffle of Perigord and the white truffle of Piedmont are highly prized for their exceptional flavors. The black truffle requires cooking to allow the flavors to be fully achieved. Conversely, the white truffle is best when shaved directly on the dish before eating. The aroma of truffles is strong enough to permeate egg shells when the two are stored together. Due to their short growing season and large demand, truffles can reach a price of up to $800 per pound. Frozen and canned forms are more accessible, but their taste never reaches that of fresh truffles.
Tuiles – Crisp, paper thin cookies named for their tile-like appearance. They are often flavoured with almond slices, lemon, and vanilla.
Tumeric – A bright yellow spice used primarily in commercial curry powder. It is also used in sweet pickles and for various dishes requiring a yellow colour. This is used as a colouring substitute for saffron
Tzatziki Sauce – Dipping sauce derived from yogurt, garlic, cucumber, olive oil and lemon juice. Served with calamari.
Tzimmes – Traditionally served on Rosh Hashana, this sweet Jewish dish consists of various combinations of fruits, meat and vegetables. All are flavoured with honey and often with cinnamon as well. The flavors of this casserole-style dish develop by cooking it at a very low temperature for a very long time.
Udon – Thick wheat noodles used in Japanese cooking.
Ugli – A citrus fruit hybrid between a grapefruit and a tangerine native to Jamaica. It is available around the country from Winter to Spring. It has an acid-sweet flavor and is an excellent source of vitamin C.
Vacherin – A crisp, sweet meringue shell used as a serving vessel for fruit and ice cream.
Vanilla – A plant native to Mexico now common in areas throughout the West Indies and Indian Ocean. The pod is used to make extracts which we use in cooking. The whole pod may also be purchased and used as a fragrance or split and scraped to allow the tiny seeds to flavor the dish. It is generally thought of as a sweet spice, used in custards, creams, and cakes. It is also used in savory dishes with vegetables or seafood. There are also imitation vanilla flavorings using synthetically produced vanillin. These can be found in liquid and powder forms.
Velouté – A sauce of various stock bases thickened with a roux. This is used as a base for other more complex sauces, though it may be used alone.
Vermicelli – A very fine round noodle which means “small worms”. These are thinner than spaghetti and thicker than capellini.
Vichyssoise – A chilled soup of potatoes and leeks. Other versions now use zucchini, apples, and carrots.
Victual – Food or other provisions.
Vinaigrette – A sauce commonly used to dress salads, comprised of oil and vinegar. Emulsified
vinaigrettes use egg and/or mustard to stabilize the dressing. Other combinations using acids other than vinegar, such as wine or citrus juice, are also called vinaigrettes.
Vitello Tonnato – Thinly sliced roast or braised veal, served cold with a creamy, piquant tuna sauce. This combination may sound a bit unusual, but is surprisingly delicious.
Vol-au-Vent – A large round pastry case which is filled with a sauced mixture of meat, seafood, or vegetables then topped with a pastry lid.
Wasabi – Called Japanese horseradish, this is a root that is dried and ground to a fine powder. This powder is then reconstituted and used for dipping sauce with soy sauce when eating sushi and sashimi
Water Bath – The French call this cooking technique Bain Marie. It consists of placing a container of food in a large, shallow pan of warm water, which surrounds the food with gentle heat. The food may be cooked in this manner either in an oven or on top of a range. This technique is designed to cook delicate dishes such as custards, sauces and savoury mousses without breaking or curdling them. It can also be used to keep foods warm.
Waterzooi – A rich Flemish stew with chicken or fish and assorted vegetables. The sauce is enriched with a liaison of cream and egg yolks.
Welsh Rarebit – Often confused as Welsh rabbit, this is a cheese sauce made with ale and seasoned with dry mustard, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. This is traditionally served over toast, with or without crumbled bacon. It is also a good variation of fondue and goes well with beer and ale.
Whelk – A small marine snail. Whelks are poached and served hot or cold.
Wiener Schnitzel – Thin slices of veal or pork breaded and fried in butter. Traditional garnishes are lemon butter, anchovies, and capers.
Worcestershire Sauce – A condiment developed in England from flavors discovered in India. It is used as a sauce, a seasoning, and a condiment. It is made of a very odd assortment of ingredients including anchovies, tamarind, vinegar, molasses, and cloves.
Xanthan Gum – Produced from the fermentation of corn sugar. It is most commonly used as a stabilizer, emulsifier and thickener in foods such as yogurt, sour cream and salad dressings.
XXX; XXXX – Label symbols used for confectioners’ sugar.
Yagi – Japanese for goat.
Yakitori – A Japanese dish of chicken marinated in soy sauce, sugar, and sake. The chicken is then placed on skewers and grilled or broiled.
Yard of Ale – An elongated glass, measuring approximately 26 inches long holding 42 fluid ounces.
Zabaglione – An Italian custard made with egg yolks and wine or juices, which are beaten vigorously over hot water to form a rich, creamy dessert. The custard can then be poured into glasses and chilled to be eaten later, or eaten warm with fresh fruit. Marsala is the most common wine used, though any sweet wine such as Madeira, Champagne, or Sauterne may be used.
Zakuski – The Russian version of tapas involving a lot of food and vodka.
Zampone – A specialty of the town of Modena in northern Italy, this consists of a hollowed and stuffed pig trotter which is poached and served as a part of a traditional bollito misto.
Zuccotto – This is an Italian form of charlotte royale. In this dessert, triangles of sponge cake are placed in a bowl to form a shell for the filling. The filling consists of stiffly whipped cream which is studded with toasted almonds, hazelnuts, chocolate chips, and candied fruit. A final layer of cake is placed over this, and when well set, the dessert is inverted onto a platter to form a large dome, reminiscent of Florence Duomo.
Zuppa Inglese – Literally translated as “English soup”, this Italian dish is, in fact, a refrigerated dessert similar to the British favourite, trifle. It is made with rum sprinkled slices of sponge cake layered with a rich custard or whipped cream (or both) and candied fruit or toasted almonds (or both).