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BellaOnline's Home Cooking Editor

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A Dictionary of Cooking Terms for the Home Cook

Guest Author - Sandy Moyer


A thru C | D thru G | H thru M | N thru R | S thru Z


Al Dente - Refers to pasta and some vegetables when they´re cooked to a barely tender consistency.

Antipasto - A dish of cold meats, hors d´oeuvres and vegetables, which is served before an Italian meal.

Arborio Rice -A short grain, pearly white Italian rice. Since Arborio rice has a higher starch content than other white rice, it's often used in recipes when a creamy sauce is needed.

Aspic - Clarified gelatin used to cover cold foods.

Au Gratin - Foods with baked in cheese

Au Jus - Food, usually roasted meat, served with its natural juices.

~ B ~

Bearnaise - A variation of hollandaise sauce. It's made with wine and vinegar and flavored with tarragon.

Bechamel - A creamy white sauce which is made by adding a hot liquid to a roux or white sauce.

Bisque - A creamy soup, usually refers to a creamed soup made with seafood.

Blanch - To briefly plunge food into boiling water, and then into cold water to stop the ripening process. Blanching is used to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables for freezing.

Borscht - A rich East European cabbage soup. Other ingredients may include potatoes, beans, meat or sausage.

Braise - A method in which food is first browned, and then cooked at low heat in a covered pan with a small amount of liquid for a long period of time.

Bread Flour -Bread flour contains a higher level of gluten, a protein that provides the structure and elasticity necessary for yeast dough.

Brine - A salt water solution used for preserving foods

Bruschetta - Grilled slices of bread brushed with olive oil and fresh garlic.

Buffet - A vast array of hot and cold foods - refers to line of foods ready to be served (usually self served)

Bulgur - Bulgur is a wheat product sold whole or cracked. It can be used in many of the same ways as rice. When cooked, it has a nutlike flavor and a slightly chewy texture.

Butterfly - To split a piece of food down the center, cutting almost through. The halves are fanned open and laid flat to cook or fry. The fan resembles a butterfly. ex - butterfly shrimp.

~ C ~

Cake flour - Flour that's milled from soft wheat with a lower protein and gluten content than other flours. It has a fine uniform texture, well suited to lighter baked goods which do not need strong structure.

Capers - Pickled buds from a caper bush, used in sauces and as condiments. It's used in many Greek and other East European dishes.

Caramelize - Under intense dry heat, as in roasting or sauteing, the natural sugars change to a golden brown color. This is called caramelization.

Carob - Large bean like carob pods are roasted and ground into carob powder, which has an appearance similar to cocoa. It can be used to replace up to half the cocoa in a recipe. While carob performs like cocoa, it has a much lower fat content but a higher natural sugar content. Unlike cocoa, carob has no caffeine. It has high amounts of vitamin B1, vitamin A, niacin, iron and other minerals.

Chateaubriand - A thick slice of beef carved from the center of the tenderloin, grilled or sauteed and sauced.

Chop - To cut food into nearly uniform bite- size or smaller pieces.

Chowder - A milk based soup, usually containing seafood.

Chutney - An Indian relish made with fruits, vegetables and spices.

Clearjel(TM) - A modified corn starch originally developed for commercial bakeries and used mainly as a thickener for fruit pie fillings. The USDA considers Clearjel(TM) safe to use in making home canned pie fillings. The shelf-life of canned foods made with Clearjel(TM) is excellent. They retain a smooth texture with no separation or curdling during storage. Buy clearjel in some candy making supply stores, and in ag centers and farm supply stores that carry other home canning supplies.

Clarify - To remove fat and impurities from stocks and broths.

Cobbler - A baked fruit dish, usually topped with pastry and served with whipped cream or ice cream.

Compote - Spiced fruit cooked in syrup.

Concassée - roughly chopped or pounded food, usually refers concassée made from chopped tomatoes.

Consomme - A clarified broth used in sauces and soups.

Cream - (verb) Beating butter or shortening either alone or with added sugar, until it´s light and fluffy.

Croquette - A thick patty made up of finely chopped, diced or ground poultry, fish, or meat and vegetables. The patties are breaded then fried, sauteed or sometimes baked.

Croustade - Pastry shells filled with meat or chicken.

Croutons - Bread cubes which have been dried, toasted or fried.

Cryovac - A trademark for a process in which meats are sealed in a plastic vacuum pack.

Cube - Foods such as meat, cheese or bread, cut into small square pieces.

Curd - The coagulated substance produced when milk is soured.

Cut-In - To mix a solid fat such as butter or shortening into a dry ingredient such as flour, using a pastry blender, a fork or two knives.

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~ D ~

Deglaze - A process of adding a liquid such as wine, vinegar or stock to a hot pan to collect the bits of food left on the pan during cooking. Deglazing is most common with sauteed and roasted foods.

Devein - To remove the dark brown or black vein running down the back of a shrimp. In smaller shrimp, the vein can be eaten, but in large shrimp, the vein should be removed.

Dice - To cut food into tiny, 1/4" or smaller pieces or cubes.

Dijonnaise - This is a name given to dishes that contain a sauce mixed with mustard.

Dock - To pierce pastry dough before baking, allowing the steam to escape and preventing blistering of the dough.

Double Boiler - A double broiler is a vessel for cooking without using direct heat. It usually consists of two saucepans that fit together. The bottom sauce pan is filled with water and the top one with the mixture to be cooked, such as custard, chocolate, etc.

Dredge - To lightly coat food with dry ingredients like flour, cornmeal, or bread crumbs...the usual preparation for frying.

Dress - To prepare poultry for cooking. Could also refer to adding dressing to a salad

Dry Aging - A process usually referring to beef. This process not only adds flavor but tenderizes the beef. Maximum flavor and tenderness is achieved in about 21 days

Duchess - A potato puree that´s mixed cream, piped into decorative shapes, then browned in an oven.

Dumpling - A starchy mixture or dough. cooked in and served with a stew. Also can refer to pastry wrapped baked fruit, such a apple dumplings.

Durum Semolina Flour - Products of Durum wheat, a high protein, hard wheat. Semolina flour is granular with a sugary texture. It makes the best quality spaghetti, macaroni and other pasta. Durum flour is a by-product of semolina milling which is used to make noodles. Both semolina and durum flour are enriched with B-Vitamins and iron.

~ E ~
Emulsify - The process of combining ingredients like water and oil with a binder. The blended product is an emulsion. These blended combinations can last from a few minutes to a few days depending on the ingredients. Mustard and egg yolks are two common emulsifiers.

Entree - A single prepared dish served as the main meat item.Escalope - A very thinly sliced food, can be meat, fish, or vegetables

~ F ~

Farina - Farina is a coarsely ground flour made from of hard wheat. Farina is used in breakfast cereals.

Flake - To shred or teat into small pieces, usually with a fork.

Flan A pastry tart, filled with cream and topped with fruit. Flan is used in Spanish and Mexican cooking to describe an egg custard that is baked in a shallow dish, and flavored with caramel.

Flambe - To add alcohol to a dish, then ignite it to sear the outside of the food.

Fold - To gently add other ingredients to a beaten mixture. To lightly and carefully stir in.

Fondue - A sauce of cheese into which cubes of bread or other bite size foods are dipped. Can also a chocolate based sauce into which pieces of fruit are dipped just before eating.

Fricassee - A stew prepared without first browning of the meat. Chicken is the most common form of this type of stew.

Frittata - An open-faced Italian omelet.

Fritter - Food that has been mixed with a batter and deep fried or sauteed. Fritters may be made with vegetables, fruit, or sometimes meat or shellfish.

Fruit Pectin - A natural substance found in fruit, especially citrus fruit, used in jam and jelly making because it can gel liquids. Pectin is available in powder or liquid form, sold as Certo®, Sure-Jel®, etc.

~ G ~

Garbanzo Beans - Medium size, round, beige, firm beans with a nutty flavor, also known as chickpeas. A popular salad bar ingredient; also used in Mexican foods and a main ingredient in hummus - a Middle Eastern favorite.

Gazpacho - A Spanish cold vegetable soup. It's usually made with tomatoes an other diced raw vegetables. A light gazpacho is made with cucumbers and served with avocados, croutons and other garnishes.

Glaze - A greatly reduced stock. Or...A light glossy coating added to foods, anything from melted chocolate to thin icings covering pastries or cakes.

Gluten - The elastic material in grains which contributes to light breads.

Gnocchi - Small dumplings made from flour, potatoes, eggs; sometimes with Parmesan, ricotta cheese, and herbs added. Gnocchi are cooked in boiling water and tossed with melted butter or served in sauce. Gnocchi is also the name of a small round or shell shaped hollow pasta.

Graham flour - Another name for whole wheat flour, a course flour ground from the entire wheat kernel.

Gratin - A savory dish baked or broiled so its topping forms a golden crust.

Green Onions - Onions of any variety that are pulled before very early, before they mature and bulb; sometimes called spring onions. There are also onions especially raised for bunching that do not bulb.

Grits - Cornmeal and hominy grits are made from mature white or sometimes yellow corn from which the bran and wheat germ have been removed. Hominy are kernels of corn broken into particles. Grits are grains of hominy broken into smaller uniform particles. Grits are a Southern breakfast tradition.

Guacamole - Mashed avocados seasoned with onions, tomatoes, chiles, and cilantro, mostly served as a dip with tortilla chips. It's sometimes served with burritos and tacos, taco salads and other Mexican dishes.

Gumbo - A thick soup, usually containing a mixture of poultry, meat, or seafood and vegetables.

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~ H ~

Half-and-half - A mixture of equal parts of whole milk and cream; cannot be whipped like heavy cream (whipping cream).

Hazelnuts - Hazelnuts are used as snacks, in bakery items and in various other recipes. They are high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber and low in sugar and sodium with no cholesterol.

Hoisin Sauce - A Chinese cooking sauce made from soybean flour, red beans, chiles and various spices; used for marinades and as a basting sauce.

Hummus - Hummus is made from cooked chickpeas, and various combinations of sesame, garlic, dill, and other spices and seasonings. It's typically served as a dip with crackers or vegetables, as a sandwich spread, or as a vegetable topping.

~ I ~

Infusion - The extraction of flavor from a food in a hot, but not boiling liquid. Usually refers to tea and coffee, but can also apply to cooking, such as oils that are infused with herbs.

~ J ~

Julienne - Foods that are cut into very thin, match-stick like strips.

Jus - A lightly reduced stock used as a sauce for roasted meats.

~ K ~

Kosher - Foods that are prepared in accordance with Orthodox Jewish law.

~ L ~

Larder - To insert thin strips of fat into meats before roasting.

Leeks - A member of the onion family which does not form a bulb. Leeks are a thick stalk that resemble a large green onion without a bulb. Select Leeks that are about 1" thick with clean, bruise-free white bases and fresh green tops. Leeks are frequently used as an ingredient in soup or sauteed and served as a side dish.

~ M ~

Macerate - Soaking vegetables in salt, sugar or syrup to remove a bitter taste before canning or using in a recipe.

Marinate - To let food stand in a mixture called a marinade - a liquid, dry rub, or a paste before cooking. Some marinades are for added flavor. Marinades that contain an acid such as lemon, wine, or vinegar are for tenderizing and some marinades are meant to do both.

Marzipan - An almond paste mixture is used to wrap cakes, cookies and candies. Marzipan is also formed into fruit and vegetable shapes and sold in candy stores.

Mince - To cut food into very small pieces. The terms "finely chopped" and "minced" can be interchangeable.

Miso - A paste made from fermented soybeans used in Japanese cooking, mostly in soups and sauces.

Mochi - A Japanese food made from pounded brown rice. It's sold refrigerated, in flat squares. Mochi can be broiled.

Molasses - A syrup made from natural sugarcane juices, clarified, reduced, and blended. To produce table sugar, raw sugar is processed into refined sugar. The remaining syrup is the sweetest molasses. Additional processing results in darker and stronger tasting molasses called black strap.

Mole - Thick Mexican cooking sauces made with chiles and flavored with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, herbs, and other ingredients.

Mousse - Sweet, light whipped dessert mixtures usually made from cream and flavored with fruit or chocolate.

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~ N ~

Nicoise - Italian dishes made with tomatoes; Nicoise olives, garlic, beans, anchovies, etc, prepared "Nice" style. Salad Nicoise is made with potatoes, olives, beans, and a vinaigrette dressing.

Nougat - A confection made from sugar and honey, sometimes mixed with fruit and/or nuts.

Nutella - A commercial brand of a creamy paste made of chocolate and hazelnuts. Nutella is used in making candy, flavored milk, and in spreads.

~ O ~

Olive Oil - Grades of olive oil are determined by the method of extraction and the acid content. Extra virgin is the finest olive oil, with a 1% acid content. Superfine has a 1.5% acid content, fine has a 3%. Virgin olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives with no further refinement, has a 4% acid content. Store olive oil, tightly sealed, in a cool dark place, since it quickly becomes rancid when exposed to heat or light.

~ P ~

Paella - A Spanish dish containing rice, shellfish, chicken and ham.

Pannetone - An Italian cake traditionally served at Christmas time. It's made from dough that's studded with raisins, candied fruit, and pistachios.

Parchment Paper - A paper that can withstand high heat, especially good to use as a liner or covering when making foods such as candies or chocolate because they will not stick to it.

Pareve/Parve - Under kosher dietary laws, a category of food made without meat or milk products.

Pate - Very finely chopped meat, poultry, or liver which has been baked and is served cold, often as a spread.

Penne - Small smooth pasta tubes. Pasta tubes with ridges are penne rigati, also known as mostaciolli. Manicotti are large pasta tubes.

Pesto - A tasty pasta sauce made with olive oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and fresh basil; It sometimes contains nuts and other herbs.

Poach - To gently cook food in water or a broth, just below the boiling point.

Polenta - Coarsely ground yellow cornmeal, cooked and flavored with onions, garlic, and cheese. Polenta is sometimes served as an Italian mush, with soups or stews. It's also spooned into a greased baking pan; allowed to set; then sliced, sauteed, and topped with cheese and tomato sauce.

Praline - A confection containing nuts, made from a syrup.

Proof - Swelling or expanding. When yeast swells and becomes bubbly, it "proofs". Dough proofs when it swells and rises to twice its original size.

Puree -To press through a sieve or process in a blender to a smooth consistency.

~ Q ~

Quesadilla - A corn empanada filled with meat and deep fried. Quesadillas served in many restaurants are simply made with flour tortillas, filled with cheese, folded over and cooked.

Quiche - A dish that is a light custard mixture of eggs, cheese and sometimes a meat or vegetable fillings, baked in a pastry shell.

~ R ~

Radicchio - A salad green with red and white leaves; varieties range from mild to bitter.

Ragout - A stew made from poultry, meat, fish, or vegetables cut into pieces seasoned with herbs and spices and cooked in a thick liquid. In a brown ragout, the meat is browned, sprinkled with flour, and cooked in water or broth. In a white ragout, , the meat is cooked but not browned, then sprinkled with flour and cooked in broth.

Ramekin - A small baking dish usually ceramic or earthenware, often used as a baking dish in a water bath.

Reduce - Boiling a liquid until its volume is reduced by evaporation, thickening and condensing the liquid and intensifying the flavor.

Render - Melting animal fat over low heat to separate it from any connective tissue, turning this tissue crisp and brown. The clarified fat is then strained. Cooking fatty meats, such as bacon or spare ribs, until the fat melts.

Resting - Meat juices are driven from the surface as it cooks. Allowing meat to "rest" before slicing lets the juices return to the surface, resulting in more flavorful meat.

Ricer - A kitchen gadget that looks like a large garlic press. Also called a potato ricer, it forces cooked foods such as potatoes or turnips through tiny holes.

Risotto - An Italian rice and cheese dish served as either a main course or as a side dish.

Roulades - Slices of meat or pastry, stuffed with cheese.

Roux - A mixture of flour and fat such as butter or margarine, used to thicken sauces, gravies,soups, and stews. Rouxs can also be made with bacon or meat drippings or poultry fat. After thickening, rouxs are cooked for a short time. In Creole cooking rouxs are cooked for a longer time, until they are a dark brown color.

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~ S ~

Salt - Canning Salt - Canning or pickling salt is made without additives that could produce a cloudy brine. Table salt contains iodine plus an anti-caking agent which would cause pickling brine to be slightly cloudy and make home-canned foods unattractive.

Salt - Sea Salt - Salt comes either from the sea or from mining deposits left by prehistoric salt lakes. Sea salt is the compound remaining when sea water is evaporated. This natural salt product dissolves quicker, has more minerals and does not have a very strong salt flavor. It has a sweet, more palatable flavor that enhances the natural flavors of food.

Salt - Table salt - Sodium chloride plus iodine plus an anti-caking agent to make it free-flowing.

Samosas - Indian deep fried dumplings stuffed with curried vegetables. The most common fillings are potatoes or cauliflower with peas.

Scald - To heat milk almost to the boiling point just as tiny bubbles start forming on the inside edge of a pan.

Scone - A lightly sweetened English pastry, similar to but more dense than biscuits; Scones usually contain raisins or currants.

Score - Making shallow cuts in meats before cooking, making the meat more tender.

Sear - Frying meats quickly to seal in the juices.

Semolina Flour - A coarsely ground flour made from durum wheat, which is the hardest wheat variety. It has the highest protein of all flours. It's the best flour for making pasta because it retains its shape and firmness and doesn't become mushy or sticky while cooking.

Simmer - To slowly cook a liquid at just below the boiling point.

Skim - To remove fat and other substances from the surface of cooked or cooking liquids.

Shallots - Shallots are part of the onion family, with mild, garlic-tasting roots.

Season - To coat a pan or other metal cooking surface with oil and then heat it. This prevents sticking by sealing tiny pits on the surface.

Smorgasbord - A commonly used term for a buffet of many dishes served as a single course or a complete meal. Smorgasbord is actually a Swedish word for a buffet that would include such foods as pickled herring, marinated vegetables, smoked and cured salmon, and other appetizers.

Spatzle - A coarse German noodle made from flour, eggs, oil, and water. Spatzle are cooked, then fried in butter. They may also be sprinkled with herbs or grated cheese.

Steam - To cook foods in a perforated container suspended over boiling water.

Stew - A long cooking method in a covered pot using liquid. A stew is a one dish meal produced by cooking a combination of meat, fish or poultry and vegetables by this method.

Stir Fry - To rapidly saute or fry while stirring chopped meat, poultry or fresh vegetables over high heat.

Stock - A broth from cooking meats, fish, shellfish, and vegetables, the basis for soup making.

~ T ~

Tart - A covered or uncovered pastry shell filled with fruit.

Tartare - A term used to describe a seasoned paper thin raw steak dish called steak tartare. Also, Tartare sauce is a mayonnaise based sauce frequently served with seafood.

Temper - To slowly add a hot liquid to an egg mixture or other food being prepared to raise the temperature without making them curdle or begin to cook.

Tofu - Tofu, or soy bean curd, is a soft cheese-like food with a naturally mild flavor. It's found in several varieties, from soft to extra-firm. Soft tofu can be used to make cake frostings, dips and spreads. Firmer tofu is used in stir-fries, soups, and many other dishes. Tofu can be found in the dairy section in most stores. It's an excellent source of calcium, low in sodium, low in saturated fat and contains no cholesterol.

Tiramisu - An Italian dessert made of sponge cake, typically soaked with an espresso syrup and layered with a sweet cheese and chocolate sauce.

~ U ~

Ugli - A citrus fruit hybrid created from a grapefruit and a tangerine.

Unbleached Flour - Bleaching is a term referring to the whitening of flour. Because newly milled flour may not make the best quality baked goods, it is stored for a few months. During this time, oxidation occurs and produces a whiter flour with a finer texture and improved baking quality. The nutritional value of unbleached flour is the same as bleached flour.

~ V ~

Vichyssoise - A chilled soup, commonly made with potatoes and leeks. Some recipes also use zucchini, apples, and carrots.

Vinaigrette - A dressing made with oil and vinegar, commonly used on salads. Vinaigrettes may also contain mustard, citrus juices or wine.

~ W ~

Wasabi - Japanese horseradish, a root that is dried and ground to a fine powder. The powder is reconstituted and used with soy sauce as a dipping sauce for sushi and sashimi.

Welsh Rarebit - A cheese sauce made with ale and seasoned with mustard, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. It's traditionally served on toast, sometimes with bacon bits. It can also be used as fondue.

Whipping Cream - Also called heavy cream. Fat content is around 40 percent; Will double in volume when whipped.

Whisk - A kitchen tool with strands of looped wire used for beating. To whisk means to mix or beat with a wire whisk.

~ Y ~

Yeast - A fungus used in the making of bread. Bread yeast is available as a dry granulated powder and as fresh yeast cakes. Past it's expiration date, yeast may rise slower, but it is still safe to use.

~ Z ~

Zest - The colored skin of citrus fruit - not including the white layer.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Sandy Moyer. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sandy Moyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Allyson Elizabeth D´Angelo for details.

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