Food Dictionary

ADOBO = [ah-DOH-boh]; 1. A Philippine national dish of braised chicken and pork with coconut milk. 2. A Philippine seasoning composed of chiles, herbs and vinegar.

AGAR = Also called kanten and Japanese gelatin, this tasteless dried seaweed acts as a setting agent and is widely used in Asia. It is marketed in the form of blocks, powder or strands and is available at Asian markets and health-food stores. Agar can be substituted for gelatin but has stronger setting properties so less of it is required.

AGAVE = [ah-GAH-vay]; Also called century plant , this family of succulents grows in the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. Though poisonous when raw, agave has a sweet, mild flavor when baked or made into a syrup. Certain varieties are used in making the alcoholic beverages mescal and tequila.

AGNOLOTTI = [ah-nyoh-LAH-tee]; Italian for “priests’ caps,” they are small, crescent-shaped stuffed pasta.

AIOLI = [ay-OH-lee]; A strongly flavored garlic mayonnaise from the Provence region of southern France. It’s a popular accompaniment for fish, meats and vegetables.

AMUSE-BOUCHE = [a-muz-bush]; a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre

BACO NOIR = a hybrid red wine grape variety produced from a cross of Vitis vinifera var (a French wine grape) and an unknown variety of Vitis riparia (an indigenous North American grape species).

BASTE = To spoon or brush food as it cooks with melted butter or other fat, meat drippings or liquid such as stock.  In addition to adding flavor and color, basting keeps meats and other foods from drying out.

BÉCHAMEL SAUCE =[bay-shah-MEHL]; A French white sauce made by stirring milk into a butter-flour roux. Béchamel, the base of many other sauces, was named after its inventor, Louis XIV’s steward Louis de Béchamel.

BEIGNET = [ben-YAY]; A traditional New Orleans yeast pastry that is deep-fried and served hot with a generous dusting of confectioners’ sugar. The name comes from the French word for “fritter.” Savory beignets, such as herb or crab, are also very popular.

BESAN = [BEH-sahn]; Used in East Indian cooking, besan is a pale yellow flour made from ground, dried chickpeas. This nutritious, high-protein flour is used for myriad preparations including doughs, dumplings, noodles, a thickener for sauces and in batter for deep-fried foods.

BIGA = In Italian, Biga refers to a sourdough starter that adds complexity to the bread’s flavor and is often used in breads which need a light, open  texture with holes. Apart from adding to flavor and texture, a biga helps to preserve bread by making it less perishable.

BOUILLABAISSE = [BOOL-yuh-BAYZ]; A seafood stew from Provence, made with an assortment of fish and shellfish, onions, tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, garlic, saffron and herbs.

BRESAOLA = [brehsh-ay-OH-lah]; Originating in Lombardy, Italy, bresaola is air-dried salted beef fillet that has been aged about 2 months. Bresaola is usually thinly sliced, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and served as an antipasto.

BRIOCHE = [BREE-ohsh]: This French creation is a light yeast bread rich with butter and eggs. The classic shape, called brioche à tête , has a fluted base and a jaunty topknot. It also comes in the form of small buns or a large round loaf.

BRUNOISE = A culinary knife cut in which the food item is first julienned and then turned a quarter turn and diced again, producing cubes 1/16″ x 1/16″ x 1/16″.  The brunoise is often times used as a garnish in many dishes.

CANAPÉ = [KAN-uh-pay]; French for couch, canapé are small, decorative pieces of bread (toasted or untoasted) that are topped with a savory garnish such as anchovy, cheese or some type of spread.  They may be hot or cold.

CARPACCIO = [car-PAH-chee-oh];  Carpaccio consists of thin shavings of raw beef fillet, which may be drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice or served with a mayonnaise or mustard sauce. The dish is often topped with capers and sometimes onions and is generally served as an appetizer

CASSIS = [kah-SEES]; A European black currant used to make Creme de Cassis liqueur and black currant syrup.

CEVICHE = [seh-VEE-cheh]; Raw fish marinated in citrus (usually lime) juice. The action of the acid in the lime juice “cooks” the fish, thereby firming the flesh and turning it opaque. Onions, tomatoes and green peppers are often added to the marinade.

CHASSEUR SAUCE = [shah-SUR]; French for “hunter,” chasseur sauce is a hunter-style brown sauce consisting of mushrooms, shallots and white wine (sometimes tomatoes and parsley). It’s most often served with game and other meats.

CHIFFONADE = Chiffonade is a cooking technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and basil) are cut into long, thin strips. This is generally accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then cutting across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife, producing fine ribbons.

CIOPPINO = [chuh-PEE-noh]; San Francisco’s Italian immigrants are credited with creating this delicious fish stew made with tomatoes and a variety of fish and shellfish.

COLCANNON = “White-headed cabbage in Irish; Colcannon is traditionally made from mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, butter, salt, and pepper. It can contain other ingredients such as milk, cream, leeks, onions, chives, garlic, boiled ham or rashers (Irish bacon)

CONFIT = [kon-FEE]; Preserved meat (goose, duck or pork) whereby it is salted and slowly cooked in its own fat

CONSOMME = [kon-suh-may]; A clear soup made from well-seasoned stock

COULIS = [koo-lee]; A general term referring to a thick puree or sauce, such as a raspberry coulis

CROQUEMBOUCHE =[kroh-kuhm-BOOSH]; French for “crisp in mouth,” this elaborate dessert is classically made with profiteroles (tiny, custard-filled cream puffs), coated with caramel and stacked into a tall pyramid shape. As the caramel hardens, it becomes crisp.

CROUTE = [KROOT]; French for “crust,” croûte generally describes a thick, hollowed-out slice of bread (usually toasted) that is filled with food. It can also refer to a pastry case used for the same purpose. Additionally, the word croûte describes simply a slice of bread either toasted or fried. For example, croûte landaise is fried bread with foie gras topped with a cheese sauce.

DAIKON = [DI-kuhn, DI-kon]; From the Japanese words dai  (large) and kon (root), this vegetable is in fact a large Asian radish with a sweet, fresh flavor. The daikon’s flesh is crisp, juicy and white, while the skin can be either creamy white or black. Daikon radishes are used raw in salads, shredded as a garnish or cooked in a variety of ways, such as in a stir fry.

DARJEELING TEA = [dahr-JEE-ling]; This strong, full-bodied black tea comes from India’s province of Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Darjeeling tea leaves are grown at about 7,000 feet and are considered one of India’s finest.

DUXELLES = [dook-SEHL, deu-SEHL]; A mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and herbs slowly cooked in butter until it forms a thick paste. It’s used to flavor sauces, soups and other mixtures, as well as for a garnish.

EMULSION = A mixture of one liquid with another with which it cannot normally combine smoothly — oil and water being the classic example. Emulsifying is done by slowly (sometimes drop-by-drop) adding one ingredient to another while at the same time mixing rapidly. This disperses and suspends minute droplets of one liquid throughout the other. Emulsified mixtures are usually thick and satiny in texture. Mayonnaise is one of the best-known emulsions.

ENOLOGY = [ee-NAHL-uh-jee]; Also spelled oenology, this is the science or study of viniculture or the making of wine. One who studies the science is called an enologist or oenologist.

EN PAPILLOTE = [PAH-peh-loht]; Refers to food baked inside a wrapping of greased parchment paper. As the food bakes and lets off steam, the parchment puffs up into a dome shape. At the table, the paper is slit and peeled back to reveal the food.

ESCOLAR = Also called white tuna and walu, it is a fish that grows to be 6 feet long and is caught in depths between 600-1000 feet. This fish is most commonly known as white fish sushi.

ESSENCE = Concentrated, usually oily substances extracted from food such as fish, mint leaves or vegetables and used in small amounts to flavor various dishes. Like extracts, essences will keep indefinitely if stored in a cool dark place.

FARINA = [fuh-REE-nuh]; Made from cereal grains, farina is a bland-tasting flour or meal that, when cooked in boiling water, makes a hot breakfast cereal. It’s very easily digested and rich in protein.

FIDEOS = [fih-DAY-ohs]; Very thin, Vermicelli-type noodles. In Spain, they’re often tossed with vegetables; in Mexico, they’re used to make one version of Sopa Seca (dry soup).

FIGARO SAUCE = Tomato puree and minced parsley are added to Hollandaise sauce and is usually an accompaniment to fish or poultry

FOIE GRAS = [FWAH GRAH]; French for “fat liver,” foie gras is the term generally used for goose liver . This specialty of Alsace and Perigord, is in fact, the enlarged liver from a goose or duck that has been force-fed and fattened over a period of 4 to 5 months. The liver is marinated in a mixture usually consisting of Port or Madeira and various seasonings. The livers are then usually baked.

FUMET = [foo-may]; A concentrated stock, particularly one made from fish or mushrooms, used to add flavor to less intensely flavored stocks or sauces

GALETTE = [gah-LEHT]; Hailing from France, a galette is a round, rather flat cake made of flaky-pastry dough, yeast dough or sometimes unleavened dough. The term also applies to a variety of tarts, both savory and sweet, that may be topped with fruit, jam, nuts, meat, cheese, etc…

GALLIMAUFRY = [gal-luh-MAW-free]; Culinarily, this word refers to any dish with a hodgepodge of ingredients, such as a stew, ragout or hash

GANACHE = [gahn-AHSH]; A rich chocolate icing made of semisweet chocolate and whipping cream that are heated and stirred together until the chocolate has melted. The mixture is cooled until lukewarm and poured over a cake or torte.

GARAM MASALA = [gah-RAHM mah-SAH-lah]; Garam  is the Indian word for “warm” or “hot,” and this blend of dry-roasted, ground spices from the colder climes of northern India adds a sense of “warmth” to both palate and spirit. There are as many variations of garam masala (which may contain up to 12 spices) as there are Indian cooks. It can include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, cardamom, dried chilies, fennel, mace, nutmeg, etc.

GREMOLATA =[greh-moh-LAH-tah]; A garnish made of minced parsley, lemon peel and garlic. It’s sprinkled over Osso Buco and other dishes to add a fresh, sprightly flavor.

HARISSA = [hah-REE-suh]; From Tunisia, this fiery-hot sauce is usually made with hot chiles, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and olive oil. It’s the traditional accompaniment for couscous, but is also used to flavor soups, stews and other dishes. Harissa can be found in cans and jars in Middle Eastern markets.

HYSSOP =[HIHS-up]; 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 (it particularly complements cranberries), soups and stews.

JUS = [ZHOO]; The French word for “juice,” which can refer to both fruit and vegetable juices, as well as the natural juices exuded from meat.  Au jus is meat presented with its own natural juices.

MACE =[MAYS]; This spice tastes and smells like a pungent version of nutmeg, and for a very good reason . . . mace is the bright red membrane that covers the nutmeg seed.

MACERATE = [MAS-uh-rayt]; To soak a food (usually fruit) in a liquid in order to infuse it with the liquid’s flavor. A spirit such as brandy, rum or a liqueur is usually the macerating liquid

MAISON = [may-ZOHN]; The French word for “house.” On a menu, such a designation, like pâté maison, refers to a specialty of the house or to the fact that the dish was made by the house chef.

MALTOSE = [MAHL-tohs]; Also called malt sugar, this disaccharide plays an important role in the fermentation of alcohol by converting starch to sugar. It also occurs when enzymes react with starches (such as wheat flour) to produce carbon dioxide gas (which is what makes most bread doughs rise).

MARC = The residue (skins, pits, seeds, etc.) remaining after the juice has been pressed from a fruit, usually grapes.  It can be distilled from this mixture into a potent French liquor equivalent to Italian Grappa

MILLE-FEUILLE = [meel-FWEE]; French for “a thousand leaves,” this classic dessert is made with two large oblong pieces of crisp puff pastry spread with whipped cream, custard, jam or fruit puree. The pastries are stacked and topped with another pastry layer, which is generally dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Savory mille-feuille can be filled with cheese and served as an appetizer

MIZUNA = [mih-ZOO-nuh] Hailing from Japan, this feathery, delicate salad green can be found in farmer’s markets and specialty produce markets from spring through summer. It’s often found in mesclun, a special salad-green mix.

MOUSSE = A French term meaning “froth” or “foam,” mousse is a rich, airy dish that can be either sweet or savory and hot or cold. Cold dessert mousses are usually made with fruit puree or a flavoring such as chocolate. Their fluffiness is due to the addition of whipped cream or beaten egg whites and they’re often fortified with gelatin.

OLOROSO = [oh-loh-ROH-soh]; A full-flavored sherry that has a dark, rich color. Olorosos are usually aged longer than most sherries and are therefore also more expensive. They’re often labeled cream  or golden  sherry.

PAKORA = [pah-KOOR-ah]; A deep-fried fritter popular in India. The batter is generally based on besan flour (ground chickpeas) and can contain most anything including vegetables, fruit, rice, fish or meat. Usually small, the crisply fried pakoras are most often served as appetizers or snacks.

PANFORTE = [pan-FOHR-tay]; A specialty of Siena, Italy, this dense, flat cake is rich with honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied citron, citrus peel, cocoa and spices. After baking, panforte becomes hard and chewy.

PANNA COTTA = [PAHN-nah KOH-tah]; Italian for “cooked cream” panna cotta  is a light, silky egg custard, which is often flavored with caramel. It’s served cold, accompanied typically with fruit or chocolate sauce.

PANZANELLA = [pahn-zah-NEHL-lah]; An Italian bread salad made with onions, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, vinegar and seasonings and chunks of bread. Some versions also include cucumbers, anchovies and/or peppers. More traditional recipes call for soaking the bread in water and then squeezing the water out. Others suggest browning the bread in olive oil before adding it to the salad.

PARBOIL = To partially cook food by boiling it briefly in water. This time saving technique is used in particular for dense foods such as carrots. If parboiled, they can be added at the last minute with quick-cooking ingredients.

PAVLOVA =Hailing from Australia, this famous dessert is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. It consists of a crisp meringue base topped with whipped cream and fruit such as strawberries, passion fruit, and kiwi.

PISTOU = [pees-TOO]; 1. A mixture of crushed basil, garlic and olive oil used as a condiment or sauce. It’s the French version of Italian pesto. 2. A French vegetable soup that usually includes green beans, white beans, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and vermicelli. It is seasoned with the basil-garlic condiment in definition 1.

QUINCE = Ancient Romans used the flowers and fruit of the quince tree for everything from perfume to honey. It was also considered a symbol of love and given to one’s intended as a sign of commitment. Though the quince has been around for over 4,000 years throughout Asia and the Mediterranean countries, it’s not particularly popular with Americans. This yellow-skinned fruit looks and tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear.

QUINOA = [KEEN-wah]; Quinoa is a staple of the ancient Incas, who called it “the mother grain.”  It contains more protein than any other grain.  Tiny and bead-shaped, the ivory-colored quinoa cooks like rice (taking half the time of regular rice) and expands to four times its original volume.

REDUCTION = To boil a liquid (usually stock, wine or a sauce mixture) rapidly until the volume is reduced by evaporation, thereby thickening the consistency and intensifying the flavor

RENDER = To melt animal fat over low heat so that it separates from any connective pieces of tissue, which, during rendering, turn brown and crisp and are generally referred to as cracklings. The resulting clear fat is then strained through a paper filter or fine cheesecloth to remove any dark particles.

ROUILLE = [roo-EE]; Literally French for “rust,” culinarily rouille is a fiery-flavored, rust-colored sauce of hot chiles, garlic, fresh bread crumbs and olive oil pounded into a paste and often mixed with fish stock. It’s served as a garnish with fish and fish stews such as bouillabaisse.

ROULADE = [roo-LAHD]; The French term for a thin slice of meat rolled around a filling such as cheese or meat. The rolled package is usually secured with string or a wooden pick. A roulade is browned before being baked or braised in wine or stock. Also referred to as braciola in Italy. Roulade can also be stuffed with a sweet filling.

ROUX = [roo]; A mixture of flour and fat that, after being slowly cooked over low heat, is used to thicken mixtures such as soups and sauces. There are three classic roux: white, blond and brown.

SAMOSA = [sah-MOH-sah]; Samosas are fried, triangular pastries that may be filled with vegetables or meat or a combination of both. In the United States, these delicious packages are most often served as appetizers in East Indian restaurants.

SEMIFREDDO = Italian for “half cold,” semifreddo refers to any of various chilled or partially frozen desserts including cake, ice cream, fruit and custard or whipped cream.

SOFRITO = [soh-free-toe] A Latin American sauce made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and various herbs. The sauce is used in soups, stews, rice, beans, etc..

SOUS VIDE = [soo VEED] French for “under vacuum,” sous vide is a food-packaging technique pioneered in Europe whereby fresh ingredients are combined into various dishes, vacuum-packed in individual-portion pouches, cooked under a vacuum, then chilled. Sous vide food is used most often by hotels, restaurants and caterers, though it’s expected to become increasingly available in supermarkets.

SQUAB = A young (about 4 weeks old) domesticated pigeon that has never flown and is therefore extremely tender.  Squabs usually weigh 1 pound or less and have delicately flavored dark meat.

SPOOM =A frothy type of sherbet made with a light sugar syrup mixed with a liquid such as fruit juice, champagne or sauternes.  Halfway through the freezing process, the mixture is combined with uncooked meringue, which gives spoom its airy texture.

TANNIN = An astringent substance found in the seeds and stems of grapes, the bark of some trees and in tea. Tannin is important in the making of good red wines, aiding them in long and graceful aging. When such wines are young, the tannin often gives them a noticeable astringency — a quality that diminishes as the wine ages, mellows and develops character.

TARTE TATIN = [tart tah-TAN ]; A famous French upside-down apple tart made by covering the bottom of a shallow baking dish with butter and sugar, then apples and finally a pastry crust. While baking, the sugar and butter create a delicious caramel that becomes the topping when the tart is inverted onto a serving plate. The tart was created by two French sisters who lived in the Loire Valley and earned their living making it. The French call this dessert tarte des demoiselles Tatin , “the tart of two unmarried women named Tatin.”

TASTEVIN = [taht-VAHN]; A wine-tasting cup, usually worn on a chain or ribbon around the neck of a sommelier.

TAHINI = [tah-HEE-nee]; Used in Middle Eastern cooking, tahini is a thick paste made of ground sesame seed. It’s used to flavor various dishes such as hummus and Baba Ghanoush.

UMAMI = [ooh-ma-me]; Our sense of taste is comprised of four basic tastes (i.e. sweet, sour, salt, and bitter).  A fifth primary taste umami, discovered by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of Japan, is a pleasant, savoury taste imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate, which occur naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products. As the taste of umami itself is subtle and blends well with other tastes to expand and round out flavors, most people don’t recognize umami when they encounter it, but it plays an important role making food taste delicious.

VELOUTÉ = [veh-loo-TAY]; A stock-based white sauce. It can be made from chicken or veal stock or fish fumet thickened with white roux.  Egg yolks or cream are sometimes also added.

VICHYSSOISE =[VEE-she-swahz]; A rich, creamy potato-and-leek soup that’s served cold, garnished with chopped chives.

WHEY = [WAY]; The watery liquid that separates from the solids (curds) in cheesemaking. Whey is sometimes further processed into whey cheese. It can be separated another step, with butter being made from the fattier share.

YARROW =[YAR-oh]; Any of several very pungent, aromatic herbs found in Europe and North America. Yarrow has a very strong aroma and flavor and is therefore used sparingly to flavor salads, soups and occasionally egg dishes. It may also be used to brew an herb tea.

ZABAGLIONE = [zah-bahl-YOH-nay]; An Italian dessert made by whisking together egg yolks, wine (traditionally Marsala) and sugar. This beating is done over simmering water so that the egg yolks cook as they thicken into a light, foamy custard.