Dictionary of Cooking Terms




The french term for a sheet of puff pastry which has been rolled very thinly. Sometimes it refers to a thin slice of spomnge cake used in a dessert.


A Swiss dessert made of sponge cake and chestnut-alcohol flavored cream.

Aboukir Almonds

A sugar-glazed petit-four made by pressing two whole blanched and roasted almonds into the sides of a ball of green-colored marzipan. It is then held with a dipping fork and dipped into boiled sugar syrup and left to sit on parchment paper until firmly set.

Acetic Acid

A natural organic acid which is also known as vinegar. It is used in sugar and confectionery recipes, in pavlovas (as a stabilizer for the eggs), and in royal icing (to help the icing set).


A mixture of honey and vinegar that produces a sweet/ sour syrup. Although it is rarely used today, in the past it was used to preserve fruits.

Acidulated Water

Water to which a mild acid, usually lemon juice or vinegar, has been added to prevent sliced fruits (especially apples and pears) and peeled or cut up vegetables (i.e. artichokes and salsify) from turning dark during preparation. To make acidulate water, squeeze half of a lemon into a medium bowl of water.


A shaker dish of mashed potatoes and turnips, name after the silvery white color.

Al Dente

Italian for "to the tooth". It refers to the firm but trender consistency a perfectly (in some opinions) cooked piece of pasta will have.


A single spice whose flavor is reminiscent of a blend of nutmeg, cloves juniper berries, pepper, and cinnamon. It is processed from the fruit of an evergreen tree found in the Western Hemisphere.

Almond Paste

A mixture of ground almonds, sugar, and glucose. The Odense brand of almond paste is a good one to try. It can be found in the baking aisle in most grocery stores.


Italian almond cookies reminiscent of the macaroon.


An almond flavored liqueur (made from apricot pits) from Italy. Disaronno Amaretto is a good brand to try.

Anaheim Chiles

Mild, long green chiles named for the area near Los Angeles where they were once cultivated. You can buy them canned (whole or chopped) and fresh.

Ancho Chiles

Dried poblano chiles that come in color ranging from dark red to almost black. They are moderately hot with a smokyflavor. Pasilla chiles are a good substitute.


A spice whose flavor is reminiscent of licorice, usually bought ground. (although seed form is also common). It is found in cookies, cakes and liqueurs.

Arborio Rice

A short grain white rice from Northern Italy. The length of the grain is often less than two times its width. It is used often in risotto due to its ability to absorb flavor as it cooks, yet remain somewhat firm in the center. The Spanish Valencia rice is a good substitute.


A member of the brandy family known for its distinct, unpolished flavor with hints of prune. Armagnac can be found in most liquor stores.


A white, powdery thickener finer than flour. It is quite expensive and preferable to cornstarch because it provides a clear finish. Its extracted from rhizomes. It was originally used by American Indians to heal arrow wounds, hence the name "arrowroot".


Also known as rocket. Arugula is a pepper and mustard flavored green that is used in many salads and as a sandwich condiment. Watercress is a good substitute if you can't find it. Although, most American farmers' and gourmet markets carry it.


An Italian cheese (known as poor man's Parmesan) mainly used for grating. It is reminiscent of cheddar. Although, it is traditionally made with sheep's milk, today it is often made with cow's milk.



A sweet Polishyeast bread that usually contains almond and raisins, but recent versions use chocolate and cinnamon.

Baked Alaska

Also called Omelet sursprise. A frozen dessert in which solidly frozen ice cream is placed on top of a layer of sponge cake and frosted with meringue. The cake is placed under a broiler to brown it slightly.

Baking Powder

A leavening agent of which the most common is double-acting baking powder, called so because it reacts first with liquids and secondly, with the heat during baking. A good substitute for 1 teaspoon of baking powder is 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar. Periodically, check the expiration date on your can as baking powder loses its leavening power over time.

Baking soda

A leavening agent, activated by interacting with something acid. Liquid ingredients like sour milk, sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt, molasses, and lemon juice help baking soda produce the gases which in turn make a batter rise. The batter should be baked as soon as possible after the liquid has interacted with the baking soda.

Basmati Rice

An aromatic rice with a nutty flavor. Its grains separate nicely after cooking, making it ideal for pilafs.

Bay Leaf

An aromatic leaf that comes from bay laurel. Whole, halved, or ground, it lends a slightly bitter, pungent seasoning to soups, stews, and stocks. It id one of the primary ingredients in a bouquet garni.


(Angoustra bitters) A liquid combination of cloves, cinnamon, quinine, nutmeg, rum, dried fruits, and other root and herbal extracts. They are mostly used in drinks.

Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate:

This is the chocolate most often called for in cake and cookie recipes. "Bittersweet" and "semisweet" are often used interchangeably, though bittersweet generally has more chocolate "liquor" (the paste formed from roasted, ground cocoa beans). Most semisweet chocolate contains at least 35% chocolate liquor, while some fine bittersweets contain 50% or more. Bittersweet and semisweet chocolate have a deep, smooth, intense flavor that comes from the blend of beans used rather than added dairy products. Sugar, vanilla, and cocoa butter are added to the liquor to lend an even richer taste.

Black Cow

An ice cream soda made with vanilla ice cream and cola.

Black Rice

Milled rice is white, but the outer bran layer can be brown, red or black. In the case of black rice, the raw grains look charred and the cooked ones are the color of blackberries.

Blackstrap Molasses

Unrefined molasses which has a bitter taste.


To place foods in boiling water briefly either to partially cook them or to aid in the removal of the skin (i.e. nuts, peaches, tomatoes). Blanching also removes the bitterness from citrus zests.

Blind Bake

To bake a pie crust without the filling. Metal weights or dried beans are usually used to keep the pastry from bubbling.

Blue Cheese

A cow's milk, semisoft, blue-veined cheese with a very strong aroma. The most common US made blue cheese is Maytag (Iowa). Similar cheeses include France's Roquefort and Italy's Gorgonzola.


A frozen dessert made by lining a special mold with ice cream or sorbet, The center cavity is then filled with a mousse, cream or parfait mixture. The mold is tightly sealed and the dessert is frozen solid before unmolding and serving.

Brown Cow

An ice cream soda made with vanilla ice cream and root beer.

Bouquet Garni

A bunch of herbs (traditionally parsley, thyme, and bay leaf) bundled up in a cheesecloth bag that usually dangles into a stockpot via a string. The herb bundle gives the stew, soup or stock an aromatic seasoning. The bouquet garni is removed before serving.


A cooking method where food (usually meat) is first browned in oil, then cooked slowly in a liquid (wine, stock, or water).


A sweet yeast bread that is originally French. Brioche has a unique lightness, flavor and aroma. It is composed of flour, sugar, yeast, milk, butter, and egg yolk. It is similar to the Jewish Challah.

Brown Sugar

Comes in two forms:the more intense dark brown sugar and light brown sugar, both containing molasses. The dark brown sugar contains more molasses, giving it a stronger flavor. Although commercial packaging of brown sugar has improved, it has a tendency to get hard. To avoid, store it in an airtight container. Be sure to measure brown sugar, packed.


Whole wheat which has been boiled until tender and the husk is about to crack open, then dried. It is a common ingredient in Arabic (burghul), Turkish (bulgur), and Cypriot (pourgouri) cooking. You can buy it coarse or fine ground in most middle-eastern grocery stores.

Burre Manie

Literally, handled butter. It is an equal mixture of soft butter and flour, used for thickening soups and sauces.



An apple brandy from Normandy, France made from cider that has been aged for up to two years and distilled.

Canadian Bacon

The large rib-eye muscle of the pork loin, cured and smoked. It is boneless and usually lean, making it a good ham substitute for those watching their fat.

Candy Thermometer

Usually a large glass mercury thermometer that measures temperatures from about 40 degrees F to 400 degrees F. A frame or clip allows it to stand or hang in a pan during cooking.

Cannellini Beans

A large creamy, white bean used often in Italian cooking. They are sometimes referred to as Northern beans and make excellent vegetarian substitutes for both fish and chicken.


The small buds of a Mediterranean shrub. They are usually pickled in vinegar or dried and salted.


A castrated rooster that makes a good roasting bird. It ranges in size from four to ten pounds and has plenty of breast and thigh meat. Its size makes it an ideal choice for serving eight to twelve. Buying capon may prove to be difficult; try to special order it from your butcher.


Also known as star fruit. A golden yellow fruit grown in the West Indies, Indonesia, and Brazil. When sliced, the fruit has a star shaped .The flesh of the carambola is juicy and highly acidic. Its taste is reminiscent of plums, grapes, and apples. It is eaten fresh, mostly in salsas and vinaigrettes, and sometimes as a dessert (with sugar and cream).

Caramelized Sugar

Sugar that has been cooked until it reaches a caramel color. The new flavor it attains works nicely in desserts.


Originally, paper thin slices of raw beef with a creamy sauce, invented at Harry's Bar in Venice. In recent years, the term has come to describe very thinly sliced vegeatables, raw or smoked meats, and fish.

Caraway Seed

The curved, anise flavored seeds popular in German and Austrian cooking. Caraway is a member of the parsley family. The seeds are used as topping on breads and savory pastries, and as accompaniments to cabbage and goulash. Caraway is also employed in the making of certain cheeses and liquers.


The pods of an aromatic Indian plant related to the ginger family. The seeds of the pods are dried and used as a spice. It is a very expensive spice. cardamom is used mostly in Indian cooking. However, it also shows up in Scandinavian ,spicing up wines, stewed fruits, etc., and in Arabic cooking (called hale) as an accompaniment to coffee.


Also known as celery root. A root vegetable that houses a white fleshed interior beneath its rough skin.


A crisp, delicate, light green squash that is pear shaped and keeps well. It is ideal for stuffing. Otherwise, it can be prepared like zucchini or summer squash.


The roasted ground roots of a variety of perennial herbs related to the radicchio and curly endive. Caffeine-averse Germans discovered that chicory could be processed into a coffee substitute. In New Orleans, chicory spiked coffee and/or Cafe Au Lait is very popular. Caffeine-averse Germans discovered that chicory could be processed into a coffee substitute.


A fruit condiment used commonly in Indian cuisine. It looks like fruit preserves, but contains vinegar, spices, and at times nuts. Its taste varies from sweet to tart, and mild to spicy. The most common chutney is mango.


Smoked dried jalapeno chiles. The distinctive smoky heat of chipotles is used to flavor Southwestern and Mexican dishes. They are sold both dried and in cans, in a vinegary sauce called adobo. Most big supermarkets carry them, but a Latin-American market is your best bet.


Also known as Coriander and Chinese Parsley. This herb is often used in Chinese and Mexican cooking. It resembles and is often used like parsley. The seeds of this aromatic plant are often dried and used as spices (whole or ground). Its flavor is reminiscent of slightly burnt oranges.


The brown, hard dried flower buds of an aromatic Southeast Asian evergreen. They are useful in both whole and ground forms. Ground, they are used in cakes and soups. Whole, they add great flavor to mulled wines and ciders. Cloves also have natural preservative qualities.

Cocoa Powder

There are two basic types of cocoa: regular (or American) and Dutch process (sometimes labeled "European process"). Dutch process cocoa has a slightly stronger flavor and richer color than regular cocoa: It's been treated with a mild alkali, such as baking soda, which neutralizes its acidity.
Both regular and Dutch process cocoa have far less fat and fewer calories than baking and eating chocolate because the cocoa butter has been removed. This also means cocoa tastes less rich, so when you're cooking with it, you have to find another way to put the moisture and richness back in.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made by combining equal parts water and shredded fresh or desiccated coconut meat and simmering until foamy. The mixture is then strained , squeezing as much of the liquid as possible from the coconut meat. The coconut meat can be combined with water again for a second, diluted batch of coconut milk. Coconut milk comes canned and may sometimes be found frozen in Asian markets and some supermarkets.

Coconut Cream

Coconut cream is made by combining 1 parts water and 4 parts shredded fresh or desiccated coconut meat and simmering until foamy. The mixture is then strained , squeezing as much of the liquid as possible from the coconut meat. Milk can be substituted for water for an even richer result. Coconut cream comes canned and may sometimes be found frozen in Asian markets and some supermarkets.

Condensed Milk

A preserved milk in which the water content of the milk is evaporated and a lot of sugar is added. It was very popular in wartime England because of how well it preserved. These days it is used mainly in sweets and confectionery making. It is also used in iced drinks (Thai iced tea) because of its high sugar content (it won't freeze easily).

Confectioners Sugar

Powdered sugar, often used in baking and in frostings.


(also known as polenta) A yellow, grainy powder made from yellow degermed ground corn. It is similar to semolina in texture. Tortillas and cornbread are two of the most common cornmeal based foods. However, cornmeal is versatile enough to be used in both sweet and savory dishes. White cornmeal is also available.


A white, powdery thickener finer than flour. It is extracted from the starch endosperm of wheat or corn. It must be dissolved in a cold liquid before it is added to a hot mixture or it will lump. It results in a glazy, opaque finish.


A thin puree of fruit, sweetened and thinned to a sauce consistency using sugar.


Ice cream that is topped with fruit and traditionally served in stemmed glasses or silver goblets.


A grain-like hard wheat semolina that has been ground, moistened, and rolled in flour. The grain is then steamed (for 40 minutes) and traditionally served with a stew. There are also sweet couscous dishes. It is a staple dish in the North African countries of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. The couscous you find in most American grocery (usually in the rice aisle) stores is precooked.

Cream of Tartar

The common name for potassium bitartare, a by-product of wine-making. Its is a major ingredient in baking powder and is used to stabilize beaten egg whites.

Crema Mexicana

A Latin-style cream that has the same amount or more of butterfat as whipping cream. It can be sweet and pourable like whipping cream, or delicately tart and very thick, like creme fraiche.

Crema Mexican Agria

A Latin-style cream as thick as sour cream with 15-20 percent fat content. It also has a tartness similar to sour cream, and is salted.

Crema Fresca Casera

Literally "homestyle fresh cream". It is a sweet pourable whipping cream used in Latin cooking.

Crema Centroamerica

A Latin-style cream that is as rich or richer than whipping cream. It can be liquid and sweet, or thick, rich, and tangy. Some brands are labeled soft-ripened cheese. It is similar to mascarpone.

Crema Centroamericana Acida

A Latin-style cream that has the consistency, tang, and fat content of salted sour cream.

Creme de Casis

A sweet cordial flavored with black currants. It can be bought at most liquor stores.

Creme Fraiche

A matured, thickened cream that has a slightly tangy, nutty flavor and velvety rich texture. The thickness of crème fraîche can range from that of commercial sour cream to almost as solid as room-temperature margarine. In France, where crème fraîche is a specialty, the cream is unpasteurized and therefore contains the bacteria necessary to thicken it naturally. In America, where all commercial cream is pasteurized, the fermenting agents necessary for crème fraîche can be obtained by adding buttermilk or sour cream.
To make your own:
combine 1 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk in a glass container. Cover and let stand at room temperature (about 70°F) from 8 to 24 hours, or until very thick. Stir well before covering and refrigerate up to 10 days. Crème fraîche is the ideal addition for sauces or soups because it can be boiled without curdling. It's delicious spooned over fresh fruit or other desserts such as warm cobblers or puddings.


An Indian spice with an earthy flavor, also known as comino. It usually appears in its ground form and as cumin seed. Cumin is featured in Middle Eastern (lentil and lamb dishes) and Latin American cuisines (chili, tamales).

Curry Powder

A spice mixture more popular in the West than in India. It usually consists of coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, cumin, and chili.

Cremini Mushrooms

A wild mushroom.


A rounder, thicker and chewier relative of the squid. This lean and nutritious seafood can be found in ethnic markets.


Daikon Radish

A long sweet tasting radish used prominently in Japanese cooking. It can be found in most produce sections.


A slowly cooked French stew of meat or fish ibraised n wine and stock with vegetables and herbs.


A thick, intensely flavored, glossy brown sauce that is served with meat, poultry, or fish or used as a base for other sauces. It is made by thickening a rich veal stock, enriching it with diced vegetables, tomato paste and Madiera or sherry, then reducing it until concentrated.

Double Boiler

Like a bain-marie, a double broiler is a method of 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 (custard, chocolate, etc.). The saucepans can be made from stainless steel, aluminum, and glass.

Dutch Cocoa Powder

An alkalized cocoa. It has an intense flavor. Droste is a good and widely available brand.


Eau-de-vie deFramboise

Eau de vie is an 80 - 90 proof clear fruit alcohol. Framboise means it is raspberry flavored.

Evaporated Milk

A preserved milk that has much of the water content removed via evaporation. It is similar to condensed milk, although not as sweet.


Fish Sauce

A pungent, salty liquid made from fresh anchovies that is essential in Thai cooking.


A creamy white substance created by kneading cooked sugar syrup. It is used often as a filling for chocolates, frosting for cakes, petit fours or pastries. It can also be flavored and made into individual sweets.


a raspberry liqueur with a high alcohol content


(from the French frappe) A simple sugar syrup mixed with fruit or other flavorings and frozen, then processed to a slightly slushy consistency. It can be served as a drink or a dessert. In some parts of the United States, a milk shake is sometimes referred to as a frappe.


Garam Masala

An Indian spice mixture usually composed of coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper.

Garbanzo Beans

Also known as ceci or chickpeas. They are very popular in Mediterranean cuisine. Canned chickpeas can be found in the bean aisle of most grocery stores.


A delicate wafer cookie, honey-combed and fan-shaped, made on an oblong iron. It is typically served as a garnish atop ice creams.


An Italian ice cream made with a base of milk or egg yolks and milk. It is denser and more icy in texture than American ice creams.It usually has stronger flavors as well.


A Southeastern Asian (originally) plant cultivated for its spicy aromatic rhizomes. It comes in powdered, preserved, and fresh forms. It is most commonly used in Asian cooking, showing up in savory curries, marinades, rice, tea, or just eaten as a sweetmeat in its crystallized form. In western cooking, the use of ginger has been limited to confectionery and pastry making. For candied ginger: Peel 1 pound gingerroot, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. In 2-qt. saucepan, heat ginger slices and 2 cups water to boiling over high heat. Boil 5 minutes. Drain. Repeat boiling (in fresh water) and draining 3 more times. In same saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 cups water to boiling over high heat. Add ginger slices and return to boiling. Reduce hea to gently simmer ginger, stirring occasionally, until translucent -- about 1 hour. With slotted spoon, transfer ginger to wire rack placed over a tray. Let ginger stand until surface is dry to touch. Roll ginger, a few slices at a time, in 1/4 cup sugar until well coated. Store ginger in jars.


A thick, clear form of sugar which is produced by the breakdown of starch cells that have been treated with acids or enzymes and then fermented to form sugars. The thickness of the liquid glucose depends on how much the starch cells have broken down. It can be produced from corn, starch, potatoes, grapes, and honey (corn being the most common). In fact, liquid glucose is known as corn syrup in the USA. When glucose is mixed with maple syrup, it is called pancake syrup. Glucose is most commonly used in confectionery to give elasticity to caramel or sugar piece and to help prevent crystallization. It can also be added to chocolate to produce a modeling paste.


A clear, sweet syrupy liquid extracted from animal fats and vegetable oils, and is a by-product of soap manufacturing. It is used (in small amounts) in certain cake, pastry, and icing mixtures. The reason being that it is able to draw moisture from the air, keeping these products most and extending their shelf life.

Goat Cheese

Also known as Chevre. A soft fresh goat's milk cheese sold in a variety of shapes (rounds and cylinders are most common). They are usually sold fresh, but some are marinated in oil. Montrachet and Coach Farms are among my favorites.

Golden Beets

These are yellow ocher colored beets. They are sweeter than red beets. Like all beets, they go well with tart (i.e. citrus fruit) and salty foods i.e. cheese).


An Italian cow's milk cheese (48% fat) that is white or yellow and streaked with blue. It has a distinct smell and can have a mellow, strong, or sharp flavor, depending on its degree of maturity. It is similar to the American blue cheese and the French roquefort.

Gouda Cheese

A cow's milk, firm, smooth cheese similar to cheddar. This Dutch cheese comes in both young and aged forms.

Grand Marnier

Orange flavored, cognac based liqueur from France.


A mixture of water, sugar, and liquid flavorings (i.e. fruit juice or coffee) that is stirred occasionally while being frozen to create a granular texture.

Granulated Sugar

Regular sugar for everyday use.


Any sweet or savory dish baked or broiled so its topping forms a golden crust.


Coarsely ground hominy (corn with the hull and germ removed). In the Southern United States, it is commonly boiled and served for breakfast or as a dinner side dish.




Literally means half dry in German. Used in reference to German wines with 9 to 18 grams of residual sugar per liter.


An extremely spicy, red chili paste from North Africa. It is made of a mixture of chilies, garlic, and spices


A term used in decribing the aroma of herbs in the following wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabarnet Sauvignons, and Merlots. If the odor is too pronounced, the wine is considered vegetal (not a good thing).


A French appellation located in northern Rhone. Its reds, made from Syrah grapes, and its whites, made from Marsanne andd Rousanne, are highly regarded.


A dried, squiggly black seaweed used in Japanese cooking. Its usually rehydrated before using. Hijiki is high in calcium.


A British term for Rhine wines. Its derived from the german wine town of Hochhheim.

Hoisin Sauce

Also known as Peking sauce. A reddish-brown sweet and spicy Chinese sauce reminiscent of barbecue sauce. It is made from soybeans and peppers and can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores.


Grape picking basket worn on the backs of French grape pickers. Its traditionally made of wood, but is also found in metal and plastic.


Ice Cream Soda

A beverage made of carbonated water, a flavored syrup, and a scoop or two of ice cream.

Ice Milk

A sorbet to which a small amount of milk has been added. It is lighter and icier than ice cream.


Jarlsberg Cheese

A Norwegian cow's milk cheese that is firm in texture and nutty in flavor. It is very similar to Swiss cheese.


A small green chile pepper that is mildly hot. They are named after Jalapa, the capital of Veracruz. Serrano peppers are a good substitute when there are no jalapenos on hand.

Jasmine Rice

A fragrant long grain rice from Thailand that is distinctly aromatic, soft and sticky when cooked. The length of each grain four to five times its width.


A bulbous, brown root with a crunchy white interior used in Latin American cooking. The sweet and nutty interior is great for crudite platters and salads. It can be found from May to November in many Mexican markets.


A Mexican style sour cream. It has equal or less fat content than the American sour cream. Some labels describe it as salted buttermilk, but its thicker; some call it a thin sour cream. The taste of jocoque ranges from mildly tangy to refreshingly sharp.


Kalamata Olives

Also Calamata. Purple-black Greek olives cured in vinegar.



An aromatic, dry looking grass used to add a pungent, lemony flavor to Asian dishes.

Lily Buds

Also called tiger lily bids or golden needles, dried day lily buds that are nutritious and sweet. They are used often in Chinese dishes.


Macadamia Nut

Also known as the Queensland nut, the macadamia is a fleshy white nut with a coconut-like flavor. In Asia, it it is used in savory soups and stews. In the US, the macadamia is used mostly in sweets. It has an extremely high fat content.


To soak a fruit in a liquer or wine. This softens the fruit while releasing its juices and absorbing the macerating liquid's flavor.


Also known as lamb's lettuce, corn salad, and field salad. It has small, rounded dark green leaves. Mache does not keep well and is best bought right before preparation. Its attractive leaves make a nice garnish.

Malted Milk Shake

A milk shake to which malted milk powder (a mixture if pure cow's milk and extracts of malted barley and wheat) is added.


To let food stand in a mixture called a marinade (such as a liquid, dry rub, or a paste) before cooking. Some marinades are meant for lending flavor; whereas, those that include an acid (lemon, wine, vinegar, and yogurt) are meant for tenderizing. Of course, some marinades do both.


A thick almond paste used in confectioneries. Marzipan is mainly used in cakes and pastries of the European tradition. It is also colored and sculpted into individual sweetmeats. The play dough-like consistency of marzipan makes it a great medium for garnish making. The Odense brand of Marzipan is readily available in most supermarkets for $6-$7. However, I have managed to find it at Ernie's Imports in Ingelwood, CA for only $3.98. You can also make marzipan at home. Here's a good recipe (you'll find many, many variations).
2 cups superfine sugar
4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
4 cups finely ground almonds
1 tablespoon rose water (or rum, brandy, whisky) optional
1 egg, lightly beaten
In a large bowl, combine the sugars and the almonds and mix thoroughly. make a well in the middle, add the rose water and most of the egg. Stir into a stiff paste. If its too dry add more egg. Work the mixture by hand and knead until well combined.

Masa Harina

Corn dough used mainly for tortillas and tamales. It is made by cooking dried corn kernels with calcium oxide, or limes, until the skins loosen. When the skin is removed, the corn is then ground into masa.

Mascarpone Cheese

An Italian cream cheese most often used in desserts. It is said to have originated in Lombardy in the 16th century. The name comes from the Spanish "mas que bono" (better than good). It has a soft and buttery consistency, resembling stiffly whipped cream. Mascarpone goes well with savory dishes as well as fruit and desserts. It is found in most supermarkets and Italian groceries. It can be expensive. Here is a recipe for a good substitute from the Stars Desserts cookbook.
4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon tartaric acid
Line a mesh strainer with a dish cloth folded over to make a double thickness. Rest the strainer over a bowl, making sure the strainer does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Set aside.
Heat the cream in a double boiler over medium high heat. When the cream reaches 180 degrees F, add the tartaric acid and stir for 30 seconds. Remove the cream from the stove and continue to stir for another 2 minutes.
Pour the cream into a lined strainer and refrigerate. When it is cold, cover it with plastic wrap. Let the cream sit in the refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours. It will become very thick and firm. The mascarpone will keep for a week in the refrigerator. Makes 2 cups.
Melba Sauce
This sauce is a combination of pureed and strained fresh raspberries, red currant jelly, sugar and cornstarch. It accompanies the dessert Peach Melba,but can also top ice cream, fruit, pound cakes and puddings. It was created by the famous French chef Auguste Escoffier for Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba.
Melba Toast
A thin and dry toast that usually accompanies soups and salads. It was created by Auguste Escoffier for opera singer DameNellie Melba (as was Melba sauce and Peach Melba).

Milk Chocolate

This is the most popular form of eating chocolate in the United States, probably because of its mild, mellow flavor. It has only 10% chocolate liquor and usually contains about 12% milk solids. Milk chocolate has a less robust flavor than sweet or semisweet.

Milk Shake

Milk, ice cream, and a syrup or other flavorings mixed in a blender until the ice cream is soft enough to be sipped through a straw.


A sweet Japanese rice wine related to sake used only in cooking. It adds a hint of sweetness to most dishes.

Mise en place

Literally "put in place" in French. Refers to the preparations for cooking, setting out bowls, pots, and pans and measuring, washing, peeling, and chopping and mincing ingredients.


Arabic gum; it can be found in most Mid-Eastern grocery stores. Its got a hard, crystalline texture and is usually ground before adding to a recipe.


Cuban seasoning mix made of garlic, olive oil, and sour oranges (usually Seville oranges). It is used as a dip, marinade, or sauce for vegeatbles and meats.


Also known as dark treacle. What is leftover in the sugar cane after the granulated sugar has been removed. It is very dark, thick, strong in flavor and aroma. It comes in light, dark, unsulfured, and blackstrap forms.


Mole is a spicy, rich Mexican sauce consisting of nuts, seeds, spices, chocolate, and peppers


A saltwater fish of which only the tail meat is eaten.


A frozen dessert consisting of either a flavored custard or a fruit puree lightened with whipped cream.



A soft unripened cheese originally from Neufchatel-en-Bray, France. It has a fat content of 44-48%. Philadelphia sells it as low-fat cream cheese in the U.S..


Literally "in the style of Nice (France)". The term srefers to the region's cooking, characterized by the use of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and brown-black olives.


The oval, brown, wrinkly seed of the nutmeg tree. It is grated to spice up both sweet and savory dishes. You can find it in cakes, custards, souffles, as well as meatballs and soups.


Follow these links to look up the nutritional value of a variety of fruits and vegetables.


One of the two types of sherry (the other being fino). Oloroso means fragrant in Spanish and these sherries have an intense bouquet. They are darker, higher in alcohol and fuller bodied than finos. Olorosos with added sweetners are called cream sherries.


Portugal's sweet dessert wines (ports). They are named after Oporto, Portugal's second largest city, on the Douro river.


Wine that has been in contact with air too long, causing it to darken and small stale.

Oyster Sauce

A bottled all-purpose Chinese seasoning made from oysters, water, salt,cornstarch, and caramel coloring.



An Italian cured meat made from the belly (pancia) of the big (the same cut used for bacon). It is salted but lightly spiced, but not smoked. You can buy it at Italian delis.


Crisp Indian wafers made of legume flour or both rice and legume flours. They are usually served with drinks or as a snack with such accompaniements as chopped onions, tomatoes, coriander, and chili.


Hungarian for sweet red pepper. A spicy seasoning ground from a sweet variety of red pepper. It is used to flavor ragouts, stuffings, sauces, and garnish.

Parchment Paper

A silicon based paper that can withstand high heat. It is especially nice to use with sugar and chocolate because they do not stick to the paper at all. Parchment paper can often be reused several times.


A dessert consisting of ice cream, layered with a dessert sauce, fruit, or liquer. In France, a parfait is a frozen dessert containing either whipped cream and Italian meringue or just whipped cream. Parfaits are traditionally served in tall, narrow, footed glasses.

Parmesan Cheese

A cow's milk cheese whose taste ranges from sweet to sharp. It is a hard cheese, most suitable for grating. Officially, only Parmigiano Reggiano from the Italian area of Emilia-Romagna may be called Parmesan. Asiago and Romano cheeses are good substitutes for Parmesan.
Peach Melba
A dessert created in the late 1800s by the famous French chef Escoffier for Dame Nellie Melba, a popular Australian opera singer. It's made with two peach halves that have been poached in syrup and cooled. Each peach half is placed hollow side down on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream, then topped with Melba sauce (a raspberry sauce) and sometimes with whipped cream and sliced almonds.

Pecorino Romano

The Pecorino cheeses are made from sheep's milk in Italy. Romano is the best known. Parmesan is a good Romano substitute.


Pesto is an Italian basil sauce. Many variations of this sauce exist including different nut based pestos, different herb based pestos, sun dried tomato pesto, and black olive pesto. Here is a basic low fat version:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon nonfat plain yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil, firmly packed
Place all ingredients in blender until almost smooth.
Pesto tastes great with pasta, pizza, bread, meats, risottos, or stirred into soups.

Philadelphia Ice Cream

Also called uncooked ice cream. An ice cream made without eggs, using various combinations of milk, cream, sugar, and flavorings like fruit. Its texture is grainier than that of custard based ice creams.

Pickapeppa Sauce

A sweet and sour, mild hot pepper sauce from Jamaica.

Pico de Gallo

Literally rooster's beak, a coarse uncooked tomato salsa (In Jalisco, Mexico it is a relish of oranges).

Pine Nuts

Also known as pignolias and pinon. The pine nut is the seed of the stone pine. They have a creamy look and a light "pine" taste. They are used often in Italian, Spanish, and Middle Eastern cooking.


Thin decoratively patterned Italian wafer cookies that are made in an iron similar to a waffle iron. They may be flat or rolled into ice cream cones.


Also known as machos. The plantain is a green skinned, pink fleshed banana which is usually flatter and longer than a regular banana. It also contains more starch and less sugar. It is usually eaten fried, mashed, or in stews in South American, African, and West Indian cuisine.


A coarse yellow cornmeal mush that is a staple of Northern Italy. As versatile as Souther nItaly's pasta, polenta can be served hot with various toppings. It can be molded, then cut into squares and fried or grilled.

Pomegranate Molasses

Also called pomegranate syrup, A Middle Eastern bottled condiment made from yellow sour pomegranates cooked with sugar, gives a fruity tangy flavor to savory dishes.

Porcini Mushrooms

Dried Cepes mushrooms found in most Italian markets. They are usually re-hydrated before used in cooking by soaking them in boiling water.

Portobello Mushroom

Also Portobella. A full grown cremini mushroom (a variation of regular button mushrooms). The name "portobello" began as a marketing ploy in the 1980's . Portobellos can easily measure 6 inches in diameter and have an open, flat cap. They have an earthy meaty flavor great in sandwiches and salads. They can be found in most produce sections.


The Italian word for ham, used in the names of raw hams coming from Italy, in particular Proscuitto di Parma and Proscuitto di San Daniele.



An ancient grain from the Andes, rich in protein, lysine, calcium, and iron. It is whitish, small and pearl shaped. Quinoa cooks like rice (at half the time) and expands to four times its original volume. Its flavor is delicate, plain, and has been compared to that of couscous. It can be included as main dish, a side dish, in soups, in salads and puddings. It can be found in most health food stores.


A stew made from poultry, game, fish, or vegetables cut into pieces and cooked-with or without first having been browned- in a thickened liquid, generally flavored with herbs and seasonings. There are two basic types of ragout: brown and white. For a brown ragout, the meat is first browned in fat, then sprinkled with flour, cooked a little, and finally moistened with clear stock or water (or thickened meat juices, if the meat has not been floured). For a white ragout, , the meat is cooked until firm, but not colored, then sprinkled with flour and diluted with stock.


Porcelain cups, often used to make souffles. They are usually white and can withstand high heat. Some good quality ones can be purchased at Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn.

Raw Sugar

Sugar that hasn't been refined enough to achieve a granulated quality. It looks like coffee crystals. This coarse sugar is harder to dissolve, making it a nice choice for sprinkling on foods.


Ricotta is a soft, unripened Italian curd cheese. It is the by product of the whey of other cheeses. It is sweet in flavor and grainy in texture. Ricotta is used often in Italian sweets (most notably Cassata alla Sicilian) and in savory dishes as pasta stuffing.

Ricotta Salata

A lightly salted sheep's milk cheese that has been pressed and dried. It is one of the best known Sicilian cheeses.


An important step in removing sediment from Champagne. Bottles are placed in racks and then turned by hand or machine over weeks or months until thay are upside down and the sediment has settled on top of the corks.

Roasted Garlic

Process: Cut the top third of the garlic head off and discard it. Drizzle the remainder with olive oil and put it in aluminum foil. Bake in a 400 degree F oven until edges of the garlic are caramelized (about 40 min.).
Roasting, Peeling, and Seeding a Bell Pepper

Many methods exist for roasting peppers. Among them are roasting them atop a stove, in an oven broiler, on a grill, and in hot oil. Using the broiler to roast peppers is my preferred method. I find it the least messy and lends itself to preparing large quantities. It is also the only one I have enough experience to explain in detail.


Preheat the oven broiler for 15 minutes. Place the peppers on the top rack (3-4 inches away from flame). Once a side has blackened., turn (with tongs, fork, towel, or other utensil). Repeat until all sides are blackened. If you are using this method for chili pepper, other than the bell pepper, you have to monitor closely so as only the skin and not the flesh of the pepper is charred. The bell pepper has a hardier skin and does not burn so easily.


Two different methods can be employed to peel a charred pepper. I personally prefer the first method.

Place the peppers in a plastic or paper bag. Fold over the top of the bag, so no steam can escape. This way the steam will build up between the flesh and the skin, making peeling even easier. When the pepper is cool enough to handle (20 minutes), take out of the bag and peel the rest by hand.


Submerge the charred pepper into a bowl of ice cold water. This will stop the cooking process and aid in the removal of the skin. Once the pepper is cool enough to handle, peel off the rest of the skin.


If you are going to be using the peppers whole, make a slit down one side, leaving a small space at both ends. Carefully remove the inside with a knife, small spoon, or one of those otherwise useless melon ballers.
Otherwise, just remove the stem, remove the seeds and veins with your fingers, and rinse the pepper under water. Sometimes, I seed the pepper before it is charred, with no real difference in the final result.

Rock Salt

A crystalline form of salt that is mixed with cracked ice to freeze ice cream.

Rose Water

An aromatic liquid made by distilling rose petals. It is used often in Middle Eastern pastries and can be found in many Middle-eastern groceries.

Royale, a la

Literally "in the royal style". Usually poached fish or poultry in a veloute sauce ( a white sauce of stock and cream thickened with butter and flour) with truffles.



A frothy custard of egg yolk, sugar, and wine that is made by whisking the ingredients over simmering water. Served warm as a dessert or sauce.


An extract from the tubers of orchids. It can be found in most Mid-Eastern markets. It can be quite expensive, but cornstarch may be substituted.
Also known as green onion. A bulbless onion with hollow green tops and a white base. It gives dishes a milder onion taste (and is not as abhorrent as chopping regular onions). It works very well in salads, but can also be used in cooked dishes.

Scotch Bonnet Chiles

One of the world's hottest peppers, about 30-50 times as hot as a jalapeno. They resemble walnuts in shape and size and range from green to orange in color. Wear gloves and don't touch your face (or other precious parts) when handling them.

Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

This is the chocolate most often called for in cake and cookie recipes. "Bittersweet" and "semisweet" are often used interchangeably, though bittersweet generally has more chocolate "liquor" (the paste formed from roasted, ground cocoa beans). Most semisweet chocolate contains at least 35% chocolate liquor, while some fine bittersweets contain 50% or more. Bittersweet and semisweet chocolate have a deep, smooth, intense flavor that comes from the blend of beans used rather than added dairy products. Sugar, vanilla, and cocoa butter are added to the liquor to lend an even richer taste.

Serrano Chiles

A hot chile pepper. It is both smaller and thinner than the jalapeno.


An onion variety that produces clusters of bulbs. Their flavor is slightly less intense than that of onions. Shallots are excellent for pickling.


A smooth frozen ice flavored with fruit and sugar or with a mixture of fruit, sugar, and milk or cream.


Also called Chinese, black or oriental mushroom (in its dried form). Shitake is a strongly flavored mushroom used in both its fresh and dried form.


A fine, mesh strainer.


A dark brown buckwheat noodle used in Northern Japanese cooking. Look for it in the Asian section of your supermarket.


A smooth frozen ice made with flavored liquids, either sweet or savory. Unlike sherbert, it never contains dairy products.

Sorrel leaves

Bright green leaves with a lemony flavor that soften when cooked.

Soy Sauce

A salty sauce composed mainly of soybeans, salt, yeast, wheat, and sugar. Its good for marinating meats and in sauces.


A fruit or wine based ice to which Italian meringue is added when ice is halfway frozen. Spooms are traditionally served in stemmed glasses.


Young, domesticated pigeon with dark meat (bird is usually about 4 weeks old and weighs one pound or less). It is often served rare.


A Middle Eastern spice that comes from the grated skin of a dark berry. It has a slightly acidic, astringent flavor.


A dessert of ice cream served with one or more toppings, such as flavored syrup, dessert sauce, nut, whipped cream, fruit, etc. It is said to have originated in Massachusetts when a law prohibiting the sale of all soft beverages on Sunday was passed. An enterprising soda jerk combined ingredients of an ice cream soda but omitted the carbonated beverage to make a "sundae".

Superfine Sugar

Also called Caster sugar. It is pulverized granulated sugar. It can be bought or prepared at home by whizzing some granulated sugar in the blender.

Sweet chocolate

Very similar in composition to semisweet chocolate, sweet chocolate simply has more sugar added and less chocolate liquor. It's sold on grocery shelves in the baking section. For people with a real sweet tooth, sweet chocolate can be substituted for semisweet in recipes without a significant change in texture.


Tabasco Sauce

A hot sauce comprised solely of vinegar, red pepper, and salt.


An oily paste made from ground sesame seeds. A sweetened dark variety also exists. It can be found in health food stores and the ethnic section of most grocery stores.

Tamarind Paste

A vitamin-rich, tangy, prune like pulp from the pods of a tropical Asian tree. It is used as a seasoning in curries and chutneys or made into drinks, jams, or sorbets.

Toasting Nuts

Toasting nuts brings the oils closer to the surface, bringing out the flavor. This is especially useful in low fat cooking, where you want to use less nuts, since they tend to be extremely high in fat. Toasting also makes removing the skins off of nuts easier.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In an ungreased cookie sheet, spread the nuts in a single layer and let bake for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven. If you want to remove the skins from nuts, wrap the toasted nuts in a kitchen towel. Let the nuts steam for 5 minutes. Roll the nuts around (while still in towel) until skins rub off.


A soybean curd that comes white cheese like square. Its usually stored in water. It shows up a lot in Oriental and vegetarian cooking.


Small, green, firm, tomatoes. They are covered with a paper like husk that's removed before cooking. Their acid flavor add a great flavor for sauces.


Mexican pancakes that are either made of flour or masa harina (ground corn). They make an excellent foundation for all sorts of fillings. Enchiladas are softened tortillas that are filled and rolled. Tacos are fried tortillas.


A rhizome that is often dried and ground. It is often used to spice and color dishes (bright yellow). It is used mainly in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking.


Unsweetened chocolate

(also called baking chocolate): You don't eat unsweetened chocolate. It has no added sugar and is generally composed of 55% cocoa butter and 45% chocolate mass from the bean. It has an intense chocolate flavor that has to be tempered by sugar and other ingredients



A cold potato and leek soup thickened with cream and garnished with chives. The term is now applied to many other tuber-based soups.



These nuts are native to Asia and grow on walnut trees inside green pods which turn brown and wood like when they dry.

Walnut Oil

The oil extracted from the walnut. It can be quite expensive and goes rancid quicker than most oils. However, it gives most foods a wonderful nutty flavor whether you cook with or drizzle it. Use it on greens, pasta, or vegetables.


Also called Japanese horseradish, a pungent green paste made from a rhizome of the watercress family.

Water bath

Bain marie in French. A method of gently cooking delicate foods such as custards, on the stove or in the oven in a pan partially fillled with water.


(n.)A mixing tool designed so its many strands of looped wire make it effective for beating.
(v.)To beat with a whisk until well mixed.

White Chocolate

White "chocolate" doesn't contain a drop of chocolate. But it does have cocoa butter, from which it gets its faintly chocolaty flavor. The cocoa butter is blended with milk and sugar to form the creamy confection, which is used for both eating and cooking.

Worcestershire Sauce

A spicy sauce composed mainly of water, vinegar, molasses, corn syrup, anchovies, spices and flavorings. Its good for marinating meats. It also helps flavor some sauces, but should be used sparingly, as it has a very strong flavor. A good one to try is Lea & Perrins.




A leavening agent used in doughs and batters. It usually comes in a dry, bead like form (which can be compressed into cakes), although it also exists in a fresh form. It is best activated at a temperature of 110 degrees F to 115 degrees F (the temperature of a baby bottle or a comfortable bath). Anything too cold won't activate it, too hot will kill it.

Yogurt Cheese

Yogurt cheese can be eaten as a lowfat cream cheese substitute or as is most common as a lowfat alternative in baking. The final quality of the yogurt cheese is largely dependent on the yogurt you start out with, so try to use a good quality one. Considerable amounts of fat and calories can be cut out by using a low fat yogurt (use one without gelatin, like Dannon). To make: Pour yogurt into a cheesecloth and either let it hang over the kitchen sink or over a bowl. If you drain it over a bowl, you can do it in the refrigerator. Drain overnight. When the yogurt is firm, remove from the bag and transfer it to a separate container. Discard the liquid. Yogurt cheese keeps (refrigerated) for up to 1 week. Six cups of yogurt makes 2 cups of yogurt cheese.



An herb mixture composed of savory, thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. A prepared mixture of this herb mixture can be found at most Middle Eastern groceries. However, be aware that the quality of zaatar can differ greatly.


An Italian custard like dessert made solely of egg yolks, sugar, and (traditionally) Marsala wine.


The rind of citrus fruit (most commonly orange, grapefruit, lime, and lemon). The rind of the fruit contains oils if essence that lend a nice flavor to the final dish. It is commonly candied or crystallized for pastry use. When zesting, be careful NOT to include the white pith, as that adds a bitter taste.


A Polish sausage.