Food Dictionary

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Adjust the seasoning: To taste the dish before serving to determine the need for salt, herbs, or other seasonings.

Al dente: An Italian phrase meaning "to the tooth", used to describe pasta or any other food that is cooked only until it offers some resistance between the teeth as you bite it.


Bain Marie: Also called double-boiler. A hot-water bath cooking technique using 2 pans to gently cook foods. Hot water is placed in the bottom pan over the heat source, while the food to be cooked is nestled in the top pan. This allows gentle cooking without scorching.

Beat: (verb) To mix thoroughly with a spoon, whisk, or beaters until smooth and well combined.

Beurre manié [pronounced burr mahn-YAY]: A paste made with softened butter and flour (usually in equal parts) that is used to thicken sauces. The beurre manié (French for "kneaded butter”) must be added slowly to a hot or warm liquid, so that the butter melts and releases the flour particles without creating lumps (which would happen if stirring in just the flour).

Blanch: (verb) To plunge raw food into boiling water briefly, then into cold water to stop the cooking process. The purpose may be to do one of the following: to soften or partially cook, to loosen skins, to heighten and set colour and flavour, to reduce a pungent flavour, or to cook completely.

Blender: A small electrical appliance with short rotating blades used to chop, blend, purée and liquefy foods. The hand-held "immersion" type is the most practical, since it may be immersed right into a pot of soup (or other mixture) to chop or purée the contents.

Broth: A flavourful liquid resulting from slowly cooking meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables in water. It is often used instead of water to cook food, or as a base for sauces and soups. The easiest way to prepare a broth is to dilute some concentrated broth or cubes with boiling water: just follow the instructions on the package.

Brown: (verb) To cook quickly over high heat at the beginning or end of a preparation in order to enhance flavour, texture, and appearance.

Bulb Baster: A kitchen utensil that assists with basting, which is a method of moistening food during the cooking process. Basting is most often used when cooking meat. The head of the bulb baster is squeezed, creating a partial vacuum, and then the stem is inserted into the juices at the bottom of the pan. When the pressure is released on the bulb, the juices are drawn into the stem so they can be transferred over and around the meat, adding flavour and creating a glaze.

Butterfly: (verb) To split a food down the center, cutting almost but not entirely through it. The two parts are then opened flat to resemble a butterfly shape.


Casserole: Refers to both a baking dish and the ingredients it contains. A "casserole dish" usually is a deep, round, ovenproof container with handles and a tight-fitting lid. It can be made of glass, metal, ceramic or any other heatproof material. A casserole's ingredients can include meat, vegetables, beans, rice, and is often topped by cheese or breadcrumbs.

Chipotle: A chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeño pepper that tends to be brown and shriveled. A key ingredient of Mexican and Mexican-inspired cuisines, chipotle imparts a relatively mild but earthy spiciness to many dishes. It is currently stored in a red sauce (adobo) of tomato puree and onions, and sold in small cans. You can find it in any grocery store that carries ethnic food.

Chop: (verb) To cut into irregular pieces (either finely or coarsely).

Coat: (verb) To evenly cover food with flour or crumbs. An easy way to do this is to pour some flour or crumbs into a shallow dish or on a paper towel to allow room to turn the food and spread the coating on all sides.

Coat the back of a spoon: (verb) A technique used to test the doneness of cooked, egg-based sauces and custards, i.e. the sauce is done when it leaves an even path on the spoon when finger is drawn.

Colander: A perforated, bowl-shaped container used for draining liquid from solids, It can be made of metal, plastic, or ceramic.

Corer: A knife or other instrument designed to remove the core from fruit or vegetables. It is usually made of stainless steel and comes in different shapes. An all-purpose corer has a medium-length shaft with a circular cutting ring at the end.

Court-bouillon [pronounced: Coor-BOO-Eey-OHN]: A vegetable broth used for poaching fish and seafood. For fish, make sure to add the fish to cold broth. Alternately, seafood is plunged into boiling broth. Ready-to-use dehydrated court-bouillon is available in cubes or bags.

Coulis [pronounced koo-LEE]: A general term referring to a thick purée or sauce, such as a raspberry coulis.

Cream: (verb) To beat one or more ingredients until the mixture is soft, homogeneous, and smooth, i.e. "creamy", showing neither separation nor evidence of any particles.


Deep-fry: (verb) To cook food in hot, liquid fat, with the food totally submerged

Deglaze: (verb) To pour liquid into a skillet after food has been sautéed or fried. By heating and stirring the browned residues on the bottom are dissolved.

Demi-glace: A rich sauce made of beef stock, vegetables, herbs, and roux slowly cooked (3 to 5 hours over very low heat) until it's reduced by half to a thick glaze. The term comes from the French word glace, which, when used in reference to sauces, meaning icing or glaze. The intense flavour of demi-glace is used as a base for many other sauces. Ready-to-use demi-glace sauce may be bought at the meat counter (refrigerated), or in a packet, which can be found in the non-perishables section of the grocery store. Demi-glace keeps for about 3 months in the refrigerator or up to 9 months in the freezer.

Devein: (verb) To remove the intestinal vein of a shrimp or other crustaceans. The gray-black vein on the back of the shrimp may be removed with the tip of a sharp knife or using a special instrument, called a deveiner. It is important to devein large shrimp because their veins contain grit; for small and medium shrimp, this technique is not necessary but may be done for esthetic purposes.



Finely: Very small, as in finely chopped, but not as small as minced.

Fish stock: Also called "fumet" [pronounced: foo-MAY]: A concentrated stock made from fish bones and heads, slowly cooked with aromatic vegetables. It is used to poach fish and seafood or to add flavour to sauces. Ready-to-use fumet is available in concentrated powder or cubes.

Food mill: A kitchen utensil used to mash cooked food such as potatoes or soups. By using a hand-turned paddle to force food through a strainer plate at the bottom, skin, seeds, and fibre are removed.

Food processor: An electrical appliance with a closed container and interchangeable blades that can chop, blend, shred, purée, or otherwise process food at high speed.

Fry: (verb) To cook food in fat that does not cover the food over moderate to high heat (also called pan fry) or sauté when particularly quick.


Garlic press: A kitchen utensil used to press a garlic clove through small holes, extracting both pulp and juice. Cloves do not need to be peeled, but the press must be cleaned right after using it, before any garlic fragments left in the tool dry. Some press models contain teeth that push any remaining fragments back out through the holes, making cleaning much easier.


Herbes de Provence: Is a mixture of dried herbs typical of Provence, used to flavour grilled foods, as well as stews. Typically it contains savory, fennel, basil, thyme, and other herbs.



Julienne: (verb) To cut food into long thin matchlike strips, approximately 3 mm wide and 4-5 cm long; Julienne - Foods that have been cut into thin, matchstick strips (most often used as a garnish or in soups).




Macerate: (verb) To soak fruit or other food in liquid to infuse it with its flavour.

Mallet: A tool usually made with a sturdy handle and a striking surface used to flatten thin cuts of meat or poultry. Also called a meat pounder.

Mandolin: A hand-operated slicing and cutting apparatus, used to cut fruits and vegetables evenly.

Marinade: A seasoned liquid, often containing an acid, in which meat, fish, or vegetables are soaked (marinated) before cooking.

Marinate: (verb) To soak meat, fish, or vegetables in a seasoned liquid mixture (marinade) in order to absorb its flavours or, in the case of a tough cut of meat, to tenderize. Because most marinades are acid, this operation should be done in a glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel container — never in aluminum.

Melon baller: A small, bowl-shaped tool used to cut oval- or round-shaped pieces of melon, or other fruits and vegetables, mostly for decoration.

Mesclun (also called salad mix): Is a potpourri of young, small salad greens.

Muffin pan (also called muffin tin): A special baking pan with 6 or 12 cup-shaped depressions that hold the muffin or any individual cakes. Each standard cup is about 7 cm in diameter.

Mixer: Any of various electrical appliances used to beat, mix, whisk or whip foods. There are two major kinds: stationary (or stand) and portable (or hand-held). The stand ones are more powerful, but they also take up more counter space. Portable ones can be used anywhere, mainly on smaller tasks, since their motor is small.



Olive Paste: A spread made with pureed olives and olive oil. Good prepared olive paste, imported from Italy, France or Greece, is available at gourmet and specialty stores. The homemade version is made by finely chopping, crushing or blending good quality pitted olives (e.g. Kalamata), then adding olive oil until the mixture becomes a paste. Whether homemade or commercial, olive paste will keep for a couple of months in the refrigerator.


Pan fry: (verb) To brown and cook foods in fat using a shallow pan, where the fat does not completely cover the food. See fry.

Parchment Paper: A moisture and grease-resistant paper used to wrap foods to be baked or to line baking pans.

Pastry Blender: A kitchen utensil that is used for combining (cutting) fat (usually butter) into a flour mixture. It evenly distributes the tiny pieces of fat without warming the dough (as hand kneading does). A typical blender consists of 5-6 sturdy steel tines, parallel and U-shaped, both ends of which are attached to a wooden handle.

Peaks: The mounds made in a mixture when whipped. Peaks are "stiff" if they stay upright or "soft" if they curl over.

Pesto: Uncooked sauce made with crushed or finely chopped garlic, pine nuts, and fresh basil, mixed with olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese to make a paste. It originated in the Italian region of Liguria, around Genoa. It is used on a variety of dishes, and a favourite on pasta.

Potato ricer: A kitchen utensil resembling a big garlic press, used to mash cooked food such as potatoes. A lever-operated plunger is pushed down against the food, forcing it out through tiny holes in the bottom of the container. The result is food that somewhat resembles grains of rice.

Pressure cooker: A pressurized cooking pot in which food is cooked at temperatures above the boiling point by steam maintained under pressure. Since the food is cooked at a very high temperature, its cooking time is reduced by as much as two-thirds, without destroying its nutritional value. This reinforced metal pot has a locking airtight lid, a valve system to regulate internal pressure and a safety valve, which will automatically vent the steam should there be a malfunction.

Prick: (verb) To make small holes in the surface of a food, usually using the prongs of a fork.

Pulse: Brief, repeated on-off actions used with food processors and blenders.



Ramekin: A small baking dish resembling a soufflé dish, between 7 and 8 cm in internal diameter and about 2/3 cup volume, used for individual servings.

Ras-el-hanout: A spice blend, also known as "couscous spice", which is a combination of up to 50 ingredients. It is often used in couscous recipes. «Ras-el-hanout» means «head of the shop», because shop owners create their own unique blend, sometimes also including aphrodisiacs, but most commonly cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, anise, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, dried flowers, mace, and turmeric.

Reduce: (verb) To evaporate a significant amount of a stock or sauce, leaving behind a richly flavoured concentrated liquid, called a reduction.

Ribbon: A term used to describe the texture of an egg-and-sugar mixture, that has been beaten until pale and thick. When the whisk or beater is held up over the bowl, the batter falls slowly onto the batter, in a ribbon-like pattern, that disappears after a few seconds.

Rice sticks: Also called rice-flour noodles, are very thin Asian noodles resembling long, translucent white hairs, that can be cooked in a variety of ways.

Rolling Pin: A cylindrical kitchen utensil mostly used to roll pastry. It can be used also to crush bread crumbs and flatten other foods.

Roux: A mixture of butter and flour, in equal quantity amounts, blended and cooked over low heat until the desired consistency or colour is reached. It is used for thickening sauces and soups.


Sabayon: Foamy dessert made by beating together egg yolks, wine or other spirits, and sugar. This whisking is done over a bain-marie so that the egg yolks cook as they thicken into a light custard. Sabayon is a French name derived from the Italian zabaglione.

Sauté: (verb) To cook quickly in a small amount of oil, in a skillet or sauté pan.

Scald: (verb) To heat a liquid to a temperature just below the boiling point.

Sear: (verb) To brown a food quickly on all sides using high heat to enhance colour and flavour.

Season: (verb) To enhance a food's flavour by adding salt and/or pepper, herbs, and other spices.

Shred: (verb) To cut, slice, or tear into thin strips.

Simmer: (verb) To cook gently just below the boiling point. If the food starts boiling, the heat is too high and should be reduced.

Slow Cooker: A countertop electrical cooking appliance that cooks food with low, steady, moist heat. It consists of a lidded round or oval cooking pot made of glazed ceramic or porcelain, surrounded by a housing, usually metal, containing a thermostatically controlled electric heating element. This appliance uses up to 80% less energy than a regular stove. The slow cooker is also known as a Crock-Pot (a trademark often used generically).

Soft Peaks: A term used to describe beaten egg whites or cream. When the beaters are removed, soft peaks curl over and droop rather than stand straight up.

Steam: (verb) A method of cooking foods in a basket over hot liquid, usually water. While the heat cooks the food, the vapour keeps it moist.

Stew: (verb) To cook food in liquid for a long time until tender.

Stiff Peaks: A term describing the consistency of beaten egg whites or cream. When the beaters are removed from the mixture, the stiff peaks will stand up straight.

Stir: (verb) To move foods around using a spoon or a spatula in a circular motion.

Stir-fry: (verb) To cook quickly over high heat with a small amount of oil and constant stirring.

Strain: (verb) To pass a liquid through a colander, sieve, or cheese cloth to remove solid particles.

Strainer: Also called a sieve, is a kitchen utensil with a perforated bottom used to strain liquids or semi-liquids, or to sift dry ingredients such as flour or icing sugar.

Stuff: (verb) To fill a food cavity with another type of food, often chopped or minced.

Sumac: Dark purple-red berries with a pleasantly fruity, astringent taste (similar to lemon). They are very much present in the Middle-Eastern cuisine, complementing everything from fish to meat to vegetables. Sumac is an essential component of the Fattouche salad. It is sold ground or in its dried-berry form.

Sweat: (verb) To cook foods over low heat, usually partly covered, until moisture is released.


Tagine: Refers to both a traditional baking dish hailing from North Africa and any stews cooked in it.

Tahini [pronounced tah-HEE-nee]: A thick paste made of ground sesame seeds, used in the Middle Eastern cuisine to flavour dishes such as Hummus and Baba Ghanoush.

Toss: (verb) To combine ingredients by gently turning over until blended.



Vegetable Oil Spray: A spray form of various types of oils, combined with an emulsifier and a propellant. Since it dispenses a very fine mist of oil, it provides fewer calories per serving than an application of vegetable oil poured from a bottle; hence it is ideal for low-fat cooking. A two second spray provides about 1,6 g of fat compared to 4 g found in one teaspoon of butter. A variety of oils are offered commercially in ready-to-use cooking sprays. As an alternative, one may fill a spray bottle with the preferred oil, or apply a thin coating with a brush or piece of wax paper.


Wax Paper, Waxed Paper: Translucent paper coated on both sides with a thin layer of wax. It is used for lining baking pans and covering food in the microwave.

Whip: (verb) To beat an ingredient to incorporate air, augment volume, and add substance.

Whisk: (verb) To mix to a specified state with a wire beater, also called a whisk.

Wok: A round-bottomed cooking utensil popular in Asian cuisine, used for various cooking techniques.




Zest: The thin outermost coloured skin of citrus fruit which can be removed with the aid of a «citrus zester» or a vegetable peeler. Only the coloured portion, which contains aromatic oils, should be removed and used, leaving behind the bitter white pith. The zest is used to add flavour to sweet or savory dishes.

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