culinary terms

al dente (al-Den-tay)
In Italian the phrase means "to the tooth" and is a term used to describe the correct degree of doneness when cooking pasta and vegetables. The food should have a slight resistance when biting into it, but should not be soft or overdone or have a hard centre.

To tie some type of fat (bacon or fatback) around what you are cooking to prevent it from drying out while roasting. Often used with fowl or extremely lean meats, barding bastes the meat while it is cooking, thus keeping it moist.

To spoon, brush, or squirt a liquid ( meat drippings, stock, barbecue sauce, melted butter) on food while it cooks to prevent drying out and to add flavour.

braise (BRAYZ)
A cooking method where meat or vegetables are first browned in butter and/or oil, then cooked in a covered pot in a small about of cooking liquid at low heat for a long period of time. This slow cooking process both tenderizes the food by breaking down their fibres and creates a full flavoured dish.

bouquet garni
A little bundle of herbs, tied together or placed together in a piece of cheesecloth, used to enhance the flavour of a soup or stew. The classic combination of herbs is parsley, thyme, and bay leaf, but I like to add different herbs that I think will go with dish.

Comes from the French word caboche, a colloquial term for head. The most common cabbage is the tight leafed compact head that ranges in colour from white to red although there are many other types of cabbage varying in size in shape worth trying. Cabbage can be cooked or eaten raw as in cole slaw. When buying, look for heads that appear heavier than their size with crisp leaves. The cabbage family also includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.

cannellini bean (kan-eh-LEE-nee)
A large white Italian kidney bean that's great in soups and stews.

canola oil
The market name for rapeseed. As the most popular oil in Canada, the name was changed to protect the innocent. Now popular in the US because it only contains about 6% of saturated fat. Also it contains more monosaturated fat than any oil other than olive oil as well as Omega-3 fatty acids... thought to help lower cholesterol. It doesn't have much of a taste and should be used for cooking (high smoking point) and salad dressings.

cole slaw
Coming from the Dutch term, koolsla, which means "cool cabbage", it's a salad made with shredded cabbage mixed with mayonnaise as well as a variety of other ingredients.

cut in
When a solid fat such as butter is mixed with a dry ingredient like flour until they form into small particles. I would use a food processor fitted with a metal blade and just pulse it. You can also use your trusty fingers to do the job.

demi-glace (DEHM-ee glahs)
A rich brown sauce made from reduced veal and beef stock that is used to make classic sauces. This is the stuff that gives those sauces you are served at fancy restaurants that velvety texture and sheen.

dredge (DREHJ)
When you lightly coat food to be pan fried or sautéed typically with flour, cornmeal, or breadcrumbs.

From the French word for "melt", the term could refer to food cooked in a communal pot at the table or to finely chopped veggies that have been slowly cooked to a pulp and used as a garnish.

Is a French word for a mixture of chocolate and heavy cream, used as an icing or filling for pastries, filled chocolates, or other desserts. Its origins date to circa 1850, possibly invented in Switzerland or in France (perhaps Paris).
Ganache is made by boiling heavy cream, then pouring it over chopped chocolate. The mixture is stirred or blended until smooth.
Depending on the intended usage of the ganache, the proportions of chocolate to cream can vary. Typically, a ganache is equal parts chocolate and cream. However, a higher ratio for chocolate is common, 2:1 or 3:1 (chocolate to cream). Ganache is often flavoured with liqueurs or extracts.

A stock that has been reduced to a syrupy consistency and used to add flavour and colour to a sauce.

gremolada (greh moh Lah dah)
An Italian garnish consisting of minced garlic, parsley, lemon rind, and sometimes shredded basil. It is most often used in garnishing osso buco.

n early gift from the American Indians, hominy is dried corn kernels which have had the hulls and germ removed either mechanically or chemically.

To mix and work dough into a pliable mass either manually or with a mixer/food processor. When done by hand, you press the dough with the heels of your hands, fold in half, give a quarter turn, and replete until smooth and elastic.

Shaped like a fat finger, it is a delicate sponge cake that is used for making desserts like Tiramisu and Charlottes. You can usually purchase them in bakeries, supermarkets, or specialty markets.

mesclun (MEHS-kluhn)
A combination of fancy, young salad greens once hard to find but now popular and available prewashed in the produce section of your supermarket in the Bag O Salad section. The mix usually contains a combination of arugula, dandelion, frisee, mizuma, oak leaf, radicchio and sorrel.

meuniére (muhn-YAIR)
A fancy French name for "miller's wife" and refers to the cooking technique used. In this case, fish is seasoned with salt and pepper and then dredged with flour and sautéed in butter.

mirepoix (mihr-PWAH)
A mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery and herbs that has been sautéed in butter or oil and used to season soups and stews. Sometimes mirepoix will contain diced prosciutto or ham to enhance flavour.

mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs)
This technique is IMPORTANT and one that's hardest to get novice cooks to stick with. It's a French term for having all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before starting you start cooking. That means everything is cleaned, peeled, chopped, diced, measured out, whatever's necessary to get the ingredients ready prior to preparing your dish. Many of us, me included, start cooking and prepping at the same time. A big NO NO. Try to get into the habit of mis en place.

Mongolian Hot Pot
A sort of Chinese fondue, this giant communal pot contains a simmering stock where diners cook a variety of raw, thinly sliced meats and vegetables.

To completely cover food with a light coating of sauce so that it forms a thin, even layer.

orzo (OHR-zoh)
I n Italian means barley, but it is really a pasta that is shaped like rice. I like to substitute it for rice in salads like my Seafood Orzo Salad but it is also great in soups.

Osso buco (AW-soh BOO-koh)
I n Italian means bone with a hole and that's where this dish derives its name. The hole is filled with marrow and some consider it a delicacy while others shy away from it. This Italian dish is made with gelatinous veal shanks that are braised with fresh vegetables and rich stock. This dish comes from Milan in Italy's northern region of Lombardy. The area is known for dairy farming with veal being a natural by-product. Osso buco is simple and delicious meal that is often served with Gremolada.

rom the Italian city of Bologna, this long ribbon pasta measures from 6 - 10 inches long and anywhere from 1/2" to 1" wide and is great with hardy sauces because of its larger surface. It's usually homemade but is starting to show up more and more in gourmet stores and supermarkets. If your local gourmet store doesn't carry it, ask them. They are usually accommodating.

pesto (PEH stoh)
An uncooked sauce that can also be used as condiment from Genoa, Italy and usually contains fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil although I've made it with arugula, sundried tomatoes, and cilantro. I make mine with a food processor, but it is often made by hand with a mortar and pestle.

pine nut
Also called pignoli or Italian nut, pine nuts come from, you guessed it, pine trees. The nut is extracted from the cone usually with heat and is highly labour intensive thus expensive. they have a high fat content and should be stored in airtight containers in your refrigerator. They have a wonderful flavour especially when toasted.

pistou (pees-TOO)
T the French version of Italy's pesto without the pine nuts or parsley.

pomme de terre
Translated from French, it means "apple of the earth", but refers to the potato. Usually seen as pommmes frits or French Fries.

posole - (poh-SOH-leh)
A a traditional Mexican dish from the pacific coast region of Jalisco. A thick soup that's usually made with pork, hominy, garlic, onion, chilli peppers, cilantro, and broth.

purée  n.
Any food that is mashed to a thick, smooth consistency. puree v. the action of mashing a food until it has a thick, smooth consistency usually done by a blender or food processor.

natural enzyme obtained from the stomach of young cows that is used to curdle milk when making cheese.

A mixture of flour and fat that is cooked over low heat and used to thicken soups and sauces. There are three types of roux...white, blond, and brown. White and blond roux are both made with butter and used in cream sauces while brown roux can be made with either butter or the drippings from what you are cooking and is used for darker soups and sauces.

An extremely expensive yellow-orange spice made from the stigmas of purple crocus. Think about this, each crocus produces only three stigmas which are hand picked and dried. It takes 14,000 of these tiny stigmas to produce an ounce of saffron. When buying choose the whole threads over the powder form and store in an air tight container in a cool dark place . Saffron is used for flavouring but was once used for medicinal purposes as well as dying clothes.

To make shallow cuts into the surface of foods such as fish, meat, or chicken breasts to aid in the absorption of a marinade, to help tenderize, and/or to decorate.

To cook food in liquid gently over low heat. You should see tiny bubbles just breaking the surface of the liquid.

smoking point
The point when a fat such as butter or oil smokes and lets off an acrid odour. Not good since this odour can get into what you are cooking and give it a bad flavour. Butter smokes at 350° F, vegetable oil at 445° F, lard at 365°-400°F , olive oil at about 375° F.

To cook slowly over low heat in butter, usually covered, without browning.

tapenade (ta pen AHD)
A a thick paste made from capers, anchovies, olives, olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. This delicious condiment originated in France's Provence region.

A British dish consisting of a Yorkshire Pudding batter and cooked link sausages. When baked, the batter puffs up around the sausages giving the appearance of "toads in the hole".

Worcestershire sauce
Developed in India by the British, this dark, spicy sauce got its name from the city where it was first bottled...Worcester, England. Used to season meats, gravies, and soups, the recipe includes goy sauce, onions, molasses, lime, anchovies, vinegar, garlic, tamarind, as well as other spices.

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