This Glossary contains terms, items, techniques, and places that may be new to you. If there is anything you don’t understand in my posts, please let me know and I’ll add the definition here!
2-Tiered Fire: Building a fire in a barbecue with most of the hot coals on one side of the grill. This way you can cook either on “high” or “low” heat. You typically start on the hot side to get grill marks and sear the outside, then transfer to the cooler side to finish cooking. Turning the items ensures more even cooking. 2-tiered cooking is especially important for larger pieces of meat.
Acorn Squash: A winter squash that is delicious when baked or roasted. In the shape of an acorn with a dark green rind, select one heavy for its size.
a la minute: (a lah min-oot) a French phrase used to describe something that is cooked to order.
al dente: (all-den-tay) An Italian phrase that literally means “to the tooth” or to have some resistance when you bite down on the pasta. Pasta should never be too soft or mushy.
Alternating Dry and Wet Ingredients: In baking, when you add the dry ingredients first, the fat in the creamed mixture starts to coat the flour particles which helps avoid the development of gluten. Ending with dry ingredients helps absorb any excess moisture in the batter.
Amuse-bouche: (amooz-boosh) Literally “amuse the mouth” in French, it is a small bite of food, a gift from the chef, delivered as you sit down in a fine restaurant.
Andouille Sausage: (ahn-doo-ee) A pork sausage seasoned with peppers and garlic, it is usually smoked for hours over pecan wood and sugar cane, giving it a unique flavor. Depending on the producer, it can range from mildly spicy to screaming hot.
Baguette: (bag-et) A long, slender loaf of bread. Typically made in traditional French bread style, they can also be seeded or sourdough.
Bechamel Sauce: (besh-a-mell) A creamy white sauce made from butter, flour, and milk. Considered one of the five “Mother” sauces (sauces used as the base for hundreds of variations). Cook the flour in the butter until the raw aroma is gone, stirring to be sure there are no lumps. Remove the pan from the heat, slowly whisk in the milk or other liquid, being certain all the flour has been dissolved. Return the pan to the heat and boil until the sauce is thick and creamy.
Beignet: (ben-yay) Similar to doughnuts, but made without cutting a hole in the center. Deep fried and doused in copious amounts of confectioners’ sugar, they are a special treat in New Orleans.
Braise: (brayz) A method of cooking where the food is first sautéed or seared in oil, and then liquid is added and the heat reduced. With the pot covered, the food cooks gently, preserving its flavor and nutrients, resulting in very tender proteins. Especially effective for tougher cuts of meat.
Brie: (bree) A soft, mild, creamy cow’s cheese named for the region in Northern France where is was originally made. It has a white mould rind that is typically eaten along with the soft center.
Brioche / Baba / Kuglehopf / Savarin: (bree-ohsh/bah-bah/koogle-hoff/sav-are-ann) They are all related breads baked in a deep round, fluted pan with a center funnel. Brioche is a rich, buttery egg bread. Baba or Babka is a sweet yeast cake even richer than brioche. A kugelhopf is a delicate yeast cake, less sweet than a Baba. Savarin, also called a rum baba or Baba au Rhum, is a traditional baba saturated most often in rum.
Brown Sugar: Raw sugar or natural brown sugar, is the result of the first crystallization of sugar cane. Turbinado and Demerara sugars are crystallized cane sugar that has been spun in a centrifuge to remove water and some impurities. Muscovado is unrefined dark brown natural sugar that has been heated to thicken it and evaporated in the sun to produce a sugar with all its natural minerals. Common Light Brown and Dark Brown sugars are granulated white sugar that has molasses added back in. Because of brown sugar’s moisture content you need to press it firmly to get an accurate volume measurement.
Bruising Herbs: Gently crushing the leaves between your fingers to release their oils. It increases their potency and flavor.
Capers: (cape-ers) Capers are the flower buds of a plant native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. They are dried and then pickled in brine. They have a naturally tangy lemon flavor, similar to green olives. They range in size from tiny (like petite peas) to the size of small olives. I prefer the smaller size. They can be used in salads, dressings, sauces, vegetables, and other dishes.
Carry-over cooking: Food continues to cook after it has been removed from the burner due to residual heat in the pan. You should take this into consideration so that your foods do not over-cook. This residual heat is the reason you shock certain foods in an ice bath, particularly vegetables, to stop the cooking process.
Charcuterie: (shar-coot-air-ee) The branch of cooking devoted to prepared meats such as ham, sausage, pates, terrines, confit, etc. Can also refer to the cold cooked meats prepared in this manner.
Chez Panisse: (shay-pan-eess) An internationally known restaurant in Berkeley, CA. Founded by Alice Waters, one of the leaders of eating local, organic, seasonal products. Chez Panisse has given us some of this country’s best chefs and pastry chefs including, Jonathan Waxman (Top Chef Masters contestant), Mark Miller (Coyote Cafe/Santa Fe), Suzanne Goin (Lucques and Top Chef Masters contestant), Paul Bertolli, David Lebovitz, Lindsey Shere, Mark Peel (Campanille), and Judy Rogers (Zuni Cafe).
Chicken Base: Broth that has been cooked down until flavor is very concentrated. Also comes in beef, veal, turkey, and pork flavors.
Chiffonade: (shif-oh-nod) Slicing foods into thin ribbon-like threads. Most often used when referring to sliced herbs.
Chipotle: (chih-poht-lee) A smoked and dried jalapeño pepper. When stored in a vinegar-based liquid it is called “en Adobo”.
Chop vs. Mince: Chopped foods are cut fairly coarse into medium-sized squares. Sometimes there is additional clarification such as a rough chop which is even bigger, about 1-inch pieces. Mincing is a very fine chop, with pieces about 1/4-inch or smaller. These will effectively melt into whatever you are cooking.
Cilantro: (see-lahn-troh) A bright green herb, it is the leaves and stems of the coriander plant. Widely used in Asian, Caribbean and Latin American cooking, its distinctive flavor is often combined with spicy foods. Store in the refrigerator, upright in a jar with water, draped with a plastic bag.
Cinnamon: There is a surprising array of ground cinnamon available today. Buying a high quality, fresh bottle is a secret to amazing baked goods! Vietnamese or Korintje are two that are brighter and spicier than the normal grocery store brand cinnamon.
Cocoa and Dutch Processed Cocoa: Cocoa is made from fermented, dried, roasted, cracked and unsweetened cocoa beans. Dutch-Processed cocoa has been treated with alkali to remove some of its acidity and is much darker in color and richer in flavor than regular cocoa. Never use cocoa mixes (used to make hot chocolate drinks) when a recipe calls for cocoa powder. For more detailed information, see the Chocolate FAQ page.
Colander: A perforated bowl used to strain liquids from foods.
Compound Butter: Softened butter than has chopped herbs and other seasonings mixed in. Used to add flavor and richness to dishes. Some additions you can add are rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, ground coriander, chile powders, and tandoori seasoning, etc.
Confectioner’s Sugar: Another name for Powdered Sugar, it can also be called 10X, 4X, Frosting or Icing Sugar. Quick dissolving, it is white granulated sugar that has been more finely ground and often has cornstarch added to help avoid clumping.
Confit: (cone-fee) Confit is a cooking technique and food preservation method where you slowly cook and then store foods submerged in a flavorful substance, typically its own fat or olive oil. When sealed and stored in a cool place, confit can last several months. This is one of the oldest ways to preserve foods, and is a specialty of southwestern France.
Coq au Vin: (coke-oh-van) A chicken stew made with red wine, onions, mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf. Marinated for hours and cooked even longer, it is a great way to take a tough rooster or chicken and make it succulent and rich.
Court Bouillon: (bool-yawn) A poaching liquid used to gently cook delicate foods like fish and chicken. Typically made with water, white wine, and a combination of aromatics. In addition to cooking the food, it infuses a delicate flavor.
Croissant: (kraw-sahnt) A French pastry made by folding layer upon layer of dough and butter together until dozens of flaky layers are made. Baked into a traditional crescent shape or stuffed and shaped into a rectangle. Common flavors are plain, chocolate, and almond.
Crostini: (croh-stee-nee) A small piece of toasted or fried bread typically used either as a crouton or served with a topping as an appetizer. Bruschetta is an example of crostini topped with seasoned fresh tomatoes.
Cucumber: A long, green fruit, grown on vines, usually eaten raw in salads. In the same family as squash, it is cool and refreshing with a nice crunch. Older, larger cucumbers often have large seeds that many prefer not to eat. Slice lengthwise in half and drag a small spoon down the center of each half, removing the seeds.
Cutlet: A thin slice of meat or a piece of meat that has been pounded to an even thickness. Often breaded and fried or grilled, it is commonly served with a pan sauce.
Deglaze: After sauteing vegetables or meats, use a liquid such as wine or stock to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, called the “fond”. These bits and any pan juices are full of flavor and add tremendously to the flavor of the final dish. Don’t throw this away, it is too delicious!
Desiccate: To remove the moisture from something, especially food, in order to preserve it. Most often used in conjunction with coconut.
Deveining Shrimp: Removing the “vein” which is actually the intestinal tract. Carefully slice down the back (rounded edge) of the shrimp and pull the vein out. Rinse well.
Differences in Flours: Flour comes in many forms, the most common is All-Purpose. As the name implies, it is a good all-around flour for use in nearly all recipes. The differences range from the type of grain it is made from to what kind of wheat kernel they grind. Besides flavor, gluten (protein) content is the biggest variable. Gluten is responsible for the elasticity in doughs. Pizza dough has a lot of gluten which creates the stretch and chewy nature of the crust. Kneading or beating dough develops the gluten, so when you want a delicate product, like biscuits, the less you handle the dough the better. If a recipe calls for a specific type of flour it is best to use the designated type. You can substitute all-purpose flour, as long as you understand that the final product will be a different texture and consistency than the original.
Differences in Salts: Table salt is very finely ground, typically contains iodine, and melts easily. Kosher salt is very popular these days. It has a cleaner taste, the flakes don’t melt as quickly as crystals do, and because the surface area is greater, it is more efficient at drawing liquids out of meats and other foods. (Think of salting eggplant or cabbage to release their liquid.) But the most important point in my opinion is that it contains less sodium than regular table salt. Nearly 3 to 1! A teaspoon of table salt is the same as about 1 tablespoon kosher salt. When you see chefs liberally salting foods, most of the time they are using kosher salt and though it seems like a lot, it is actually less sodium. There are two varieties commonly sold in the United States. Diamond Crystal has less sodium than Morton’s and is my recommendation. Sea salts, as the name implies, are formed by the evaporation of seawater. Their flavors vary widely because they have the mineral composition of whatever body of water they are taken from. Sea salts are perfect for sprinkling over the top of foods when you want the crunch and flavor to be prominent.
Different Types of Measuring Cups: Nested (graduated) measuring cups with straight sides and flat tops are used for dry ingredients. They come in 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup and 1 cup sizes. For liquid ingredients you need a clear glass or plastic cup with a spout. They typically come in 1 or 2 cup sizes.
Divided: When a recipe ingredient has the term “divided” following it, that means that within the recipe the ingredient will be used at least twice. The amount in the ingredient list is for the full amount; look for the specific smaller amounts listed within the recipe directions.
Double Boiler: You will often see recipes refer to a double boiler when talking about melting chocolate. Set up a saucepan with a heatproof bowl that fits in it without touching the bottom. I use one of my aluminum or glass mixing bowls. Pour about 1 inch of water in the saucepan, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom of your bowl. The steam from the simmering water will heat the bowl.
Dredge: Sprinkle or coat food with a powdered substance, most often flour or sugar. Drop the food in the substance, flip it a couple of times, and shake off excess.
Dutch Oven: Typically an enameled cast iron pot with straight sides, two handles, and a tight-fitting lid. The pot takes a while to heat up but will hold heat for hours. Once hot, this pot will cook extremely evenly.l and melt the chocolate without scorching it.
Filet or Fillet: (fill-ay) A meaty, boneless piece of meat from near the loins or ribs. Can refer to any animal, bird, or fish.
Fluting: (floot-ing) To make indentations around the edge of a pie, in an undulating pattern, sealing the edge of the dough.
Folding: Gently combining two mixtures by dragging a rubber spatula straight down through the center to the bottom of the bowl, and rolling it back up one side, dragging what was on the bottom to the top. Turn the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat until completely incorporated and no streaks remain. This is typically done to mix beaten egg whites into another substance while not deflating the egg whites any more than necessary. Usually you will mix in 1/3 of the whites to lighten the mixture and then fold in the remaining whites. The mixture will lighten in color and consistency.
Fork Tender: When you can easily pierce a cooking piece of food with a regular table fork.
Galette: (gal-et) A casual form of pie where the crust is folded over the contents, usually fruits, with the center left open. It is baked on a flat baking sheet instead of in a pie plate.
Ganache: (gaw-nawsh) Typically made by heating heavy cream and pouring it over chopped chocolate. The chocolate melts and a sauce or frosting is born! Ganache is also often used as the base for truffles.
Garlic – Peeling/Smashing: The easiest way to peel garlic is to smash it with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Set the clove on a cutting board, hold the knife flat over it with the tip of the knife touching the board, and with the heel of your hand, smack the knife! It may take a couple of whacks, but you’ll see how fun it can be! The skin will come right off and you can use the garlic as is or mince finely.
Gluten: The protein in wheat flour that gives elasticity to doughs, helping it to rise and hold its shape, and producing a pleasing chewy texture. Gluten is developed by beating, kneading, or working the dough. If you do not want the gluten to develop, you must work the dough very gently to produce a delicate product. Gluten Intolerance or Celiac Disease (an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine) are conditions where the body cannot properly process the gluten proteins.
Granulated Sugar: Another name for regular white sugar. It can be made from sugar beets or sugarcane. Always buy cane sugar for baking. It has fewer impurities and will give you consistent results.
Gratin: (grah-tan) A layered dish, often made with potatoes, that has a lightly browned crust of breadcrumbs or melted cheese on top. It is usually prepared in a shallow dish – commonly referred to as a gratin dish! Potatoes au gratin is an example.
Guanciale: (gwan-chaw-lay) Very similar to pancetta, both are cured (unsmoked) Italian bacons. Guanciale is made from the cheeks so the texture is much more delicate and the flavor is stronger than other pork products. It is common to central Italy, particularly Umbria and Lazio. Difficult to find, you will have the most luck in a gourmet food store or Italian Deli.
HFCS: High-Fructose corn syrup, is corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert it from glucose to fructose and then mixed with pure corn syrup. It is the most commonly used sugar in processed foods including yogurt, breads, cookies, salad dressings, soft drinks, ice cream, syrups and tomato products. There is a lot of debate about the health aspects of this modified sugar and other GMOs (genetically modified products) – I personally believe it is always wiser to use natural products when possible.
Hoisin Sauce: (hoy-sin) A sweet, spicy sauce made from soybeans, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and other spices. Primarily used in Asian cuisines, it is often compared to Plum sauce.
How to Measure Dry and Wet Ingredients: Using a whisk or spoon, stir your flour to loosen it and then using a spoon, scoop flour into the measuring cup until it is mounded. Using a knife or the handle of your rubber spatula, sweep across the top of the cup, leveling the flour. Next to weighing your ingredients this is the most accurate way to measure dry ingredients.
How to Measure Ingredients: The way an ingredient is listed changes how it is measured. For example, 1 cup of pecans, chopped vs. 1 cup of chopped pecans. In the first example, you measure a cup of pecans, then pour them out on a board and chop them. In the second example you chop the pecans first and then measure. This may seem excessively careful, but in some circumstances it can radically alter the results – and can sometimes ruin your recipe!
IACP: International Association of Culinary Professionals; www.iacp.com.
Infusing Flavors: (in-fuse-ing) The flavor extracted when adding ingredients to a liquid and heating them slowly, then letting them sit or “steep” while cooling. Some examples are garlic-infused milk for mashed potatoes, adding a vanilla bean to cream, or making raspberry simple syrup. Once the flavor has been extracted, the solids are removed and discarded. Tea is an infused liquid.
Instant-Read Thermometer: A thermometer that doesn’t take a long time to register the temperature. With a sharp point, you can insert it in meats or breads, or use to regulate hot oil. Look for a small notch on the stick – this is the part that actually measures the heat. The location varies by manufacturer. Make sure you insert it past the mark for the most accurate measurement.
Jambalaya: (jum-buh-lie-uh) A spicy stew prevalent in the South, especially New Orleans, it is made of rice cooked with a combination of meats, poultry, and seafood. Smoked sausage, shrimp, and chicken are often used.
Julienne: (joo-lee-en) Cutting foods, usually vegetables into small, matchstick-size pieces.
Legume: (lay-goom) A class of vegetables that are high in natural plant-based protein, folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium. They are typically low in fat and contain no cholesterol. Some well-known legumes are peas, beans, lentils, edamame, and peanuts. They are a healthy substitute for meats.
Mace: A spice that can be used in either savory or sweet recipes, its citrus undertones make it a nice complement to many flavor combinations.
Mandoline: (man-doe-lyn) A flat plastic or preferably metal frame with a sharp adjustable blade that you slide food against to slice it paper thin.
Mascarpone Cheese: (mass-car-poneh) An Italian cream cheese that is softer and smoother than American Philadelphia brand cream cheese.
Mirepoix: (meer-pwah) A French term for a combination of chopped onions, celery, and carrots. When sautéed together, it forms the foundation for many dishes, adding a depth of flavor that is invaluable.
Mirin: (meer-in) An Asian condiment, it is a sweetened rice wine, somewhat similar to Sake. It is one of the ingredients in Teriyaki Sauce.
Mise en place: (meez-ahn-plahss) The practice of assembling and preparing all the ingredients before starting to cook. Chopping vegetables, measuring out liquids, sifting dry ingredients … having everything ready to go.
Muddling: Crushing or bruising an herb to release its essential oils. Most commonly used in making Mint Juleps or Mojitos.
Nonreactive Cookware: Any pan made of stainless, glass, ceramic, or a material that will not react with the acidic ingredients in a recipe. Conversely, a reactive pan is made of aluminum or copper.
Offset Spatula: A thin metal spatula where the blade is bent and sits about 1/2-inch below the handle (see photo). Used in cake decorating and other projects, it allows you to smooth surfaces you can’t reach with a regular flat spatula.
Old Bay Seasoning: A blend of spices including dry mustard, paprika, celery seed, salt, pepper, and allspice, it originated in the Chesapeake Bay region. Specifically known for its use with crab, it adds a distinctive flavor that enhances any seafood.
Orzo: a small variety of pasta shaped like grains of rice. Also known as Risoni, it is another name for barley in Italian.
Pancetta & Slab Bacon: (pan-chet-ah) Pancetta is a non-smoked Italian bacon from the belly of the pig. Use it when the smokiness of bacon would overwhelm the flavors of your dish. It is sold in a roll and can be cut to any thickness. Slab bacon is a solid piece of bacon before it has been sliced. This gives you the opportunity to cut cubes of bacon, used in many dishes.
Par-baking a Pie Crust: Piecrusts are occasionally partially baked before adding your filling. This is done to seal the crust, reducing sogginess, and to make sure it bakes completely without over-baking the filling. If you use dried beans or split peas to fill the pie (this supports the edges and keeps them from shrinking) you cannot cook and eat them later. But you can store them and use them the next time you pre-bake a crust.
Pearl Onions: Tiny onions that can be white or tan, more delicately flavored than full size onions. Delicious but tedious to prepare, frozen pearl onions are often substituted in recipes, especially where long cooking is involved.
Pepperoncini: (pepper-on-chee-nee) A mild variety of peppers similar to bell peppers, they are also known as Tuscan peppers, Sweet Italian peppers, or Golden Greek peppers. They are commonly pickled and sold in jars.
Pico de Gallo: (peekoh-day-guyoh) A fresh tomato salsa made of chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapeno chiles, cilantro, and lime juice. Will hold in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
Pinot Noir: (pee-no nwar) A medium to light weight red wine, usually grown in cooler coastal areas.
Piping: (pie-ping) To put a decorative line or pattern on a cake or similar dish, using frosting, whipped cream, etc.
Plumping Dried Fruit: Dried fruits are full of flavor but can be tough and dry, especially when added to baked goods. To combat this and return moisture to the fruit, you can plump them in a hot liquid. Bring water, a liqueur, or alcohol (such as rum, brandy, or vodka) to a boil, add the fruit and take off the heat. Let it steep for up to 30 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
Pounding: Exactly as it sounds, it is using a food-specific meat pounder/tenderizer to flatten meats to an even thickness. This allows the meat to cook evenly.
Preparing Baking Pans: You butter and flour pans for easy removal of baked goods. Always do this before you begin mixing the batter. Start by evenly coating the inside of your baking pan with softened butter. Butter both pans first and then coat them with flour. Add about 1 tbsp of flour to the buttered pan. Tip it so that the flour is in one corner and then tap it to make the flour scatter across the surface. Continue turning the pan and shaking/tapping the flour until the entire pan is coated. Turn it over and tap out any excess flour. The pans are now ready to fill with batter.
Prix Fixe: (pree-feeks) In French, literally “fixed price,” it is a multi-course meal served at a pre-set price.
Protein: (pro-teen) When the term is used in cooking, it typically refers to a portion of meat, fish, or poultry. It can also be used to describe other vegetarian protein sources such as beans and legumes.
Provençal: (proh-ven-sahl) An area of Southern France on the Mediterranean bordered by Italy, where olive oil rather than butter is the choice for cooking. Many dishes utilize locally prolific tomatoes, garlic, herbs, eggplant, artichokes, and almonds.
Pumpkin Puree vs. Pumpkin Pie Filling: Canned pumpkin puree is pure pumpkin with nothing added. The canned pumpkin pie filling has been sweetened and seasoned.
Puree: (pure-ay) Ingredients that are crushed or blended until smooth. This is usually done with the assistance of a blender or food processor. Baby food is an example of pureed foods.
Quinoa: (keen-wah) a native South American seed that is served like grains in meals. A high percentage vegetable protein source, it is one of the healthiest foods and is naturally gluten-free. Quinoa can be substituted for almost any other grain in your recipes.
Ramekin: A small dish or bowl, make of glazed ceramic or glass, used to make individual portions of food. Very versatile, they can also be used as bowls to serve condiments, soups, nuts, or candies.
Reducing Sauces: Heating a liquid over medium heat to thicken to a sauce consistency and concentrate flavors.
Render: To melt the fat out of meat, such as bacon.
Repertoire: (rep-eh-twah) A set of skills that a person uses regularly.
Rotisserie: (roh-tiss-uh-ree) A method of cooking food, usually meats, on a spit over a fire. The food rotates slowly, cooking evenly and self-basting with its own juices.
Roulade: (roo-lawd) A dish cooked or served in the form of a roll, typically made from a flat piece of meat, fish, or sponge cake, spread with a soft filling and rolled up into a spiral. If made of meat, it is often tied with string at intervals to keep the roll intact during cooking. It is then browned and braised in a liquid, often wine or stock.
Roux: (roo) Equal parts of flour and fat, usually butter, cooked together to make a thickening agent for liquids. The darker it gets, the nuttier the flavor. For a white sauce you want no color in roux, for a gumbo you want it as dark as you can get it without burning.
Rubber Spatula: A term that started many years ago when spatulas were actually made of a rubber-like material and now applies to any spreader made of a flexible material. Today what you want to buy are heat-resistant silicone spatulas. Unlike their predecessors, they will not melt unless subjected to extreme heat. All metal spatulas are referred to as simply “spatulas.”
Sauté: (saw-tay) Pan frying foods in a small amount of oil or butter, stirring to keep foods from burning.
Scalding: Bringing a liquid to just below a boil, where there are just a few bubbles at the edges.
Separating Eggs: Is separating the yolks from the whites and placing each in a separate bowl. The easiest way to do this with the least risk of breaking the yolks is while holding your hands over a bowl, to break an egg into one hand and gently toss the yolk back and forth between your hands, letting the whites drip through your fingers into the bowl. Drop the yolk into a separate bowl.
Shallot: A member of the same family as onions and garlic, shallots taste like a blend of the two. Sweeter and milder than either, shallots are often used in French cooking, especially delicately flavored dishes like eggs and fish.
Shocking foods: In order to avoid over cooking delicate foods, particularly vegetables, you can transfer them directly from steaming or boiling into an ice bath. This shocks the vegetables, immediately stopping the cooking process. Reheat them gently when ready to serve if desired.
Sieve: (sihv) A wire mesh container for straining foods. Can be a basket or a strainer with a handle.
Simmering: Bring a liquid to just below the boiling stage. The liquid will be steaming with small bubbles around the edges of the pan and some will break the surface. Once it has reached the simmer, a very low heat will keep it at this temperature.
Simple Syrup: Equal parts of sugar and water boiled together until sugar is dissolved. Because granulated sugar is difficult to dissolve in cold liquids, use simple syrup to sweeten cold drinks such as iced tea and cocktails.
Slurry: A suspension of a solid in liquid. In cooking it is a mixture of water and starch (flour or cornstarch for example) used to thicken other liquids. Often used to make gravies.
Springform Pan: A pan designed with a removable bottom and a clasp on the side that when loose, allows the sides to expand enough to lift it away from the cake.
Steep: To soak a food item in water or other liquid to infuse its flavor. Some common items are vanilla beans, chile peppers, herbs, or dried fruits.
Studding: Inserting whole cloves into an orange, onion, or ham for example.
Sweating Vegetables: To slowly cook chopped vegetables in a small amount of oil over low heat so that they release their own juices and soften.
Soffrito: (so-free-toh) Italian mixture of onions, celery, green peppers, garlic, and herbs sautéed in oil. Used as a flavor-base for many dishes.
Tempering: To slowly introduce a hot liquid into a cool one, bringing the two to a moderate temperature. This is most often done when adding eggs. If you stir eggs into a liquid that is too hot, they will scramble and you’ll have pieces of cooked egg that need to be strained out.
Tenting Foods: Loosely cover with a sheet of aluminum foil to hold in the heat while foods are resting. Resting allows the juices to be reabsorbed by the meat. Also to prevent over-browning of roasting or baking foods.
Thickening Sauces: There are several ways to thicken a sauce beyond reducing it. You can mix cornstarch or flour with water, stir in tapioca or gelatin, or combine flour with a fat like butter and cook slowly to make a roux. In each case, you must carefully stir the thickener into the liquid and heat in order for it to thicken the liquid.
Torte vs. Tart: A torte is a layered cake with little or no flour. A tart is a pastry crust with short sides that is filled.
Tortilla: (tor-tee-yah) A Mexican staple, it is a flat pancake made from ground corn or flour.
Turbinado Sugar: A coarse sugar, often called raw sugar. Light blonde crystals, it has a delicate molasses flavor and a nice crunch. It can be used to create a crispy topping on baked sweets. A darker version (with more molasses) is called Demerara.
Turmeric: A bright yellow powder used for coloring and aromatic flavor in Asian cooking. Comes from a plant in the ginger family.
Vegetable Ribs: The white veins inside of chiles and peppers that hold the seeds. They are quite spicy and contain a lot of the heat so remove if desired.
Whipping Egg Whites: Using a whisk or the whisk attachment of an electric mixer gives you the best results. If you have a copper bowl, the chemical reaction will make the lightest whites imaginable and they will beat up more quickly than if you use other types of bowls. Recipes talk about degrees of “stiffness” when referring to how long to whip egg whites. A “soft peak” will create a peak when the whisk is lifted out of the batter but it will immediately fall over, a “medium peak” will hold its shape a little more firmly but bend in the middle, and a “stiff peak” will be firm enough that you can turn the bowl upside down without the egg whites falling out. Be careful not to beat so long that they lose their shine and start to look dry.
Whisking: To beat or whip air into eggs or cream or to blend ingredients together. A whisk is made of thin, rounded metal rods.