Popular Topics

BACK TO Tips Glossary


Do you know your Crème fraîche from your chorizo?
With so many different ingredients, techniques and pieces of equipment available today, it can be tough to keep track of them all! Browse this handy glossary to learn more about some of the terms you may encounter in the kitchen.



Açai berry: [ah-SAI-ee], a tropical fruit native to Central and South America. High in antioxidants and vitamins, its juice is often added to prepared juices.

Acidulate: to add a small of amount of an acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) to water. The acid helps prevent foods, such as sliced apples, from turning brown if being held over time.

Aïoli: [ay-OH-lee], a French mayonnaise often heavily flavored with garlic; commonly used as a dipping sauce for seafood, shellfish and vegetables.

Ancho chile powder: [ahn-CHO], dried poblano chiles ground to a powder.

Andouille: [ahn-DOO-ee], a flavorful, spicy French sausage made from pork. It’s commonly used in Cajun dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya.

Al dente: : [al-DEN-tay], literally meaning “to the tooth” in Italian, this term is commonly used to indicate when pasta is done. It should give slightly with just a little resistance when chewed.

Anise seed: [AN-ihs], the seed of a plant related to parsley with a distinct licorice flavor.

Arborio rice: an Italian rice with a high starch content that is traditionally used to make risotto.

Aromatics: a term for flavorful vegetables, herbs and/or spices (such as onion, carrot, celery, garlic) that often act as the flavor base for soups, sauces and stews.

Arugula: [ah-ROO-guh-lah], a salad green with a slightly peppery flavor.

Asian pear: a firm, apple-like fruit with yellow-gold skin and juicy, sweet flesh.


Balsamic vinegar: an Italian vinegar made from grape juice that is aged in wooden barrels, which contributes to its dark color, deep flavor and slight sweetness.

Béchamel: [bay-shah-MEHL], originating in France, béchamel (sometimes called “white sauce”) is a milk-based sauce thickened with a roux. Béchamel is often used in baked dishes such as macaroni and cheese and lasagna, and can be enhanced with herbs or vegetables depending on the flavor profile you’re looking for.

To Blacken: a cooking technique used in Cajun cooking. Foods (traditionally fish) are coated with a spice blend, then sautéed in a very hot pan (usually cast iron) until a blackened crust forms.

Black-eyed peas: small ivory-colored beans with a black dot on the side. Usually sold canned and dried but sometimes available fresh.

Blanch: a moist-heat cooking method used to parcook or loosen the skin on fruits and vegetables (such as peaches or tomatoes). The item is placed in boiling water for a brief period of time, usually only a few minutes, then plunged into ice water to stop the cooking process.

Blood oranges: A sweet-tart orange with vibrant red-orange flesh.

Bloom: to dissolve powdered gelatin in a small amount of liquid. Blooming softens the gelatin granules and helps it dissolve fully.

Bouquet garni: [boo-KAY GAHR-nee], a pouch of herbs and spices (such as bay leaf, sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley and whole peppercorns) made out of cheesecloth and tied closed with kitchen twine. The bundle is then added to simmering stocks, broths, soups and braises to add flavor. After cooking, the bouquet garni is simply removed from the pot and discarded.

Braise: a moist-heat cooking method where tough cuts of meat are slowly simmered for a few hours in a small amount of liquid on the stove, in the oven or in a slow cooker until tender.

Brine: a mixture of salt, water and sometimes sugar and spices that is used to marinate, pickle or preserve food. Brining meat is a common practice before roasting or barbecuing and helps retain moisture in the meat during cooking.

Brie: a very popular soft cheese with an edible white rind. French brie is the most prized, although other countries make their own styles.

Brown: a cooking technique where food (usually meat or vegetables) is seared over high heat for a brief period of time to develop a richly colored surface. Browning develops flavors that permeate a dish.

Bulgur: used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking, bulgur is kernels of wheat that have been steamed, dried and crushed.

To Butterfly: to split meat or seafood down the middle, slicing almost but not quite all the way through. The two halves are then opened like a book to resemble a butterfly shape.


Camembert: [KAM-uhm-behr], a soft French cow’s milk cheese with an edible rind similar to Brie.

Capers: [KAY-per], the flower bud of a shrub native to the Mediterranean. Sold either in brine or packed in salt, capers range in size from small like peppercorns to the size of marbles.

Cappocola: a well-seasoned, air-dried Italian ham often served as an appetizer or addition to pasta or pizza.

Caramelize: to cook meats or vegetables in a small amount of fat until the surface is richly browned; this step adds flavor and color to the final dish.

Caraway seeds: the seeds of an herb in the parsley family used extensively in Scandinavian, German and Austrian cuisines. Their nutty, slightly licorice-like flavor is used to season breads, cheeses, stews and salads.

Celery root: a large root vegetable with a brown, knobby exterior. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer before cutting. Can be used raw or cooked.

Char: to create dark patches or marks on foods by cooking over very intense heat (usually a grill). Some charring adds a slightly bitter flavor to foods, but too much char is undesirable.

Chili sauce: a bright red, spicy condiment made from dried red chilies and used in many Asian cuisines. Depending on the brand, it can vary in spiciness.

Chipotle: [chih-POHT-leh], a dried, smoked jalapeño. Often found canned and packed in a spicy vinegar-based sauce called “adobo.”

Chorizo: [chor-EE-zoh], a highly seasoned pork sausage used in Mexican and Spanish cuisines.

Chutney: a fruit-based, spicy condiment served in Indian cuisine.

Cilantro: [sih-LAHN-troh], a leafy herb grown from coriander seed and used to flavor Mexican, Caribbean and Asian dishes.

Coconut milk: a liquid made by simmering equal parts of water and unsweetened shredded coconut together, then straining it. The thick “milk” is commonly used in Mexican, Indian and Thai cuisines, and is usually sold in cans in the Asian section of the grocery store. Don’t confuse it with cream of coconut, a very sweet paste used in mixed drinks.

Collard greens: a hearty green from the cabbage family often prepared in the American south or as “soul food.” Unlike cabbage which grows in tight heads, collard leaves grow up and outward, much like a head of romaine lettuce. Because collards leaves are thick, they require long cooking to soften.

Couscous: [koos-koos], a staple of North African cuisine, couscous is made from semolina flour. Most grocery stores carry instant versions that simply need soaking in hot water to soften.

Cream of coconut: a thick, sweet mixture of coconut paste and flavoring, water and sugar. Used primarily to make cocktails, do not confuse with coconut milk which is much less sweet and not as thick.

Cream of tartar: a by-product of the wine industry, cream of tartar is an acid deposited on the inside of wine barrels. It gives frostings a creamy consistency and acts as a stabilizer when beating egg whites.

Crème fraîche: [krehm fresh], a type of cultured cream that can be as thick as sour cream but isn’t as tangy. Unlike sour cream, crème fraîche doesn’t curdle if boiled, making it ideal for finishing sauces.

Crushed red pepper flakes: coarsely chopped dried red chiles. Crushed red pepper flakes can be added to dishes or sprinkled on finished food for intense spicy heat.

Cumin: resembling caraway seeds, cumin is the dried fruit of a plant related to parsley. Found as whole seeds or ground, cumin is used extensively in Middle Eastern, Latino and Mediterranean cooking to flavor curries, stews and soups.

Curdle: to coagulate from a liquid state to a semi-solid if cooked at too high a temperature for for too long.

Curry powder: a seasoning blend often made with up to 20 different ground spices. It almost always contains turmeric, which is what gives curry powder its distinct yellow color. Ranging from mild to very spicy, heat levels vary by brand.



Deglaze: a process used to remove flavorful browned food particles off the bottom of a hot pan using a liquid such as wine or broth. Generally the liquid is added to the pan, then a spoon is used to loosen the small bits off the bottom. This method is commonly used to make a pan sauce for meat, poultry or fish.

To Deep-fry: a technique where foods (often coated in bread crumbs) are submerged in hot oil and fried until crisp, golden and cooked through.

Devein: to remove the intestinal tract or “vein” of shrimp and lobster tails. This is done by making a shallow cut down the back and lifting the vein out with the tip of a knife or a deveining tool.

Dijon mustard: taking its name from the region in France where it originated, Dijon mustard is a popular condiment known for its pungent flavor.

Dill seed: the seeds of the dill plant, used to flavor pickles. Heating the seeds brings out their pungent flavor.

Direct grilling: a grilling technique where food is placed on grates set directly over the flames of a charcoal or gas grill.

Double boiler: used to gently melt chocolate and cook heat-sensitive foods like custards, a double boiler is a two-pot cooking vessel where one pot nests inside another. Water simmers in the bottom pot, heating the pot above.

Dragée: [dra-ZHAY], tiny gold or silver candy used to decorate cakes or cookies.

To dredge: a step in breading food, such as fish fillets or thin cutlets, in flour, cornmeal or breadcrumbs before frying or baking.


Escarole: a lettuce related to endive. Escarole has large leaves like romaine and has green curly edges with a white center rib. Eaten raw or cooked, escarole has a slightly bitter flavor.

En papillote: [ahn pah-pee-YOHT], a French cooking technique where food (often fish and vegetables) is wrapped in parchment paper or foil then baked. As the food cooks and releases steam, the pouch expands and puffs up.

Evaporated milk: canned milk that has had 60% of the water removed. Use primarily in baking, it’s shelf-stable until opened.

Extra-virgin olive oil: the oil extracted during the first press of the olives, usually considered the best quality and most flavorful.


Fennel: a bulb-like vegetable with a white base and green, celery-like stalks with feathery fronds. All parts of the plant can be eaten, although the bulb is the most popular. Fennel adds a light licorice flavor to dishes when either cooked or eaten raw.

Fennel seed: the seeds from which bulb fennel originates. Used in both sweet and savory dishes, fennel has a licorice-like flavor and is popular ingredient in Italian and Indian cuisines. Fennel seed can be bought as whole seed or ground.

Filé powder: [FEE-lay], a Creole seasoning made from ground sassafras leaves, commonly added to gumbo to thicken and add flavor.

Fines herbes: [FEEN erb], a classic French mixture of minced herbs, traditionally chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon.

Fish sauce: used widely in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, fish sauce is a salty, thin, brown liquid made from anchovies. Alone, the sauce is very strong, but used sparingly it gives dishes a very unique flavor without overpowering.

To fold: a technique used to gently incorporate a lighter mixture, such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites, into a denser one.

Fond: French for “foundation,” fond is the bits of food stuck to the bottom of a pan after cooking or searing over high heat. When liquid is added to the hot pan, the fond is scraped from the bottom of the pan and is the basis for a flavorful sauce.

Fontina: a creamy, rich Italian cheese with a mild, nutty flavor that’s great for melting.

Frisée: [free-ZAY], a feathery, light green lettuce with a crisp texture and slightly pungent flavor.

Froth: to whip something (usually milk or egg whites) until foamy.

Fry: a cooking method where food, often coated with batter or breading, is submerged in hot oil.


Gelato: [jeh-LAH-toh], Italian style of ice cream with a thick, creamy texture.

Giblets:: [jib-lets], the heart, liver and gizzards of chicken or turkey, usually found wrapped in paper inside the body cavity of whole poultry. While giblets are often discarded, they are sometimes cooked in water to make stock which is in turn used to make gravy; the giblets may then be minced and added to the gravy for additional flavor and texture.

Goat cheese: a white cheese made from goat’s milk with a distinct tangy flavor. Young goat cheeses are soft and creamy; those that have been aged tend to be firmer and a bit more tangy.

Gorgonzola: considered one of Italy’s great cheeses, Gorgonzola is a blue cheese made from cow’s milk and can range in flavor from mild to pungent.

Gouda: [GOO-dah], a golden-colored, creamy mild cheese native to Holland. As Gouda ages it becomes drier, darker in color and more intensely flavored.

Grenadine: a sweet red syrup commonly used to add flavor and color to drinks and desserts. Some brands of grenadine contain alcohol so be sure to check labels before buying. Maraschino cherry juice makes a good non-alcoholic substitute.

Grill: to cook foods on a grate over a live fire, usually gas- or charcoal-generated.

Gruyère: [groo-YEHR], a semi-firm Swiss cow’s milk cheese with a mild nutty flavor; traditionally used in fondue.

Gumbo: a thick Creole stew including a variety of ingredients such as tomatoes, onions and okra along with shellfish and meats.


Haricot verts: [ah-ree-koh VEHR], French for “string bean.”

Hash: a dish of minced meat (often beef or corned beef), potatoes, vegetables and seasonings; often a recipe for using up leftovers.

Havarti: [hah-VAHR-tee], a semi-soft Danish cheese with a creamy color and mild flavor.

Hazelnut: The fruit of the hazel tree, hazelnuts are usually sold shelled. Their brown papery skin is best removed before using. To remove the skins, toast the nuts on a baking sheet at 400° for 10 minutes, then rub while still hot in a clean kitchen towel.

Hearts of palm: Slender, ivory-colored inner core of the cabbage palm tree. Similar in flavor to artichokes, hearts of palm are most available canned and are often served in salads.

Herbes de Provence: [EHRB duh proh-VAHNS] A blend of dried herbs commonly used in France. The mixture often consists of basil, fennel seed, lavender, marjoram, sage, rosemary, summer savory and thyme.

Herbs: The fragrant leaves and stems of plants. Can be found both fresh and dried; dried herbs tend to be more concentrated in flavor than fresh; if using dried herbs in place of fresh, use about half the amount of fresh herbs called for in the recipe.

Hoisin: [HOY-sihn] A thick, dark brown condiment made from soybeans, garlic, chiles and spices, used extensively in Chinese cooking.

Hollandaise: [HOL-uhn-dayz] A French sauce made with melted butter, egg yolks and lemon juice. Often used to garnish vegetables or egg dishes such as classic Eggs Benedict.

Hominy: corn kernels from which the hull and germ have been removed. Hominy is usually sold canned packed in water and is often found in dishes originating from the southern United States.

Hummus: A Middle Eastern spread made from chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds.


Immersion blender: A hand-held blender that can be immersed directly into a pot of soup or sauce to purée and blend.

Indirect grilling: a grilling technique where one side of a grill (charcoal or gas) is very hot while the other side is much lower (or turned off on a gas grill). With the lid closed, this creates a cooking environment similar to oven-roasting. Often used with large roasts and whole chicken which would otherwise burn before cooking through if grilled over direct heat.

Instant-Read Thermometer: an indispensable kitchen tool used most often to gauge the internal temperature of cooked meats, but also helpful in determining the temperature of liquids, doughs or baked bread. Available in dial or digital forms, an instant-read thermometer should not be left inserted in meats during roasting—it is designed to quickly read temperatures and must be removed if additional cooking is required.


Jalapeño: [hah-lah-PEH-nyoh] Native to Mexico, jalapeños are dark green (red when ripe) and can range in spiciness depending on growing conditions. When dried, jalapeños are called “chipotles.”

Jambalaya: a Creole stew made with cooked rice and a variety of ingredients such as tomatoes, green pepper, sausage, seafood and/or chicken.

Jasmine rice: A fragrant rice from Thailand.

Jicama: [HEE-kah-mah] A Mexican root vegetable with a thin, light brown skin and crisp,sweet flesh.

To Julienne: [joo-lee-EHN] To cut foods (often vegetables) into matchstick-size strips.


Kalamata olive: A purplish-black olive with a pungent, tangy flavor.

Kale: This cold-weather member of the cabbage family has dark green, curly leaves on thick, tough stems. Kale needs longer cooking than other leaf vegetables in order to make tender.

Key limes: native to Florida, Key limes are golf ball-sized limes with very aromatic juice. They are traditionally used to make Key lime pie, but can be used in any recipe calling for lime juice.

Kielbasa: A smoked sausage most often made of pork, but sometimes beef is added.

Knead: a process used to work bread or pastry dough to a smooth consistency. It can be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook or by hand with a motion of pushing and turning the dough onto itself repeatedly.

Kosher salt: commonly used in commercial kitchens, kosher salt has a milder flavor and dissolves more quickly in liquid than table salt. If substituting table salt with kosher salt in recipes, use only half the amount (ie., for 1 teaspoon table salt, substitute ½ teaspoon kosher salt).

Kugel: [KOO-guhl] A baked potato or noodle pudding traditionally served on the Jewish Sabbath.

Kumquat: An orange, small, oval-shaped citrus fruit with an edible rind and flesh. The entire fruit is eaten whole—the rind is sweet and the flesh is tart.



Lemongrass: a reed-like herb with a very floral, lemony fragrance used extensively in Thai and Vietnamese cooking. Find it in Asian markets and some grocery store produce sections.

Lentils: ranging in color from green to black to red and yellow, lentils are a staple in Indian cuisine and a good source of protein. They’re cooked in boiling liquids, similar to dried beans, but don’t take nearly as long to soften as dried beans.


Macerate: to soak food in a liquid and/or sugar to infuse the food with its flavor. Commonly used with fruit and liqueur, macerating often results in food breaking down in texture the longer it sits in the liquid.

Mâche: [mahsh], tender, dark green leaves used in salads or sautéed as a side dish.

Mafalda pasta: pasta shaped like mini lasagna noodles with ruffled edges and a flat center.

Marinade: a highly seasoned liquid often made up of wine, fruit juice or vinegar with oil, herbs and flavorings used to soak (marinate) meat, poultry, fish or vegetables before cooking. Marinating adds flavor and can help tenderize meat.

Meyer lemons: Believed to be a cross between a lemon and an orange, Meyer lemons are a smaller, juicier variety with smooth, deep yellow-orange skin. In season from November through May, their aromatic juice tends to be less acidic than commercial lemons, and can be used in any recipe calling for lemon juice.

Mirepoix: [PWAH], the French term for the combination of carrots, onion and celery used as a flavor foundation for many soups, stews and sauces. The classic mirepoix ratio is two parts onion to one part celery and one part carrot.

Mise en place: (MEEZ ahn plahs), a French term which translates to “everything in its place.” It refers to having all ingredients prepared according to the recipe before cooking.

Muddle: to mash or crush fresh herbs with a mortar and pestle or with a wooden spoon in a plastic container. This technique is most commonly used for mixed drinks, like Mojitos.

Mulling spices: aromatic spices, usually whole cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg, often simmered in wine or juice to add flavor and aroma.

Mustard seed: the seeds of the mustard plant (related to broccoli, mustard greens and kale). Commonly available in white or brown varieties, ground seeds form the basis of prepared mustards; whole seeds add flavor to pickles and sauces.

Mop: a very thin sauce that is liberally brushed onto meats (often with a small cotton mop) during grilling to add flavor and moisture.


Naan: [nahn], a soft flatbread popular in Indian cuisine and served with curries for dipping.

Niçoise olives: [nee-SWAHZ], a small purplish-black olive from southern France.

Nonpareil: [non-puh-REHL], much like a dragée, nonpareils are tiny multi-colored sugar candies sprinkled onto frosted cookies or cakes as decoration.

Nutmeg: a fruit of the nutmeg tree, this aromatic spice has a sweet flavor that is a classic ingredient in custards and eggnog. Typically purchased ground, nutmeg seeds can also be found whole and grated as needed, resulting in the freshest flavor.


Okra: a favorite vegetable in the South and a classic ingredient in gumbo, okra pods are in season from late spring to fall but can also be purchased canned or frozen. Look for pods that are firm, bright green and no more than four inches long (longer pods can be tough).

Orzo: [OHR-zoh], meaning “barley” in Italian, orzo is a small, rice-shaped pasta typically added to soups or used in salads.

Oyster sauce: a Chinese condiment made from oysters, soy sauce and spices, cooked until deep brown and very thick.


Palette knife: a small hand-held baking and pastry tool with a stainless steel blade (which can be either straight or slightly bent) that’s most often used for spreading icing on small cookies or cupcakes. It gets its name because the knife resembles an artist’s palette knife used for blending paints.

Paprika: a vibrant red spice used to flavor and garnish a variety of dishes. Made from dried ground red peppers, paprika can be sweet and mild or spicy hot. A smoked version of paprika is often used in Spanish cuisine.

Parchment paper: a foodsafe paper used to line baking sheets when baking items such as cookies and pastries. It creates a nonstick surface that allows baked items to release easily.

Parboil: a moist-heat cooking technique used to partially cook foods (usually vegetables) that will be fully cooked at a later time. Food is plunged into boiling water until slightly soft, then plunged in ice water to stop the cooking process.

Pasteurized crabmeat: found in the refrigerated meat case, pasteurized crab is specially packaged to retain freshness and quality.

Pearl barley: a grain which has had its bran removed and has been steamed and polished. It has a mild, slightly nutty flavor with a chewy texture, making it perfect for soups and salads.

Pectin: a natural substance found in most fruits and vegetables used to thicken jams, jellies and preserves. Powdered pectin is often added to mixtures to ensure a proper “set.”

Pesto: [PEH-stoh], Italian for “pounded,” this classic pasta sauce is usually made with fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic, but can be made with other herbs, nuts and cheeses for a flavor twist.

Pickling spices: a blend of whole spices found in most grocery stores and commonly used in pickling brines or curing solutions to add flavor. The blend may include peppercorns, allspice, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, mustard seeds and coriander, to name a few.

Pimientos: [pih-MEN-toh], classically used to stuff green olives, pimiento red pepper can also be found in jars packed in liquid. Paprika is dried and ground pimiento peppers.

Pine nut: a small nut found inside the pine cones of some varieties of pine tree. Slightly sweet, mild, and buttery in flavor, pine nuts are a classic ingredient in pesto and have a high fat content which makes them very susceptible to spoiling. For best flavor and longer shelf life, store them in an air-tight container in the freezer. Also called piñon (Spanish) and pignoli (Italian).

Poach: to gently cook food (chicken, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit) in liquid (usually water but sometimes broth, wine, juice or a combination; fruit is usually poached in sugar syrup or juice) heated to just below the boiling point.

Polenta: an Italian staple made from yellow cornmeal and sometimes cheese such as Parmesan. Polenta can be served soft (like oatmeal) or allowed to cool and firm up so it can be cut into squares.

Portobello mushroom: a very large mushroom usually 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Because of their meaty flavor and texture, portobellos are often used in vegetarian dishes. Cremini mushrooms are the immature version of portobellos.

Preserves: similar to jam but with large chunks of fruit in thick syrup or jelly.

Prosciutto: [proh-SHOO-toh], an Italian air-dried, salt-cured ham.


Queso anejo: [KAY-soh ahn-NYEH-hoh], a firm Mexican cheese made from either goat’s or cow’s milk. Also called “cojita.”

Quinoa: [KEEN-wah], an ancient South American grain shaped like tiny beads with a mild, delicate flavor. Prepare quinoa as you do rice.



Radicchio: [rah-DEE-kee-oh], a bitter-tasting, reddish-purple leaf lettuce. Part of the chicory family, radicchio grows in tightly packed heads similar to cabbage. It can be eaten raw but is also hearty enough to be sautéed or grilled.

Reduce: to boil a liquid to intensify and concentrate flavor. Reducing also helps thicken a mixture.

Red wine vinegar: vinegar made from aged red wine. It’s commonly used to make vinaigrettes because of its high acidity.

Ricer: A tool resembling a large garlic press that is used to mash (“rice”) cooked potatoes; it gets its name because the extruded potatoes resemble grains of rice. Potatoes mashed with a ricer are exceptionally smooth and lump-free.

Ricotta: [rih-KAHT-tuh], an Italian cheese typically made from cow’s milk. Fresh ricotta is very mild in flavor and has the consistency of thick sour cream with a graininess to it.Aged ricotta (called ricotta salata) is stronger and saltier in flavor, like feta cheese. Fresh ricotta is commonly used in stuffed pasta dishes like ravioli and lasagna; ricotta salata is often cubed or crumbled over salads.

Risotto: a classic Italian rice dish traditionally made with Arborio rice. Risotto is made by stirring the rice constantly with small amounts of broth to gradually release starches and create a creamy mixture. Meats, seafood, vegetables, cheeses and herbs are usually added for flavor and texture.

Roquefort: [ROHK-furht], a French sheep’s milk blue cheese with a pungent, somewhat salty flavor. Sometimes referred to as the “king of cheeses.”

Rub: a blend of dried herbs and spices that is liberally applied to the surface of meats, poultry or fish before grilling. A rub is different from a seasoning blend in that it is usually so heavily applied that it forms a crust on the meat.

Rutabaga: a root vegetable thought to be a cross between cabbage and turnips. Rutabagas are often covered with a thin layer of wax—use a vegetable peeler to remove it before cooking.


Saté or satay: [sah-TAY], an Indonesian-style kabob made of small pieces or thin strips of meat threaded onto skewers and grilled or broiled. Traditionally served with a spicy peanut sauce for dipping.

Sauté: [saw-TAY], a French cooking term that means “to jump,” referring to food “jumping” in a hot pan with a small amount of added fat, such as oil.

Sear: a cooking term meaning to brown meat, poultry, fish or vegetables quickly in a hot pan, on a hot grill or under a broiler. Searing not only makes food attractive, but it also contributes to flavor.

Sesame oil: pressed from sesame seeds, this oil comes in two forms: light and dark (sometimes called Asian sesame oil or toasted sesame oil). Light sesame oil has a delicate flavor and can be used in salad dressings or for sautéing. Dark sesame oil is much stronger tasting and is most often used to add a touch of nutty flavor to dishes before serving. Sesame oil tends to turn rancid quickly so store both types in the refrigerator.

Shallot: a mildly flavored member of the onion family often used in vinaigrettes.

Sherry vinegar: a specialty vinegar made from sherry.

Shiitake mushroom: [shee-TAH-keh], a flavorful mushroom commonly used in Asian cooking. Available fresh or dried, shiitake mushrooms add earthy flavor to soups, casseroles and stir-fries.

Simmer: the stage just before boiling where tiny bubbles rise to the surface but do not vigorously pop. Delicate foods are sometimes cooked in simmering liquid because it’s gentler and won’t cause them to break apart.

Smoke point: The temperature at which oil begins to smoke and burn.

Sorbet: [sohr-BAY], a dairy-free, frozen dessert typically made with fruit juice, sugar and water. In Italian, it’s called sorbetto.

Soy sauce: one of the most widely used condiments in Asian cuisine, soy sauce is a salty liquid made from soybeans and wheat or barley.

To smoke: to infuse meats, poultry, fish or vegetables with a smoky flavor by slowly burning wood pieces or chips and allowing the resulting smoke to surround the food. The longer something is smoked, the more intensely flavored it will be.

Spring mix: called “mesclun” in French, this is a blend of baby greens used in tossed salads. The mixture is sometimes comprised of arugula, frisée, mâche, red leaf, green leaf and radicchio lettuces. Can be found in most grocery stores in the produce aisle.

Springform pan: a round pan with high straight sides which attach to a removable bottom plate. Often used in making cheesecakes.

Star anise: a pungent, licorice-like spice used extensively in Chinese cooking. Available whole or ground, whole star anise resembles a star.

Sun-dried tomatoes: dehydrated tomatoes that often come packed in oil (drain before using). Those that are not packed in oil should be rehydrated in hot water until pliable.



Tahini: a thick paste made from ground sesame seeds used in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Tapenade: [TAH-puh-nahd], a thick olive paste made from olives, capers, lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings.

Thai curry paste: available in red, green and yellow varieties, Thai curry paste is a blend of herbs and spices used to flavor a number of Thai stir-fries, soups and stews. Find them in Asian markets and some grocery stores.

Tofu: made from soybeans, tofu is a mild-tasting, custard-like ingredient used extensively in Asian cooking. It ranges in firmness, from very soft (“silken”) to quite firm—for stir-fries, use firm tofu so it doesn’t fall apart during cooking.

Turmeric: [TER-muh-rihk], a bright golden ground spice that adds distinct flavor and vibrant color to dishes. It’s a main ingredient in Indian curries and a coloring agent in mustard.

Turnip greens: the green leafy tops of turnips, often cooked like spinach and served as a side dish. Turnip greens can be quite strong tasting, especially the older they are. Choose young greens for the mildest flavor.


Velouté: [veh-loo-TAY], originating in France, velouté is a stock-based sauce thickened with a roux. Velouté is often served with meats and can be enhanced with herbs or vegetables depending on the flavor profile you’re looking for.

Vinaigrette: [vihn-uh-GREHT], a sauce or salad dressing classically made with 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Other ingredients, such as herbs, garlic, Dijon mustard, shallots, salt and pepper, are often added for more flavor.


Water bath: also called “bain marie” and often used to cook delicate egg dishes such as cheesecakes and custards to prevent them from curdling, a water bath is created by placing a water-tight container of uncooked food in a larger, shallow pan filled with warm water. The larger pan is then placed in the oven or over a heat source, allowing the dish to cook slowly while the water acts as a buffer from the heat.

White wine vinegar: vinegar made from aged white wine and commonly used to make vinaigrettes because of its high acidity.

Won ton skins: thin squares of dough used to make won tons and egg rolls.


Zest: The colored outer layer of citrus fruit. It can be peeled away using a special zesting tool or a vegetable peeler. Citrus zest contains oils that add deep flavor to dishes; however, the white pith directly underneath the zest is bitter and should be avoided.