(fah-HEE-ta) - The Spanish word for
skirt steak. Most people associate the word fajita with strips of meat
that go into the taco. Fajita is a highly flavorful cut of meat that comes
from the outer covering of the breast near where the brisket comes from.
Learn about the history of
Also includes a recipe.
falafel – A Middle Eastern snack
that is also known as ta’amica. It is considered the national dish of Egypt,
but is popular throughout the Middle East. They are sold on every corner;
from restaurants to side walk stands. A traditional falafel sandwich
consists of six ground, deep-fried chickpea balls stuffed into pita bread
along with finely cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, and tahini sauce.
farmer's cheese - Farmer's
cheese is a fresh cheese that is a form of pressed cottage cheese. Most of
the liquid is pressed out leaving a very dry, crumbly cheese that is often
flavored with fruit or nuts. It is an all-purpose cheese good for eating or
using in cooking. It is sliceable and also can be crumbled. It can be
replaced, if necessary, with drained cottage cheese.
fast food - According to the
Oxford English Dictionary, the first documented use of "fast food" in
reference to a restaurant came in 1951 in an article in a trade journal
called "Fountain and Fast Food Service." Fast food seems to have been
originally applied to restaurants and catering businesses that served "steam table" delicacies, as well as
to convenience foods a busy housewife could quickly whip up. The history of
fast food started as neighborhood restaurants opened by idealistic young
people in the 1950s - Carl's Jr., McDonald's, Dominoes Pizza, etc.
fava beans - Also referred to as
broad or horse beans. Fava beans are tan, flat beans, which resemble lima
beans. However the favas have a very strong flavor (quite bitter at times).
Their skins are very tough and must be removed by blanching before you cook
them. Fava beans are popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes.
They are usually sold dried and can, sometimes, be purchased in cans in
stores, which specialize in a Middle Eastern clientele. They are sold fresh
in specialty produce stores, but it takes a lot of work to get to the fresh
feijoa (fay-JO-a) - A native to
subtropical South America and commercially grown in New Zealand and Northern
California. Feijoas are available during spring and early summer. They are
also called pineapple guavas, describing the taste of the creamy, white,
juicy, granular flesh. The taste is a combination of pineapple and guava or
strawberry with a hint of spearmint. Ripe fruit should have a full rich
aroma and should "give" or feel tender to the touch, like a ripe plum or
pear. Feijoas can be ripened at room temperature by enclosing in a paper bag
with an apple. Once they are ripened, the fruit can be stored in the
refrigerator for about a week.
feta cheese (FET-tah) - A
classic Greek cheese usually made from goat's or sheep's milk. It is now
also made from cow's milk. Salted and cured in a brine solution (which can
be either water or whey) for a week to several months (this is why it is
sometimes called a pickled cheese and has a sharp, salty taste. Feta dries
out rapidly when removed from the brine. Feta cheese is white, usually
formed into square cakes, and can range from soft to semi-hard, with a
tangy, salty flavor that can range from mild to sharp. It has been and still
remains a significant part of Greek diet and its name is often connected
with the Greek history and tradition.
History: Feta cheese is one of the
oldest cheeses in the world. Without refrigeration cheese made as many as
6000 years ago, spoiled easily. One of the only ways to preserve cheese was
to preserve cheese with salt. Greek mythology has it that the Cyclops
Polyphemus raised plump sheep, using their rich milk to make a delicious
cheese which Ulysses discovered during his interminable travels.
Fettuccine Alfredo - Fettuccine
tossed with butter, heavy cream, and grated cheese.
In 1908, Alfredo di Lelio, a small restaurateur and chef, living above his
small Rome restaurant with his pregnant wife, created Fettuccine Alfredo to tempt the palate of his
pregnant wife who had lost her appetite and was becoming weaker.
Alfredo decided that he would invent a dish that his wife could not resist.
His wife loved it and legend says she cleaned her plate and a short
time later, Alfredo II was born to the music of customers downstairs in the
restaurant, all crying for his new irresistible dish.
Vero Alfredo, and the
dish bearing his name became world famous in 1927 when Douglas Fairbanks and
Mary Pickford, American movie stars on their honeymoon, ate at his
restaurant and were impressed with the dish. They
presented him with a gold fork and spoon in honor of his creation. From then
on, he was famous for preparing it in the dining room of his restaurant
before his guests, mixing it with a gold-plated spoon and fork.
fig - Figs were probably one of
the first fruits to be dried and stored by man. There was a fig tree in the
Garden of Eden, and in fact, the fig is the most talked about fruit in the
Bible. Whether a fig was the forbidden fruit is debatable, but it is
definite that a fig tree provided the first clothing; "...the eyes of both
of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig
leaves together, and made themselves aprons." The ancient city of Attica was
famous for its figs and they soon became a necessity for its citizens, rich
or poor. Solon, the ruler of Attica (639-559 BC), actually made it illegal
to export figs out of Greece, reserving them solely for his citizens. The
Persian King Xerxes, after his defeat by the Greeks at Salamis in 480 BC,
had figs from Attica served him at every meal to remind him that he did not
possess the land where this fruit grew. The Spanish missionary fathers who
first planted them at the San Diego Mission in 1759 brought figs to
California. Fig trees were then planted at each succeeding mission, going
North through California. Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a
flower that is inverted into it. The seeds are drupes (or the real fruit).
Figs are the only fruit to fully ripen and semi-dry on the tree. They are
generally available twice each year, in June and again in late August or
September. Both crops are harvested from the same tree.
filbert - See hazelnuts.
file (fee-lay) - Also called
gumbo file powder. File powder, which is made from the ground dried leaves
of the sassafras tree. File is a thickening agent that must be stirred in a
dish after it is removed the heat to prevent a stringy or ropey texture from
developing. It is used as a seasoning and primarily thickening agent in
gumbo, and has a wonderfully pungent and aromatic flavor. File should never
be added to a pot of gumbo while it's cooking, but rather added to
individual servings (if cooked or reheated, it will turn stringy).
History: It was introduced into Creole
cooking by the Choctaw Indians of Louisiana. The Indians thought the
sassafras tree had special healing powers. They combined the roots and
leaves with water to make a healing tonic.
Mignon - The term "filet mignon" is a French derivative, the literal
meaning is small (mignon) bone-less meat (filet). Cut from the small end of
the beef tenderloin.
Depending upon what
part of the United States you're in, the tenderloin muscle of the cow or
short loin, becomes Filet Mignon, Chateaubriand, Tournedos, Medallions, or
Filet de Boeuf. Filet Mignon is also know as Tenderloin Steak (in fact most
often I see it as Tenderloin Steak).
Filet Mignon or Tenderloin Steak is a cut of meat that is considered the king
of steaks because of its tender, melt in the mouth texture. It comes
from the small end of the tenderloin (called the short loin), which is found
on the back rib cage of the animal. Because this area of the animal is not
weight-bearing, the connective tissue is not toughened by exercise resulting
in extremely tender meat. Filet mignon slices found in the market are
generally one to two inches thick and two to three inches in diameter, but
true mignons are no more than one inch in diameter and are taken from the
Fish Taco –
For the history of
Fish Tacos, check out Linda Stradley's
History of Sandwiches.
flageolet beans -Considered the
caviar of beans, flageolets are tiny, tender French bush type beans that are
very popular in French cooking. They range from creamy white to light green.
Flageolets are removed from the pod when tender and just maturing. This bean
of French origin is grown in the fertile soil of California. Its versatile
flavor compliments lamb, as well as fish and chicken. If you can't find
them, substitute navy beans instead.
flan (flaen or flahn) - (1) Flan
is a generic term that refers to any type of baked open pastry dish (savory
or sweet) cooked within a pastry shell that meets certain criteria. The term
comes from the French word "flaon" as well as the Latin "fladon" which means
"flat cake or open metal tin" that dates back to the 6th century, when Latin
poet Fortunas (530 - 609 A.D.) mentioned it in his writing.
(2)Flan is an open tart filled with fruit, a
cream, or a savory mixture. The term is also used to describe a sweet
custard dish. A dessert that closest resembles caramel custard. It is made
in a "pie shape" of which slices are cut and served. In Spain, the flan is
considered the national dessert.
florentine, a la - A French term
indicating that spinach is present in the dish.
History: Catherine de Medici
(1519-1589), queen of France (1547-1559), was born in Florence, Italy. When
Catherine de'Medici married Henri II and became queen of France, she
insisted her cooks serve spinach at every meal. Her Florentine chefs
influenced French chefs, most notably in the use of spinach. She dubbed
"florentine" on any dish containing spinach. To this day, dishes made with
spinach are known as "Florentine."
flounder - There are many
varieties of flounder around the world. In the U.S. this category includes
the Atlantic fluke, gray sole, Pacific petrale sole, rex sole, and sand dab.
All of these are flatfish with both eyes on one side. They can be purchased
either whole or as fillets. They are all mild tasting and should be cooked
with attention to their delicate structure.
flour - The finely ground and
sifted meal of any of various edible grains. Giant steel or stone rollers
are used to break and grind the grain. By using different classes of wheat
in the milling process, a variety of flours are produced and can be used to
add texture and interest to various breads.
The history of flour spans recorded time. Man has been making bread from
ground wheat for thousands of years, first in the form of a wheat and water
gruel that was dried out to make a flat cake (tortillas are an example of
this ancient flat bread that has survived to the modern era). The ancient
Greeks developed techniques to refine their wheat enough to distinguish
between white and brown (whole wheat) flours. For many hundreds of years,
people who could afford to eat bread from white flour were considered
superior to those who ate coarser, brown bread.
Learn about the different types of
focaccia (foh-KAH-chee-ah) - An
Italian dimpled flat bread similar to pizza dough. It is traditionally oiled
and baked in a wood oven. Focaccia toppings are generally quite simple.
Perhaps the most common one is sliced fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced
prosciutto, and shredded arugala. Other common toppings include straight
prosciutto, just tomatoes, or tomatoes and thinly sliced mozzarella. Olive
oil is served at the table so the diner can drizzle some to taste.
History: Focassic takes its name from
the Latin word "focus," which means "hearth," and was originally cooked on a
hot stone or under a mound of ashes directly on the hearth itself. In
Tuscany, they are called “schiacciatta” which means, "flattened." It is
believed that they were first used as a kind of edible plates and that the
original pizzas were made from.
foie gras (FWAH-grah) - The
literal translation from the French for foie gras is "fat liver." It usually
refers to goose liver, which is considered to be the best, but it can be
liver from a duck or a goose. Foie gras is a dish made from the livers of
fattened geese and ducks that have been force fed on a special diet in a
confined living space, until they are grossly fat and their liver have
become enlarged and fatty. The liver is soaked overnight in liquid (water,
milk, or port wine). Then the liquid is drained and marinated in Armagnac,
Port or Madeira mixed with seasonings. The next step is to cook, usually by
baking the livers. The exact preparation can vary by vender or cook.
Traditionally it has been served chilled with thin, buttered toast slices
and accompanied by sauternes, but now chefs are using foie gras in all kinds
of interesting ways in their recipes.
NOTE: Several nations have banned the
production of foie gras and many restaurants have removed foie gras from
their menus in recent years.
History: Foie gras is an ancient
delicacy known since the Egyptian time. The Romans knew about fattening
methods 2,000 years ago, as they were very fond of goose-liver paste. The
Latin term for foie gras was iecur ficatum meaning "fig-fattened." and from
the second half of it derives the French word for liver, foie.
Until the end of the 18th century, however, foie
gras could mean any kind of fattened liver (from pigs, hens or capons), not
just goose liver.
King Louis XVI (1754–1793)
of France favored foie gras, and during his reign, Chef Jean Joseph
Close (1757-1828), while
working in Strasbourg, incorporated goose liver with veal and bacon and
cooked it in a crust (en croute), which he called Pate a la Contades.
Foie gras became known as Foie Gras de Strasbourg with the city of
Strasbourg being known as the “Capital of Foie Gras” for more than a
The history of frangipane is traced to a 16th-century Italian nobleman named
Marquis Muzio Frangipani, who introduced almond perfume-scented gloves that
were all the rage. Pastry chefs tried to capture this popular scent in
desserts; hence the birth of frangipane. Later, when the perfume was added
to an almond cream dessert, the resulting delicacy was also dubbed
frangipane. Today it is most often used to refer to an almond-flavored
French Dip Sandwich – It is a beef
sandwich on a long white French roll that is dipped into pan juices.
American menus often describe the pan juice as “au jus.” Au jus is a French
expression, which means “with broth” or “with juice.”
History: For the history of the French Dip Sandwich,
check out Linda Stradley's
History of Sandwiches.
French fry/fries – In English,
“to french,” means to cut into lengthwise pieces. French Fries are short for
“frenched and fried potatoes.” The English call them 'chips', a word which
has a similar meaning (a chipped piece of wood). They are known as
pommes de terre in French and
fritures or frietkoets in Belgium. Belgians enjoyed their fries
served in a paper cone with fries and a beer:
The list of different names is as varied as the countries that enjoy
History: The origin of the French fry
has been the target of much animosity between the French and the Belgians.
Some people think the French fry (pommes frites) originated in Belgian and
then spread to France. Belgian historians claim to have proof that fries
were invented in the region of the Meuse in 1680. The French claim they originated in
Paris on the Pont Neuf in the
mid 19th century. The French fry is part of most
international cuisines, but different countries have different names for
President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), third President of the United States, is credited with
introducing America to French fries in the late 1700s. He described
them as "Potatoes, fried in the French
Manner." He brought over the method of cooking potatoes
from France and served them to his guests. It is thought that America's
present day craving for French fries may be traced back to the soldiers
stationed in Northern France and Belgium during World War I. The soldiers
dubbed the hot and crispy fried snack "French Fries," after the
French-speaking people who sold them. Today, one out of every three potatoes
grown in the United is sliced into French fries. One-quarter of all meals
served in American restaurants come with French fries, as they are the most
profitable food item in the restaurant industry.
French toast - See "Pain Perdu."
fromage blanc (froh-MAHZH BLAHN)
- Also called fromage frais. In French it literally translates as
"white cheese" and that's what it is. It is a simple cheese made with milk
and a culture. The technique is identical to making yogurt. The texture of
fromage blanc depends on how long, or if, you drain the cheese after the
culture incubates in the milk. Some people know it as a runny cheese that
has a texture similar to that of yogurt. In France is sold next to yogurt in
French grocery stores, and like yogurt, it is often flavored with fruit.
fromage bleu - Also called bleu
cheese. It is the French name for a group of type-type (blue-veined) cheeses
made in the Roquefort area in southeastern France. Roquefort-type cheese
made in the U.S. is call "blue cheese."
fromage frais This term means
fresh cheese. It is not a certain kind of cheese, but a name given to a
number of very young fresh cheeses. There are quite a number of French
fromage frais. Few of these cheeses reach the United States, as they are too
fragile and perishable. The two that are imported by the U.S. are Gervais,
which is a double cream shipped in two ounce packages and Petit Suisse, also
a double cream which must be frozen before it is shipped because of its very
fragile nature. Otherwise you have to go to France to sample these somewhat
sourer than our American sour cream cheeses. Many of them are served with
more cream and sugar as a dessert. Fresh Neufchatel is the French version of
our cream cheese. The difference here is the addition of gum arabic, a
preservative, in the American version. In general, fresh cheeses from France
are made to be eaten rather quickly and are just made with soured cream.
- They are holiday and wedding cakes, which have a very heavy fruit content.
They require special handling and baking to obtain successful results.
Check out Linda Stradley's
History of Cakes.
frumenty - A 14th
century porridge (grain pudding) made with grains of wheat, boiled up into a
broth added to which were crushed almonds, milk and egg yolks. It was
sometimes eaten with honey on Christmas morning but usually as sauce served
with mutton or venison. This would often be more like soup and was
eaten as a fasting dish in preparation for the Christmas
By 1595, frumenty was evolving into
plum porridge or plum pudding, having been thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs,
dried fruit and given more flavor thanks to the addition of ale and spirits.
The traditional English Christmas Pudding is derived from frumenty and plum
fudge – An American invention,
it was created in the mid 1800s in the Eastern women’s colleges of Vassar,
and Wellesly. The first printed record of fudge came in 1896 with Opera
Fudge became popular at Eastern women's colleges around the turn of The name
may have come from when students "fudged" by making the confection when they
were supposed to be in bed.
fume blanc (foo-may-blahN) - It
is the word used in the United States for Sauvignon Blanc. Robert Mondavi as
a marketing ploy invented it.
Funeral Pie – Also called Raisin
Pie and Rosina Pie (German for raisin).
History: For the history of Funeral Pie, check out Linda
History of Pies.
usion Cooking - Fusion cooking
is a style that incorporates ingredients and/or methods from at least two
different ethnic/regional cooking styles. Originally combining western and
Oriental culinary art but now includes all ethnic cuisines. Fusion cooking
could be considered modern American cooking. Taste is as important as look.
For a long time America was the melting pot of cultures. In the past 10
years, it's become the melting pot of cuisines as well. It's about breaking
down cultural barriers, trying new things. Fusion is found in a lot of
different places. From the finest restaurants, to the local fast food