Culinary Dictionary – A

Linda’s Culinary Dictionary – A

A Dictionary of Cooking, Food, and Beverage Terms

Culinary Dictionary

An outstanding and large culinary dictionary and glossary that includes the definitions and history of cooking, food, and beverage terms.

Please click on a letter below to alphabetically search the many food and cooking terms

A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U-Y    Z


a la (ah lah) – It is French for “in the manner of,” “in the style of,” and “according to” In cooking, this phrase designates the style of preparation or a particular garnish. There is no difference between dishes listed as “a la boulangere” and “boulangere.” Many menus drop the “a la” because it is implied.

a la Anglaise (ah-la-an-glaz) – It is a French term for English.  It refers to food which has been dipped in beaten egg, and then coated with bread crumbs and cooked in butter and oil.

a la boulangere (boo-lan-jair) – Describes a simple dish of stock, potatoes, and onions.  “Boulangere” is French for “baker.”  In history in France, many homes did not have an oven, so anything to be baked was taken to a local baker to be cooked in his oven.

a la Broche – Prepared on a skewer over a flame.  Also called Brochettes.

a la Carte (KART) – “Carte” was originally a French term for a piece of paper or cardboard and later a bill of fare or menu.  Today the term means according to the menu and that which is written down as available on the menu.  Refers to meal in which the diner selects individual items, paying for each, rather than taking a complete meal at a fixed price.

a la Creole – Dishes prepared with tomatoes, green peppers and onions as the main ingredients.

a la Diable (ah-la-dee-abla) – “Diable” is French for the devil or satan.  The term means food served deviled or in the devil’s style, usually served with a very sharp and hot seasoning.

a la King – Prepared with a Bechamel sauce containing mushrooms, green peppers, and red or pimento peppers.

a la Lyonnaise (ah-la-lee-on-az) – In French the term means with onions or served with Lyonnaise sauce, which is made from onions, white wine, and a meat glaze.

a la Maitre d’Hotel – Prepared with a sauce of lemon juice, parsley, salt, pepper, and drawn butter.

a la Marinera (ah-la-mah-ree-neh-rah) – Common style of cooking in Spanish cuisine, It says that the food is cooked with white wine, onions and sometimes tomatoes.

a la mode (ah lah MODH) – A French word for “in the manner of” or “mode or according to fashion.”  Desserts a la mode are served with ice cream.  Meats cooked a la mode are braised with vegetables and served with gravy.

a la Nage – A French term that literally means “in the swim” and refers to the fact that a some kind of seafood is “swimming” in a flavorful broth.

a la Plancha (ah-la-plahn-chah) – A Spanish cooking term that refers to the method of cooking  grilled on a metal plate or cast-iron skillet that is used for cooking by dry heat.

a la Provencale (prov-on-sal) – Provence is a French maritime province that is famed for its wines and cuisine.  The term is used to describe a dish, which uses products, which flourish, in the area of Provence, namely tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olives.

a la Royale – Prepared in the royal style; typically a veloute sauce with truffles, served on poached fish or poultry.

a la Russe – Prepared in the Russian style with sour cream or beetroot or both are added.

ababai – Ababai comes from the Caricacae family of fruits, which also contains the Mau Mau, and some forms of papaya.  It is considered an exotic fruit in the United States.  It is imported from Chile, as Chile is the only country in the world that exports this luscious fruit.  Very few countries grow Ababai and then only for their local market. It is a protected fruit in Chile and was only recently available for export.

Fresh off the tree, ababai has a thin skin and looks like a small papaya.  It is never eaten fresh due to its high enzyme content.  It is first cooked for several minutes and then jarred.  Its pale yellow color turns to a brilliant gold after processing.  It is one of the few fruits that will not dissolve when cooked.  It is superb for sauteing with vegetables, broiling on fish, and grilling on the barbecue (shish kebob).  The seeds look like small raisins.  The male and female seeds of the fruit cannot be distinguished before planting, and there is also a hermaphrodite seed.  Several seeds are planted with the prospect of growing one successful Ababai tree.  Ababai trees grow for 7 1/2 to 8 years and only bear fruit for 5 years.  The tree is then cut down, recycled, and must be replanted on virgin soil.

abais – A French term that describes puff pastry that has been rolled very thin or sponge cake that has been cut very thin for dessert preparation.

abalone – Abalone are shellfish of the univalve family, meaning they only have one shell, unlike bivalves such as clams that consist of two shells.  This edible gastropod belongs to the same family as the sea slug and is related to the snail.  Out of its shell, it resembles a large scallop.  They are found in United States, Japan, Australia, Mexico, and Indo-Pacific Region.  On the Pacific coast, they are found on rocky inter-tidal and sub-tidal areas from Baja California to Alaska, as each species prefers a particular habitat, which appears related to the local sea temperature.  They are also called ear shells, or sea ears (as their shape resembles the human ear).  Also called Awabi in Japanese cuisine and Loco in South American cuisine.  Since the abalone has been over-harvested, it is very expensive when available.

History:  Abalone has lived along the Pacific coast of North America for millions of years.  Fossilized shells have been found in sediments that are approximately 100 million years old. In more recent times, abalone were important in the economy of all native American peoples who dwelled in California’s coastal areas.  Native Americans were using abalone for food, implements, and decoration long before the arrival of Europeans in North America

Absinthe (AB-sinth) – An anise-flavored liqueur that is made by steeping wormwood and other aromatic herbs (hyssop, lemon balm, and angelica) in alcohol. The drink is distinguished by its dazzling blue-green clarity due to its chlorophyll content.  It was traditionally served with water and a cube of sugar; the sugar cube was placed on an “absinthe spoon” and the liquor was drizzled over the sugar into the glass of water.  The sugar helped take the bitter edge from the absinthe, and when poured into the water the liquor turned milky white.  Absinthe was believed to raise the drinker’s consciousness, insights, and emotional experience to another level altogether.  Unfortunately, it also caused terrible hallucinations, permanent neural damage, as seen in the dazed condition of dedicated drinkers, and even its own diseases, known as absinthism, recognized as early as the 1850s.  Read my web page on Absinthe Drinks – Learn how to make and drink absinthe.

History:  Dr. Pierre Ordinaire as an all-purpose remedy invented Absinthe in 1792.  Used as a cure-all for epilepsy, gout, drunkenness, kidney stones, colic, headaches, and worms, it was nicknamed “La Fee Verte” meaning The Green Fairy.  In 1797, the heirs of Dr. Ordinaire sold the recipe to Henri-Louis Pernod. Pernod opened the first absinthe distillery in Switzerland and then moved to a larger one in Pontarlier, France in 1805.  After the Algerian War (1844-1847), the demand for absinthe rose dramatically.  The soldiers had developed a taste for absinthe, as they were given rations of absinthe along with their drinking water as a bacterial deterrent, and began drinking it after the war.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the drinking of absinthe was so popular that the cocktail hour in France was called “lheure verte,” meaning the “green hour.”  Absinthe was exported to New Orleans and reached the same popularity in the United States.  It was a drink considered ladylike and women freely enjoyed it in the coffee houses, where it was commonly served.  In New Orleans, as well as in the rest of the United States, it became banned in 1912. Absinthe is still available in other areas of the world where it is not illegal.

Acetomel – A mixture of honey and vinegar that produces sweet-sour syrup.  Traditionally used to preserve fruits.
acidify – To add acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to a culinary preparation to made a dish slightly acid, sour, or piquant.

acidulated water – It is a solution of 5 to 6 parts water to 1 part acid (typically the acid ingredient is lemon juice or vinegar).  Since the flesh of certain fruits and vegetables, such as apples and pears, will darken when exposed to air unless used immediately after cutting, they are dropped into an acidulated water to stop this process.

aerate (ER-ayt) – Aerate means the same as “sift.”  To pass dry ingredients through a fine-mesh sifter so large pieces can be removed.  The process also incorporates air to make ingredients like flour, lighter.

after taste – Taste which returns to the mouth after ingestion of certain foods and beverages.

agar-agar – processed seaweed, grayish white in color and comes in sticks, flakes, granules or powder.  It is a vegetarian gelatin.  After it is soaked in cold water, it becomes bouncy, resilient, and crisp . It is used mostly for cold oriental dishes that contain chicken, meat, and vegetables.  In the old days, before the introduction of gelatin, agar-agar was also used as a thickening agent in making cold jellied dishes.  Once soaked in boiling water, it melts into a gelatinous substance.  The Chinese use this paste to make their famous delicacy called “bird’s nest soup.”  Agar-agar is commonly referred to as Chinese gelatin.

ahi (AH-hee) – Ahi tuna is simply yellow fin tuna. It is a term used in Hawaii to describe this variety of tuna, which is distinguished from the other variety of tuna, known as blue fin.

aiguillette – Long, thin slices of poultry of fish.

aioli (eye-YO-lee) – (French) The French word for garlic is “ail.” Aioli is garlic-flavored mayonnaise made from pounded cloves of garlic, egg yolks, oil, and seasoning. Just before it is served, lemon juice and a little cold water are added. It is served as a sauce for a variety of garnishes and main courses. The Italian for aioli is “aglio,” the Spanish is “ajo” and “allioil.”

History:  It is believed to have originated in Provence, France. See “mayonnaise.”

akutaq – Also known as aqutuk, ackutuk, or Eskimo Ice Cream.  Not the creamy ice cream as we know it, but a concoction made from reindeer fat or tallow, seal oil, freshly fallen snow or water, fresh berries, and sometimes ground fish.  Air is whipped in by hand so that it slowly cools into foam. It is eaten as a desert, a meal, a snack, or a spread.  Traditionally it was made for funerals, pot latches, celebrations of a boy’s first hunt, and any other celebration where food is brought. Today it is usually made with Crisco shortening instead of tallow and with raisins and sugar sometimes added

History:  Alaska Natives have thrived on this delicacy for thousands of years.  The region lived in usually determines what berry is used, and each family usually has their favorite recipe.  It is said that your choice of berries used is a lifetime decision.  If it okay to eat any flavor made by others, but if you are caught making more than one kind, you will lose all social standing.  Learn more about the history and culture of Akuta or Eskimo Ice Cream.

al dente (ahl-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, risotto, and vegetables.  The food should have a slight resistance (chewy) when biting into it, but should not be soft, overdone, or have a hard center.

al forno (ahl FOHR-noh)  – An Italian term to describe a dish that is  “oven baked” or “oven roasted.”

all-purpose flour – All-purpose flour is made from a blend of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat.  It is a fine-textured flour milled from the inner part of the wheat kernel and contains neither the germ (the sprouting section) nor the bran (the outer husk).  By law, in the United States, all flours not containing wheat germ must have niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin added.  Most all-purpose flours are labeled “enriched,” indicating that these nutrients have been

allspice – The dried, unripe berry of a small tree.  It is available ground or in seed form.  Allspice can be used in a variety of dishes such as pickles, casseroles, cakes, and puddings.  Also known as Jamaica Pepper. It is the fruit of the evergreen pimiento tree.  The flavor resembles a blend of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  This spice is used in both sweet and savory cooking and can be purchased whole or ground.

almond (AH-mund, AM-und) – It is the kernel of the fruit of the almond tree that is native of the warmer parts of western Asia and North Africa.  It belongs to the same group of plants as the rose, plum, cherry, and peach.  The seed is rounded at one end and pointed at the other, and covered with a thin brown coat.  There are two types of almonds – sweet and bitter.  Today, Americans give guests at weddings a bag of sugared almonds (representing children, happiness, romance, good health, and fortune).  In Sweden, cinnamon-flavored rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is a Christmas custom (find it and good fortune is yours for a year).

History – Almonds were well know in Greece and Italy long before the Christian era.  Explorers ate almonds while traveling the “Silk Road” between Asia and the Mediterranean.  Before long, almond trees flourished in the Mediterranean (especially in Spain and Italy).  Throughout history, almonds have maintained religious, ethnic, and social significance.  The Bible’s “Book of Numbers” tells the story of Aaron’s rod that blossomed and bore almonds, giving the almond the symbolism of divine approval.  The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm.  In the mid 1700s, the Franciscan Padres brought almond trees to California from Spain.

almond extract
– A solution of oil, bitter almonds, and alcohol (approximately 1%) that is used for a flavoring in baking.

almond flour
– Almond flour or meal is the residue left after almond oil has been extracted from the kernels.  It is entirely free from starch and is used in making bread and biscuits for diabetics.

almond paste
– A mixture of sugar, almonds, and egg whites.  Also called marzipan.  It is widely used in dessert preparations. Almond paste and marzipan are both made from ground almonds.  They differ mainly in their sugar content.  Marzipan is made from almond paste and sugar and is used primarily in confections and decorations because it is more moldable and the almond flavor is less pronounced.  Almond paste is used in pastries and other baked goods.  They are not interchangeable in recipes.

amaranth – Amaranth is from the Greek for “never-fading flower” or “everlasting.”  It is an annual herb, and therefore not a true grain.  It has broad leaves and large flower heads that produce thousands of tiny, protein-rich seeds.  There are hundreds of varieties of amaranth.  It is grown for its leaves-some varieties are good in salad, some are delicious steamed or stir-fried-and its somewhat peppery seeds.  Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal.  The seeds are very tiny-looking, a bit like caviar when cooked, and their lack of substance makes them rather unsatisfactory as the base of pilaf-type dishes.  Amaranth is most often ground into flour, which has a fairly strong malt-like vegetable taste and is beige in color.  It is the only known food that contains between 75% and 87% of total human nutritional requirements.

Amaranth is used in several cultures in very interesting ways,  In Mexico, it is popped and mixed with a sugar solution to make a candy called alegria and the roasted seed is used to create a traditional Mexican drink called atole.  People from Peru use fermented amaranth seeds to make chichi (beer).  During the carnival festival, women dancers often use the red amaranth flower as rouge, painting their cheeks, and then dancing while carrying bundles of amaranth on their backs.

History: There is evidence that it has been in Central and South America for nearly 8,000 years.  Amaranth was a staple in the diet of pre-Columbian Aztecs. Aztec Indians in Mexico grew it alongside maize as the main ingredient in their diets.  They thought that it gave them supernatural powers and incorporated it into their religious ceremonies.  On religious holidays, Aztec women ground the seed, mixed it with honey or human blood, then shaped it into idols that were eaten ceremoniously, a practice that appalled the conquistadors.  After conquering Montezuma in 1519, the Spanish missionaries forbade its use because of its association with human sacrifice.

In ancient Greece, amaranth was considered sacred and was used to decorate tombs and images of gods as a symbol of immortality.  The early Christian Church also adopted the amaranth as a symbol of immortality.

By the middle the 20th century, the cultivation of this grain had declined to the point where it was grown only in small plots in Mexico, the Andean highlands, and in the Himalayan foothills of India and Nepal.  It was used to make tortillas even before the cultivation of corn.  It remained in obscurity until the 1950’s when its nutritional values were again recognized through scientific development.

amaretti (ah-mah-REHT-tee) – An Italian almond macaroon cookie.  The Italian word “amaro” means “bitter,” and the literal translation of “amaretti” is “the little bitter ones.”  They are called amaretti because they are flavored with bitter almonds.

History:  Francesco Moriodo, pastry chef at the court of Savoy, created them in the mid-17th century.

amaretto (am-ah-REHT-toh) – An Italian almond flavored liqueur (or cordial) that is made from apricot pits and flavored with almonds and aromatic extracts.

History:  It is named after the town of Saronno Italy. It has been produced commercially since the 19th century.

ambrosia (am-BROH-zhah) – (1) The name is sometimes applied to certain beverages.  (2) A traditional Christmas dish in many Southern homes, where the dessert is served in the best cut-glass bowl from the sideboard.  It usually consists of chilled fruit (usually oranges and bananas) mixed with coconut.

History:   In Greek mythology, this was a balsamic juice, which served as the “food of the gods” and was said to preserve their immortality, and without this substance, they became weak.  Hebe, the daughter of Zeus and Hera, served the Gods Ambrosia and Nectar.  One day she tripped and fell so Zeus dismissed her and in the shape of an eagle.  A human being who took Ambrosia became strong and immortal, and received additional beauty, strength, and swiftness (becoming in some measure akin to the gods).

American Breakfast – It is an restaurant term that usually consists of eggs, juice, bacon or sausage, toast or hash browns.

amuse-bouche (ah-mewz-BOOSH) – Also known as amuse-gueule, amusee, petite amuse, and lagniappe are used interchangeably to describe these tasty morsels.  A French term that literally means “mouth amusement.”  These are tiny bites of food served before a meal to whet the palate and invigorate the appetite.  They are more whimsical than hors d’oeuvres, and smaller than appetizers.

The best restaurants offer a tiny serving of something interesting (also known as palate teasers) soon after you sit down, which ideally previews the cooking style of the restaurant.  In some restaurants, it is also a way to present something luxurious to favored customers.  In the United States we think of them as ‘hors-d’oeuvre’.  Customers regard them as tokens of appreciation. In this age of frequently getting less than what is expected, gestures like this make diners feel welcome and can promote customer loyalty.

History:  According to the 1992 edition of Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Francais (Dictionary of the History of the French Language), the term originated in 1946.

amuse-gueule – See “amuse-bouche.”

Anadama Bread
(ana-a-dam-a) – It is a specialty yeast bread of the New England States that is made with flour, cornmeal, and molasses.

History: This bread originated in New England.  There are a variety of stories or legends on how this bread got its name.  According to these many legends, a farmer, fisherman, miner, sailor, or Yankee (depending on what account you read), angry with his wife, Anna, for serving him nothing but cornmeal and molasses, one day adds flour and yeast to his porridge and eats the resulting bread while cursing, “Anna, damn her.”

Anaheim chile
(An-uh-hime) – Mild, long green chile peppers that are named after the area near Los Angeles where they were first cultivated.  Also known as Chile Verde (green), Chile Colorado (red) or the California Long Green, the Anaheim Chile is light green in color and slightly bent . It is the most commonly found variety in the United States.  Mild, sweet, and slightly bitter in flavor, this chile pepper can be used fresh or roasted and is often available canned.  If you buy them fresh, Anaheim Chile peppers can be stored in the refrigerator for one week.  Learn all about Chile Peppers (Preparing Fresh Chile Peppers, Roasting Fresh Chile Peppers, Preparing Dried Chile Peppers),  Science of Chile Peppers

ancho chile peppers (AHN-choh) – A dried deep reddish brown chile pepper about 3 inches wide and 4 inches long with a sweet hot flavor.  When fresh they are referred to as poblanos.  They look like small bell peppers.  Anchos are flat, wrinkled, and heart shaped.  They range in color from very dark red to almost black. Anchos are mild to moderately hot and often soaked and ground for use in sauces.

ancho powder – It is ground ancho (pablano) chile peppers.  In other words, it is a chile powder.  Ancho Chili is a dark Smokey chili with a deep rich flavor and mild to medium heat.  Their flavor is somewhat sweet and a little raisin like.  This pepper is the most commonly used in authentic Mexican cooking and is a staple in red chili and tamales.  Ancho Powder is a terrific choice for those who are looking for a “milder” taste in their cooking.  Use Ancho Powder just as you would salt or pepper.  Sprinkle on pasta, baked potatoes, vegetables, soups, pizza, popcorn and more.  Also try it to season chicken, stews, potatoes, vegetables and, of course, Mexican dishes.

anchovy (AN-choh-vee) – Anchovies are tiny silver fish, about three inches long.  They swim in large schools where the sea is temperate.  In modern Italy, Spain, and Greece, salted anchovies are offered as appetizers.  For the rest of the world, they are usually sold as flat or rolled fillets, salted, and packed in oil.  The most popular and tasty are the ones in olive oil and salt.

anchovy paste – A paste of pureed anchovies with oil and salt.  Available in tubes at most supermarkets and specialty food stores.  You can also make your own using a can of anchovy fillets.  First wash them in cold water, then mash them with a fork, and add just enough olive oil to make a smooth paste.more

History:  Check out Linda Stradley’s web page Anchovy and Anchovy Paste.

andouille (ahn-doo-ee) – (1) Traditionally, the andouilles from France were made from the large intestines and stomach of the pig (seasoned heavily and smoked).  (2) Andouille is also the Cajun smoked sausage so famous nationally today.  Made with pork butt, shank, and a small amount of pork fat.  This sausage is seasoned with salt, cracked black pepper, and garlic.  The andouille is then slowly smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane.  True andouille is stuffed into the beef middle casing, which makes the sausage approximately one and a half inches in diameter.  When smoked, it becomes very dark to almost black in color.  It is not uncommon for the Cajuns to smoke andouille for seven to eight hours at approximately 175 degrees.

History:  The finest andouilles in France reportedly come from the Brittany and Normandy areas.  It is believed that over half of the Acadian exiles that came to Louisiana in 1755 were originally from these coastal regions.  In parts of Germany, where some say andouille originated, the sausage was made with all remaining intestines and casings pulled through a larger casing, seasoned and smoked . It was served thinly sliced as a hors d’oeuvre.

Angel Food Cake – Angel Food Cake is also known as foam-style cake. They are made with a large quantity of egg whites and no shortening or leavening. Angel Food or “angel cake” is thought to be a takeoff of the cornstarch cake and the sponge cake.

History:  For a detailed history of the Angel Food Cake, check out Linda Stradley’s History of Cakes.

Angostura bitters
– Named after a town in Venezuela and made in Trinidad from roots, bark, leaves, and alcohol.  It is used in small amounts to lend an aromatic and slightly bitter element to mixed drinks.  It is best known as the essential ingredient of the popular cocktail called the “Manhattan.”

History:  In 1824, a German doctor living in Venezuela mixed this substance to create a tonic for his ailing wife.  Legend says that this creation worked as a cure for malaria and other tropical diseases.  Sailors swore that it cured seasickness (especially when mixed with rum).

antipasto (ahn-tee-PAH-sto) – The term antipasto, usually translated as “appetizer” in English.  It literally means “before the meal” and denotes a relatively light dish designed to stimulate the palate before the service of more substantial courses.

Antipasti are not essential to the Italian kitchen; a formal Italian dinner without antipasti would not betray the traditions of Italian gastronomy.  Today, however, it is difficult to imagine a formal dinner that would not include some dishes classified as antipasto.  In the regional Italian kitchen, antipasti are an important element, not on a daily basis, but certainly on holidays and special occasions.  Many dishes, served as accompaniments to main courses, are today considered too rich for such use.  So, through the years, many of these dishes have been adapted to serve as antipasto. Antipasto takes full advantage of all kinds of different foods not generally regarded as being substantial enough to be served as main courses.  The ingredients may be varied, but generally they must all be eaten with a fork.

aperitif (ah-pear-uh-TEEF) – A French term for an alcoholic beverage served before a meal as an appetizer to stimulate the appetite.  It can be a punch made to complement the meal, but it is usually a white wine, sherry, champagne, or a sparkling wine   It can also be non-alcoholic.

appetizer (apy-tizer) – It is a small portion of bite-size food which is served before a main meal as the first course in order to stimulate the appetite.  If served before a meal it should be small.  They may be hot or cold, plated, or served as finger food.  If served at a cocktail party, it is usually called hors d’ oeuvres.

apple – Of nearly 8000 varieties known around the world, about 100 are grown in commercial quantity in the U.S., with the top 10 comprising over 90% of the crop.  New varieties are still being discovered and cultivated, with the best eventually becoming household words like McIntosh, Delicious, Empire, Rome, Spartan, Cortland, Granny Smith, etc.

History:  Check out History and Legend of Apples.

apple butter – Apple butter is a kind of jam made of tart apples, boiled in cider until reduced to a very thick smooth paste, to which is added a flavoring of allspice, while cooking.  It is then placed in jars and covered tightly.

History:  Apple butter was one of the favorite sweets during the colonial and pioneering historical eras of the United States.

Apple Charlotte
– Apple Charlotte consists of layers of cake or breadcrumbs, sugar, butter, and apples.

History:  For a detailed history of the Charlotte Russe, check out Linda Stradley’s History of Cakes.

apple cider
– Most cider is made from fermented apple juice.  Natural cider has nothing added and relies, for fermentation, upon the wild yeast present in the apples. For mass-produced ciders, a yeast culture is added in order to achieve consistency.  Although much of today’s cider is produced from apple concentrate, many traditional cider-makers use only cider apples, cultivated specifically for the purpose.

History:  When the Romans arrived in England in 55 B.C., they were reported to have found the local Kentish villagers drinking a delicious cider-like beverage made from apples.  It has been recorded that the Romans and in particular their leader, Julius Caesar, embraced the pleasant pursuit with enthusiasm!  How long the locals had been making this apple drink, prior to the arrival of the Romans, is anybody’s guess.

In America, cider was an everyday drink up until the middle of the 19th century.  Anytime was considered a good time for drinking in the New England Colonies, and upon rising in the morning, the downing of a mug of cider was considered customary.  Most of the early apple crops were made into cider since the apples had not yet been perfected into the sweet, juicy, eating apples of today.  By the 1670s, cider was the most abundant and least expensive drink in New England.  It quickly took the place of water, which was considered unsafe.  During the colonial period, hard cider was the most popular beverage in America and often the measure of a town’s wealth was measured by how many barrels of cider were stored for the winter.


apple juice – It is the juice squeezed from apples.  As long as apple juice (fresh cider) remains in its natural state and is not sweetened, preserved, clarified, or otherwise altered, it is apple juice.  In sweet cider, fermentation is not permitted at all.  See apple cider.

– A brandy made by distilling apple cider.  The name is also given to a beverage produced by freezing hard cider.

History:  As early as 1698, William Laird began it distill cider for himself and neighbors, producing apple brandy or applejack.  Applejack, because of its power, was also know as “jersey Lighting.”  In 1780, a descendant of laird began commercial production of applejack and the company still distills it today.

– The apricot derives its name from the Latin world “praecox” meaning “precocious.”

History:  The apricot has a long history of cultivation, starting in China some 4,000 years ago and traveling along the trade routes to the shores of the Mediterranean.  In Iraq and Iran, apricots are served with lamb, and a regional specialty is “kamraddin” (a kind of apricot leather).  A drink is made from it to mark the end of a period of religious fasting.  The Spanish missionaries introduced the apricot trees to the Santa Clara Valley in California.

aquaculture – It is the cultivation of the sea.  The term refers specifically to the intensive production of fish and shellfish in a controlled environment for human food.  It is an ancient practice in Asia but it has only began approximately 20 years ago in the U.S., but in virtually no time has become one of the fastest growing segments of the United States economy.

offshore farming – It takes place in deep, navigable waters and involves the use of boats.

onshore farming – It is done in shallow waters where boats are not necessary.

tank culture – It is another form of onshore farming.  Tanks, usually made of steel and reinforced cement, or fiberglass in a variety of shapes, are used to contain populations of fish in water.

pond culture – It is the most widely used method of fish farming.  All catfish farming is pond raised.  The farming is done in man-made ponds that are drainable and often incorporate a system of dikes for harvesting.

tray culture – A tray culture involves the use of a permanent structure for mollusks to attach themselves to.  Trays are set underwater in calm bays or estuaries to stimulate the growth of clams, oyster, and other shellfish.  Sometimes ropes or strings are hung into the water for mussels and scallops to grow on.

arborio rice (ar-BOH-ree-oh) – An Italian short grain rice that was virtually synonymous with risotto for many years.  It is the best known of the top-grade varieties of Italian rice.  When purchasing arborio rice, the only precaution is to check the label to be sure it is not precooked.

Architectural Cuisine – Menu items that are stacked for height. Also called Vertical Cuisine.

arepas (ah-ray-pay-rah) – Similar to an English muffins but made from precooked corn flour, it is a cornmeal patty or pancake that is considered like bread in other countries.  Arepas are popular throughout South America, but especially popular in Colombian and Venezuelan.  It is considered the national dish of Venezuela (the local equivalent of an American hamburger).  You can find arepas in small restaurants called Areperas. T he most famous arepa is La reina pepiada, made with chopped meat, avocado and cheese.  The favorite way to serve them in Venezuela is to split them open, remove some of the steaming moist corn meal, and then stuff them with your favorite ingredients.  The arepa is wrapped in a square of slick paper (like butcher paper), and handed to the purchaser to eat standing up.  Very few people make arepas at home, choosing to buy them at the store or have them delivered directly to their homes.  You can also find arepas all over Miami, Florida (the traditional arepa served in Miami has two cornmeal pancakes with a layer of cheese inside).

History:  First made by the Indians of Columbia and Venezuela, an important part of their diet just like corn tortillas were to the Aztecs. For many centuries, it was considered a food for the poor. Today they are considered a comfort food for everyone.

– (1) A vegetable, herb, or spice used to enhance the flavor and fragrance of food and drinks.  In classic cooking, a reference to “aromatics” most often means onions, carrot, and celery.  (2) It also means spicy, pungent, or having a fragrant aroma.

– The Mexican term for fajitas or skirt steak.

(Ah-RAK) – Also called arak. It is an anise-flavored liqueur, often homemade.  It is a popular aperitif in the Middle East.  It is a distilled from grapes, dates, and other fruits.  In its countries of origin, it is included in cooking in some recipes for fish stews.

– Also called arrowhead.  A fine, dry white powdered starch made from a tropical root and exported from the British West Indies.  It is named for its curative properties in treating arrow wounds.  It makes exceptionally smooth sauces, and is a very good last minute thickener (it can be stirred into a sauce at the last minute without lumping).  Arrowroot is slightly stronger in thickening power than cornstarch.  However, if the sauce boils for more than a few seconds, the starch breaks down and its thickening power is lost.

(AH-roz) – Spanish word for long-grain white rice.  This is a main staple in Mexican cooking.

arroz con pollo
(arros kon POH-yoh) – It is a popular chicken and rice Spanish and Mexican dish that is actually a paella without any shellfish or meat.

– The artichoke is a perennial in the thistle group of the sunflower family that is native to the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.  A name shared by three unrelated plants: the globe artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, and Chinese (or Japanese) artichoke.  In full growth, the plant spreads to cover an area about six feet in diameter and reaches a height of three to four feet.  The part that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud.  If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color.  The size of the bud depends on where it is located on the plant.  Larger artichokes are found on central stems towards the top of the plant, where they receive maximum sunshine.  Smaller or “baby” artichokes are found lower down on the plant where they are shaded from the sun by the larger buds above.

History:  Check out History of Artichokes.

(ah-ROO-guh-lah) – It is also known as rocket, rulola, Italian cress, and roquette.  It is a delicate salad green that is related to mustard.  When the leaves are young, they are tender and nutty, with a subtle peppery flavor.  The leaves look like radish leaves.  The white blossoms are also edible. It is used as a salad green, as a garnish, and in combination with other ingredients in sandwiches.

asafetida (ah-sah-FEH-teh-dah) – This pungent resinous gum is used widely in Indian vegetarian cooking.  Also called stinking gum and devil’s dung because of its unpleasant smell, this seasoning is obtained from the gum of a plant native to Afghanistan, Iran, and northern India.  A perennial of the carrot family that grows wild to 12 feet high in natural forests.  The whole plant exudes a characteristic smell, described by some as stink.  The milky resin comes from both the thick stems and the root and it dries into asafoetida.

A popular ingredient in Indian vegetarian dishes, it imparts a subtle flavor if used sparingly (the odor does not transmit to cooked food).  In the raw state, the resin or the powder has an unpleasant smell.  This completely disappears when the spice is added to a variety of fish, vegetable pulse, and pickle ingredients.  Also used in the curries and pickles of West and South India.  The powdered version is easier to handle.  Buy asafoetida in small quantities.  The powder resin is usually mixed with flour to provide bulk and is sold in bright yellow plastic tubs.

History:  Early record show that Alexander the Great carried this “Stink Finger” west in 4 BC.  It was used as a flavoring in the kitchens of ancient Rome.

asiago cheese (ah-see-AH-go) – Asiago cheese is a semi-firm Cheese from Italy. Also known as “poor man’s Parmesan cheese.”  It is made from whole or part-skim cow’s milk. It comes in small wheels with glossy rinds and is yellow inside with many small holes called “eyes.”  Asiago is rich and nutty in flavor and used as a table cheese when young; when matured for 6 months or more it hardens and may be grated.

History:  Originally, this cheese was made from ewe’s milk in the village of Asiago in the province of Vicenza.

asparagus – The name asparagus comes from the Greek language meaning “sprout” or “shoot,” and it is a member of the lily family.  Plants in the lily family are also related to various grasses.  In the dialects of 18th and 19th century cookbooks, asparagus was referred to as sparagrass or sparrowgrass.  People throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States use fresh Asparagus in their favorite cuisine.  In China, Asparagus spears are candied and served as special treats.  It is widely popular today as a scrumptious, fresh, healthy vegetable.  Learn more about Asparagus.

History:  Asparagus cultivation began more than 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean Region. Greeks and Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavor, texture and, alleged medicinal qualities. They ate it fresh and dried the vegetable to use in winter. In the 16th Century, asparagus gained popularity in France and in England. Asparagus is often called the “Food of Kings.” King Louis XIV of France was so fond of this delicacy that he ordered special greenhouses build so he could enjoy asparagus all year round.

au bleu – The French term for the method of preparing fish the instant after it is killed.  Used especially for trout, as in “truite au blue,” when the freshly killed fish is plunged into a boiling court bouillon, which turns the skin a metallic blue color.

Au (saw) – It is a French term that has the same meaning as “a la” meaning “in the manner of,” “in the style of,” and “according to” In cooking, this phrase designates the style of preparation or a particular garnish.

au beurre (bur) – Made with or in butter

au bleu (blo) – Means blue and describes the process where freshly killed fish is plunged into boiling water and poached until the skin of the fish has a bluish tinge.

au fromage (from-azh) – The term means cheese and means made with or in cheese.

au gratin (GRAH-tn) – To dress up vegetables, meats, and fish with a layer of bread crumbs and/or grated cheese on top.  It is then broiled or baked until a thin brown crust forms.

au jus (joos) – (1) Is French and has the same meaning as a la and be translated as “in” or “with.”  (2) It also describes meat served in its own natural juices, not with gravy.

Au lait – Contain milk.

au naturel (nat-tur-el) – Means natural or simple.  It refers to foods which are served very simply or which are uncooked.

au poivre (pwa-vra) – Means pepper, and means cooked with pepper.

avocado (a-voh-KAH-doh) – The avocado used to be called alligator pear.  It is a tropical fruit native to Central America.  Today, this fruit is grown in Southern California.  Avocados do not ripen on the tree and are rarely found ripe in the markets.

History:  Check out History of Avocados.


Culinary Dictionary   

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