ladyfinger – Ladyfingers are known in Italy as savoiardi are sweet, little, fairly dry, finger-shaped sponge cakes. It is used for making desserts like Tiramisu and Charlottes. Ladyfingers can be made at home or purchased in bakeries, supermarkets, or specialty markets.
History: To learn about the history of the Lamington/Lemmington, check out History of Cakes.
lagniappe – (lan-YAP) – Used primarily in southern Louisiana and southeast Texas, the word lagniappe refers to an “unexpected something extra. ” It could be an additional doughnut (as in “baker’s dozen”), a free “one for the road” drink, and an unanticipated tip for someone who provides a special service or possibly a complimentary dessert for a regular customer. Creole term for something extra.
lamington or lemmington – The word lamington means layers of beaten gold. An Australian dessert of little cubes or squares of sponge cake, dipped in chocolate, then rolled in coconut. In Victoria (State of Australia) they often add a layer of raspberry or plum jam. They are served with tea in the afternoon. Lamington’s are so popular in Australia that the cakes are a favorite means of raising money for school groups, church’s, and scouts and girl guides. These money making adventure are called Lamington Drives.
History: To learn about the history of the Lamington/Lemmington, check out History of Cakes.
lard – Lard is the layer of fat located along the back and underneath the skin of the hog. Hog-butchers prepare it during the slaughtering process and preserve it in salt. In Italy it is used mainly (either minced or in whole pieces) to prepare various kinds of sauces and soups, to cook vegetables and legumes, or to lard beef or poultry. In order to remove any excess of salt, lard should be blanched by placing it in cold water, bringing it to a boil and then letting it cool entirely under cold running water.
lasagna, lasagne (luh-ZAHN-yuh) – (1) Pasta in flat, very wide strips that is almost always used in baked dishes. (2) A dish made by baking such pasta with layers of sauce and fillings such as cheese or meat.
History: Like many things, the origins of pasta and how lasagna was first made are lost in the mists of prehistory. We can only assume that pasta was “invented” by the peoples living in the Mediterranean area some time after our ancestors had learned to cultivate cereals and to grind them into flour. However, the origins of “macaroni” in Italy go back as far as the time of the Ancient Romans who gave the credit to the ‘Gods’. Some historians say that “maccheroni” is derived from the Sicilian word “maccarruni” meaning “made into a dough by force.” Other historians think the word “lasagne” came from the Greek “lasanon,” a chamber pot. The Romans adopted the word for any cooking pot; lasagna is the pasta dish cooked in the lasanum.
lavender – To learn about Lavender, check out Linda Stradley’s web page on Lavender.
latt cafau lait, cafe leche – Is a coffee made with milk, usually equal portions of scalded milk and coffee.
leavener, leavening agent (LEHV-uhn-er) – Leaveners are agents that are added to doughs and batters to increase the volume and lighten the texture. The most common leaveners are baking soda, baking powder, and yeast. In some recipes, egg whites may be whipped to create a similar effect. In earlier days, leavening agents were called “lifters.”
lefse (lef-suh) – Lefse is considered to any “good” Norwegian the same as the tortilla is to the Mexican and the crepes are to the French. A Scandinavian tradition for decades, lefse is a pastry made from potatoes, flour, butter, and cream. It is widely prized as a delicious delicacy, whether served plain or with butter and sugar.
legume (lehg-Yoom) – Legumes, also known as pulses, are the mature seeds that grow inside pods. We call them peas, beans, and lentils.
lemongrass – It is also known as citronella. Lemongrass is native to Malaysia and grown throughout Southeast Asia and California. It is a stiff tropical grass that resembles a large fibrous green onion (the stalks are too tough to eat buy when simmered in liquid, they impart a distinctive fragrance and taste). It is an essential herb in southeast Asian cooking. It adds a lemony flavor to dishes.
Lemon Drop Martini – In large west coast cities, especially San Francisco, the Lemon Drop Martini is the popular drink, a lemon drink that is truly reminiscent of the childhood candy. It is sometimes known as adult lemonade. This addictive drink is a mixture of fresh lemon juice, vodka, sweet vermouth or Triple Sec, sugar, and served ice cold in a sugar-rimmed martini glass. Check out my favorite Lemon Drop Martini for a recipe.
History: This drink came into vogue during the 1970s and was developed at a now defunct bar called Henry Africa’s in San Francisco, a well known singles” bar. Since it was basically a singles bar that catered to single men and women, they developed and pushed “girl drinks.” They are drinks that are potent, but sweet enough to cover the taste of alcohol. It is felt that it was named after the candy, lemon drops, of the same name.
lentil – These are tiny bean-like seeds. They are one of the first plants used for foods. T he Egyptians and Greeks cooked these small legumes and so did the Romans. Pliney, the Roman naturalist, recommended them as a food that produced mildness and moderation of temper.
liaison (lee-ay-ZON) – The process of thickening a sauce, soup, or stew. This is a mixture of cream and egg yolks that is used to thicken soups and sauces. Egg yolks must be tempered with hot liquid before adding to the liquid in order to prevent curdling. This process is also referred to as a “binder.”
licorice – Its botanical name is Glycyrrhiza, from the Greek meaning “sweet root.” The taste of the licorice root is so distinctive that its sweetness is detectable in water even when diluted to 1 part licorice to 20,000 parts water.
History: Licorice has a long and honorable history in the service of mankind. The earliest usage of Licorice was back in the first syllables of recorded time. Licorice freaks throughout history have included Pharaohs and Prophets. Men discovered generous supplies in King Tut’s tomb, while Egyptian hieroglyphics record the use of Licorice in a popular beverage in the days when the Bible was still being written! Alexander the Great, the Scythian armies, Roman Emperor Caesar, and even India’s great prophet, Brahma, are on record endorsing the beneficial properties contained in Licorice. Warriors used it for its ability to quench thirst while on the march, while others (including Brahma and venerable Chinese Buddhist sages), recognized Licorice’s valuable healing properties.
Natural licorice can be effective medicine. For over 3000 years, licorice root has been used as a remedy for peptic ulcers, sore throats and coughs in eastern and western medicine. Licorice root has been used since the third century BC to help dissipate coughs.
Liederkrantz cheese (LEE-duhr-krahntz) – It is a semi-soft aromatic cow’s milk cheese created by New York cheese maker, Emil Frey, in 1882. This cheese is most commonly enjoyed with beer, dark bread, and onions. Borden Foods purchased the trademark and is its sole producer.
lima beans – Lima beans come in two varieties; the Fordhook and the baby lima. The Fordhook is meatier and fatter than the baby limas with has a bolder flavor. Fresh limas can be found sometimes in June, July, and August. They should be shelled just before using.
limburger cheese (LIM-bur-ger) – Limburger is a semi soft, surface-ripened cheese with a characteristic strong flavor and aroma. It was first made in the Province of Luttich, Belgium and is named for the town of Limburger, where originally much of it was marketed.
Limoncello (lee-mohn-CHEH-loh) – Limoncello is the generic name for an Italian citrus-based lemon liqueur that is served well chilled in the summer months. An absolute natural product acquired by the infusion of lemon skins in pure alcohol. It has become Italy’s second most popular drink after Campari. It is wonderful as a palate cleanser or as an after dinner drinks. Keep your bottles of Limoncello in the freezer until ready to serve. The ingredients are simple and few, and making a batch does not require much work, but you will need some time. In most recipes, Limoncello must steep for (80) eighty days.
History: It has long been a staple in the lemon-producing region along the Italian Amalfi Coast in Capri and Sorrento. The Amalfi Coast is known for its citrus groves and narrow winding roads. Authentic Limoncello is made from Sorrento lemons, which come from the Amalfi Coast. Families in Italy have passed down recipes for this for generations, as every Italian family has their own Limoncello recipe.
lobster – A large seawater crustacean. Lobster is considered the king of the crustacean family and has a jointed body and limbs covered with a hard shell. The American or Northern lobster is caught from Newfoundland to the Carolinas, but lobster is the essence of the Main seacoast. Lobster and Maine are all but synonymous.
History: For centuries, lobsters were so abundant that they were usually considered food for the poor. According to regional legend, John D. Rockefeller Sr. rescued the lobster in 1910. The legend is that a bowl of lobster stew, meant for the servants’ table, was accidentally sent upstairs (where it was rapturously received). From then on, it was given a permanent place on his menu. Back in New York, what was good enough for John D. was good enough for the rest of society.
Lobster Cardinal – French. The word “cardinal” describes the color of this dish, which resembles the red color of the robes worn by a cardinal of the Catholic Church. It is cubed cooked lobster meat that is mixed with a sauce, spooned back into the lobster shell, sprinkled with breadcrumbs, and browned.
Lobster Newberg – A rich lobster dish in an elegant sauce. It is usually served over buttered toast points.
History: To learn about the history of Lobster Newberg, check out Linda Stradley’s History of Lobster Newberg.
Lobster Thermidor – Select pieces of lobster sautd with shallots and mushrooms, and then deglazed with white and place back in the shell.
History: Lobster Thermidor was introduced on January 24, 1894, at Chez Marie, a well-known Paris restaurant. On that evening Victorien Sardou’s play “Thermidor” had its first performance at the theatre called Comedie-Francais. Marie decided to launch his new dish by giving it the name of the play “Thermidor.” The play was called “Thermidor” after one of the months of the French republican calendar.
London broil – London broil is actually a dish and a cut of meat. For the dish, large pieces of flank steak (from the lower hindquarters) or top round (from the inner portion of the hind leg) are cut into pieces, marinated, grilled, or broiled, and then sliced across the grain. In the market, you will find many thick cuts of meat — including top round and sirloin tip — labeled “London broil.”
lox – Lox is the term used for salmon that has been cured in pure salt for about two months and then is soaked to get rid of the excess salt. Lox is not smoked.
lutefisk (lewd-uh-fisk) – Also called lyefish. It is dried cod that has been soaked in a lye solution for several days to rehydrate it. It is then boiled or baked and served with butter, salt, and pepper. The finished lutefisk usually is the consistency of jello. In the United States, Norwegian-Americans traditionally serve it for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In many homes, lutefisk takes the place of the Christmas turkey. Today the fish is celebrated in ethnic and religious celebrations and is linked with hardship and courage.
History: To Learn about the history of Lutefisk, plus a recipe, check out Linda Stradley’s History of Lutefisk.
lychee – This fruit is native to China and is now grown in tropical climates of the United States. It is available fresh in Asian markets during the summer months and canned year-round. The fruit is covered with a thin, brittle, slightly bumpy shell that is easily removed with your fingers. The fruit inside is white, soft, and somewhat like a grape. It also has a wonderful aroma.