Raclette – The traditional Swiss Raclette is lesser known than fondue in the United States, but much beloved in many countries. Raclette is a staple of wintertime in Switzerland. Slices of Raclette cheese are melted in the individual trays of a raclette machine, and then served over sliced little red potatoes, seasoned with ground pepper, and paprika. To round out this dish one serves Cornichons, mini corn and pearl onions with the Raclette.
History: It is believed that Raclette began on the hillsides of the Valais region in Switzerland at the end of the 19th century, in the fall when the wine harvest was coming to an end. Grape gatherers took from their sacks a small loaf of brown bread, some cheese, and a bottle of wine. Legend has it that one of the men stabbed a piece of cheese with a large buck knife, and approached a crackling fire made from vine branches to warm himself while he ate. As the cheese made contact with the fire, it started to melt and run with a crisp, golden texture. As he slowly scraped the melting cheese, the others tasted this novelty. It was indeed excellent – and there begins “Raclette.” Raclette has a long tradition in both Switzerland and France.
radicchio (rah-DEE-kee-oh) – A member of the chicory family with red and white leaves. The round Verona variety is the most common in the US. Radicchio is used most often in salads, but is quite suitable to cooked preparations. It is available year-round with a peak season from midwinter to early spring. Choose heads that have crisp, full-colored leaves with no sign of browning. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Besides being used in salads, radicchio may also be cooked by grilling, sauteing, or baking. They can range in taste from mild to extremely bitter.
Radicchio is also know as Treviso (which is a longer, thinner, and looser version of tight-headed radicchio). It is quite an involved process where the plants are harvested in late fall, tied together in bunches, and kept in cold dark chambers, where they are sprayed continuously until it comes time to prepare them for market. At this point the temperature is raised to 68 degrees and the leaves of the plants take on the pronounced wine-red color that distinguishes them. At this point the farmer unties the bunches, strips away the outer leaves, and trims the root (the tender part that is just below ground level is tasty), and sends the radicchio to the market.
History: Francesco Van Den Borre, a Belgian agronomist, who applied the techniques used to whiten Belgian endive to the plants grown around Treviso, developed the modern radicchio in the 1860s.
ragout (ra-GOO) – This is a French word, which means stew, usually one made of meat or poultry and which is rather thick. In recent years, this word has become a rather clever restaurant menu marketing term because it describe just about any mixture that is somewhat soupy or stew like.
Ramen (rah-men) – Asian instant-style deep-fried noodles that are usually sold in cellophane packages. Ramen is Japanese, or at least a word born in Japan.
History: Although the true origin of the word is not yet identified, there are two theories: (1) Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan, where Sapporo-Ramen speaks for itself of its fine “al dente” noodles and rich soup often enhanced with “miso,” fermented bean paste, and butter. (2) Another bunch of people insist that the word was born in Yokohama, a port city near Tokyo, where many Chinese people landed around the turn of the century and mostly engaged in port labor of shipping yards. The Chinese created the style of noodle to be cheap and nutritious enough to sustain the hard labor. Among countless types of noodles, or Mien, throughout China, the type of noodle was called “Lao-Mien” or “Liu-Mien” representing the noodles thin willow like appearance. It was adopted in Japanese society as “La-Men.”
ramp – Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are wild onions, which resemble scallions with broader leaves. They can be found in specialty produce markets from March to June and grow from Canada to the Carolinas. Although the garlicky-onion flavor of ramps is a bit stronger than leek, scallion, or onion, it can often be used as a substitute for any of those three.
ratafias – The word, of uncertain origin, came to denote almost any alcoholic and aromatic ‘water’. Flavorings varied widely, from the original ratafia of morello cherry kernels to such herbs as angelica. Some ratafias were distilled, others were made by infusion of spices, herbs and fruits in brandy or eau de vie. There are actually several meanings for the term:
A cordial or liqueur flavored with the kernels of peaches, apricots, or cherries. – liqueur.
An almond-based drink similar to a cordial. The word indicates a flavor of almonds.
Ratafia cakes and biscuits may be similarly flavored; or they may be so called because they are intended to be eaten with the liqueur. Trifle is a popular English cake that is soaked in some ratafias.
History: The legend is that a vine grower probably poured by error the grape must in a barrel containing brandy. By tasting it much later, it would have been astonished by quality by this beverage. Perpetuated by generations of vine growers, Ratafia became the typical aperitif. American homemakers have been making ratafias, cordials and liqueurs since colonial times.
ravioli (rav-ee-OH-lee) – Small 3 inch squares (pillows) of pasta dough filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables to form little cushions. They are served with various sauces.
History: According to legend, sailors in Northern Italy invented ravioli. They did not want food to go to waste on the boat so they ground up their leftover dinner and stuffed them in pasta pockets.
recipe – A recipe is a set of instruction used for preparing and producing a certain food, dish, or drink. The purpose of a recipe is to have a precise record of the ingredients used, the amounts needed, and the way they are combined. Check out my article on What is a Recipe. Learn how to follow a recipe, and why some recipes do not work.
Red Velvet Cake – Also know as Red Devil’s Cake, Waldorf Astoria Cake, and $100 Dollar Cake. A beautiful mild chocolate flavor cake that is startlingly red. The cake is traditionally complemented with a thick white frosting with different regions of the country using different types of frosting. The cake gets this bright red color from the large amount of red food dye used in the preparation. It is particularly popular in New Orleans.
History: To learn about the history of Red Velvet Cake, check out History of Cakes.
rennet (ren-et) – A natural enzyme obtained from the stomach of young cows. It is used to curdle milk when making cheese. The need to coagulate milk has been well recognized since Roman times, and this can be achieved by the selective use of certain plants or by extracting the enzyme rennet (chymosin and pepsin) from the fourth stomach of the milk-fed calf.
History: Records for the making of rennet go back to the 16th century. The farmer or smallholder cheese maker would select and slaughter a milk-fed calf, remove and wash the fourth stomach carefully. He would then hang this out to air-dry in which case it would become known as a “vell.” There was a regular market for dried vells. It is difficult to ascertain how these vells were first used. However, it is most likely that dried pieces of vells were added directly to the milk, and at later times vell extracts in salt solution were used. Basically, sliced or mascerated vells were soaked in salty water to provide a solution of enzymes. Filtration may have been used for the purification of the final rennet solution. Storing the rennet in a salt solution keeps it in good condition and suppresses any bacteria that might cause deterioration in quality. Such rennets are known as “calf rennets.”
Residual Heat or Carry-Over Cooking – Have you ever noticed that the internal temperature of foods (such as meats, fish, vegetables, pasta, and eggs) continues to rise after removing it from your stove, grill, or oven? This is called “Carry-Over Cooking.”
Your meats, fish, vegetables, pasta, and even eggs will continue to cook after being removed from the heat source. Understanding how this works and using it carefully can greatly improve the quality of your foods you cook. When cooking meats and fish, use a thermometer to check your meat’s temperature, and remove it from the heat when it’s 5 to 10 degrees away from where you want it to be when you eat it. When cooking vegetables and eggs, remove from heat source just before you think it is about done.
Reuben Sandwich – A grilled sandwich made with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye bread.
History: To learn about the history of the Reuben Sandwich, check out History and Legends of Sandwiches.
rhubarb (ROO-barb) – Also known as pie plant (this was to designate its major use). It is a perennial form of “buckwheat,” cultivated for its stalks. The roots and leaves of the edible rhubarb contain oxalic acid and are considered toxic or poisonous. The varieties include Canada red, crimson red, flare, MacDonald, valentine, and victoria.
History: By the late 1700s, this plant, known for over 200 years as only a gardener’s curiosity in England, first appeared in America. It is rumored that Benjamin Franklin, a scientist and America’s ambassador to France, sent the first rhubarb plants back to America for his relatives to cultivate. Rhubard officially became a fruit in 1947, when the U.S. Customs Court of New York, declared it so. Most scientists still consider it a vegetable.
rice – (1) To push cooked food through a perforated kitchen tool called a ricer. The resulting food looks like rice. (2) Rice, throughout history, has been one of man’s most important foods. Today, this unique grain helps sustain two-thirds of the world’s population. It would be hard to imagine Japanese cooking without rice. In fact, it would be downright impossible, for the two are linked even more tightly than Italian cooking and pasta. So vital is rice to the Japanese diet that the word for rice, “gohan,” also means “meal.” And that “meal” is not quite like the rice eaten in the West. For while Americans prefer long-grained rice, Japanese lean strongly towards short-grained, rather stubby rice, that emerges from the rice cooker in a slightly sticky state – the better for the making of sushi.
History: Archeological evidence suggests rice has been feeding mankind for more that 5,000 years. The first documented account is found in a decree on rice planting authored by a Chinese emperor about 2800 B.C. From China to ancient Greece, from Persia to the Nile Delta, rice migrated across the continents, eventually finding its way to the Western Hemisphere.
Enterprising colonists were the first to cultivate rice in America. It began quite by accident when a storm-battered ship sailing from Madagascar limped into the Charleston South Carolina harbor. The ship’s captain made a gift of a small quantity of “Golden Seed Rice” (named for its color) to a local planter. By 1700, rice was established as a major crop for the colonists. That year, 300 tons of American rice, referred to as “Carolina Gold Rice,” was shipped to England. Colonists were producing more rice than there were ships to carry it.
ricotta cheese – (ri-COT-tah) – It was first made in Italy and is classed as an Italian cheese. It is now made in all the countries of Europe and also in the United States. It is a soft, spoonable cheese that resembles cottage cheese with a very fine curd that should not be frozen. It is made from whey from other cheeses such as provolone, pecorino, and mozzarella. Widely used in Italian cooking, used as a filling for ravioli and many lasagna and cannelloni dishes as well as for sweet dishes.
Riesling (REESE-ling) – A classic German white wine.
risotto (rih-SAW-toh) – Risotto is actually an Italian cooking technique used for native Italian rice, Arborio. This old world method involves stirring hot liquid little by little into the rice for about 20 minutes, which will create a dish unlike any other rice recipe you have tried. Risotto is prepared this way and served immediately to preserve the unique, gourmet texture of a very creamy sauce around al dente, pasta-like rice kernels. The center of rice cooking is in the Po Valley in the Northeastern corner of Italy. It is where the arborio rice is grown. It is considered the classic rice dish of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Veneto regions of Northern Italy.
History: It is not known where the first risotto was created.
(1) Because of its similarity to Near Eastern pilaf, some historians think that it originated near Venice, a city known as a crossroads for merchants and explorers.
(2) Other historians contend it was a Southern Italian invention dating back to the 11th century when the Saracens, Moslems from North Africa, ruled Sicily and much of Southern Italy. The short-grained variety of rice (arborio) used in making risotto today was brought to Italy from the Far East.
(3) The legend of the creation of the dish risotto dates back to 1574 in Milan when their great cathedral was under construction. It is said that the master glass worker on the job, who was known for using saffron to enhance his paint pigments, added saffron to a pot of rice at a wedding party. The response of the guests was “Risus optimus,” Latin for “excellent rice.” It was later shortened to risotto.
Romano cheese (ro-MAH-noh) – It is sometimes called incanestrato cheese and it is one of the most popular of the very hard Italian cheeses. It was first made from ewe’s milk in the grazing area of Latium, near Rome, but it is now also made from cow’s and goat’s milk. It is a creamy white cheese that is granular with a hard rind. Grated Romano browns quickly when heated. When made from ewe’s milk, it is called Pecorino Romano; from cow’s milk, Vacchino Romano; and from goat’s milk, Caprino Romano.
Roquefort cheese (ROHK-fuhrt) – Roquefort was mentioned in the ancient records of the monastery at Conques, France, in 1070. The Romans, Charlemagne, Franis the 1st, and even Louis XIV appreciated this cheese, which became “king of the cheeses”. It was born in Southern Aveyron in Roquefort village. It is said that a young shepherd, who was sheltering in a cave, left his snack, which was composed of gingerbread and ewe cheese in a cave crack to join his beloved shepherdess. Forty days after, when he came back, he saw that the bread and curd were covered with mold. He hesitated for a while but as he was very hungry, he had a bite. To his great astonishment, he found it delicious! The veins marbled with mold had transformed his curd into an aromatic and smooth cheese with a flavorsome taste.
Remoulade (rey-muh-lahd) – Is a classic French cold sauce with a mayonnaise base, but is similar to tartar sauce. Various condiments are added such as various condiments and herbs, as chopped pickles, capers, mustard, parsley, chervil, and tarragon. This sauce is also very popular served with salads and seafood. Louisiana also has their own version of this sauce. In fact, everyone seems to have their own secret recipe.
rosti (RAW-stee, ROOSH-tee) – In Switzerland, the term rosti means “crisp and golden.” The term refers to foods (usually shredded potatoes) sauteed in butter and oil on both sides until crisp and browned. A lot like American hash browns. Rosti, a staple dish in the area of Switzerland bordering Germany, consists of potatoes that are boiled, grated, fried, then baked or grilled into a golden hash, and topped with (of course) cheese. It is considered the national dish of German Switzerland.
roux (roo) – Classical cookbooks written as far back as the mid-1500s state that roux is derived from the French word “rouge” meaning “red” or “reddish” in color. Thus, the origin of the name. A roux describes a mixture of equal amounts of fat (butter, meat drippings, or fat) and flour, which are cooked together at the very start of the recipe before any liquid is added. It is used as a basis for thickening sauces. A roux is the basis for many Louisiana dishes, particularly gumbo, but also etouffees, sauce piquantes, and more. Preparation of a roux is dependent on cooking time; the longer you cook, the darker the roux. Roux must be stirred constantly to avoid burning (constantly means not stopping to answer the phone, let the cat in, and if you’ve got to go the bathroom … hold it in or hand off your whisk or roux paddle to someone else). If you see black specks in your roux, you’ve burned it; throw it out and start over.
Runza Sandwich – Also called Bierocks. They are a yeast dough (a bread pocket) with a filling of beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings. They are baked in various shapes like half-moon, rectangle, round, square, triangle, etc. The Official Nebraska Runza is always baked in a rectangular shape, and the Bierocks of Kansas are baked in the shape of a bun.
History: To learn about the history of the Runza Sandwich, check out History and Legends of Sandwiches.
Russian dressing – Consists of the mixture of mayonnaise, pimientos, chives, ketchup, and spices.
History: The name comes from the earliest versions that included a distinctly Russian ingredient, caviar.