Culinary Dictionary – S


Linda’s Culinary Dictionary – S

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

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sabayon – The French word for a velvety Italian custard called zabaglione.  See Zabaglione.

Mexican sabayon –  Mexican sabayon differs from the classic Italian version in that it is not cooked.  The egg whites are whipped until stiff and then carefully folded into the yolk mixture.


Sachertorte, Sacher Cake (SAH-kuhr-tohrt) – Sacher Torte is a famous Viennese cake, probably the most famous chocolate cake of all-time.  It consists of chocolate sponge cake cut into three layers, between which apricot jam are thickly spread between the layers and on the top and sides of the cake.  The whole cake is then iced with a velvet-like chocolate and served with a side dish of whipped cream.

History:  To learn about the history of the Sachertorte/Sacher Cake, check out History of Cakes.


Sachet d’ Epices – The term means “bag of spices” and consists of whole peppercorns, parsley stems, bay leaves, whole thyme leaves, and fresh garlic (wrapped in a bag of cheesecloth and suspended in the pot with butcher’s twine).  The amounts vary according to the amount of stock.


safflower oil – Oil made from the seeds of the safflower and contains more polyunsaturates than other oils.  Because of its high cooking temperature, it is good for deep frying.  It is also good for salad dressing because it is almost flavorless and colorless and does not solidify when chilled.


saffron (SAF-ruhn) – Saffron, the yellow-orange stigmas from a small purple crocus, is the world’s most expensive spice.  That is because each flower provides only three red stigmas and it takes approximately 14,000 of these tiny threads for each ounce of saffron.  One ounce of saffron equals the stigmas from approximately 5,000 crocuses.  It takes an acre of flowers to produce a pound.  It is imported from Spain.

History:  Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles, used saffron in soups, porridges, and in gravies (the saffron he used was the gold colored pollen from wild flowers).  Ancient Greeks and Romans scattered Saffron to perfume public baths.  The 13th century Crusaders brought Saffron from Asia to Europe, where it was used as a dye and condiment.  In Asia, Saffron was a symbol of hospitality.  In India, people used Saffron to mark themselves as members of a wealthy caste.


sake (sah-kee) – It is an alcoholic beverage produced from rice in much the same way that beer is brewed from wheat and barley, but is termed a rice wine because its alcohol content is similar to strong wines.  It is served either hot or cold.

History:  Sake has been known since the dawn of civilization, and probably since rice was introduced to Japan from the Asian continent about 2000 years ago.  Sake has had an honored role throughout the evolution of Japanese society.  In early times, sake drinking was an integral part of celebrating the harvest and was offered to the gods when praying for peace and prosperity.  The name was derived from “sakaeru.” which means, “to prosper or flourish,”  In toasting, sake signifies “the water that will bring you prosperity.”  Today’s sake has changed much from early times. It was centuries before they discovered yeast, which greatly increased its alcohol content.  The Second World War also altered the recipe. Rice shortages forced brewers to develop new ways to increase their yields.  By government decree, pure alcohol and glucose were added to small quantities of rice mash, increasing the yield by as much as four times.  Ninety-five percent of today’s sake is made using this technique, though connoisseurs say that the best sake is still made with just rice (koji rice) and water only.  As wine is used in French cooking, sake is often used in Japanese cooking.  For cooking purposes, inexpensive sake of any brand will do just as well.


salad – Comes from the Latin word “herba salta” or “salted herbs,” so called because such greens were usually seasoned with dressings containing lots of salt.

History:  Check out History of Salads and Salad Dressings.


salad days – It refers to a time of youthful inexperience, a term coined by Shakespeare, whole Cleopatra characterizes her long-ago romance with Julius Caesar as one occurring in “my salad days, when I was green in judgment, cold in blood.”


salad dressing – A sauce for a salad that are usually based on vinaigrette, mayonnaise, or other emulsified product.

History:  Check out History of Salads and Salad Dressings.


Salisbury steak (SAWLZ-beh-ree) – A beef patty that is broiled or fried with onions and served with gravy.

History:  Salisbury steak was named for Dr. James H. Salisbury (1823-1905), a 19th century nutritionist, who thought that everyone would be healthier if they ate lots of beef, more specifically 3 pounds per day washed down with quarts of hot water.  During World War II, when patriotic Americans objected to the German term “hamburger” (the hamburger sandwich was also called liberty sandwich, but that term did not catch on).  Salisbury steak stuck because it was already in existence (first recorded in 1897), but the term “hamburger steak” was known in America at least a decade earlier than that.  Salisbury steak was originally more of a fancier version of hamburger “used on menus in the sort of restaurants that would not own up to selling hamburgers.”


salmon – To learn about the Salmon, check out Story of the Pacific Salmon.


salsa (SAL-sa) – Mexicans define a salsa as a sauce, and all sauces as salsas.  In Mexico sauces are a combination of fresh ingredients in which many are uncooked and served separately, to be added according to individual tastes.  Salsas can be a mixture of raw or partially cooked vegetables and/or fruits, herbs, and, of course, chiles.  Anything from vegetables, fruits, and nuts, to fish and meat can be used to make salsa, as long as the flavors blend well.  The combined ingredients are not a puree, but are distinct pieces, and are often uncooked.  This definition would also include chutneys and fruit or vegetable relishes.  If the salsa is uncooked, as in “pico de gallo,” it is referred to as salsa cruda or salsa fresca.  If cooked it is usually called picante.

Many countries have similar dishes that are used to accent meals in tropical areas of the world: sambals in Indonesia, chakalaka in South Africa, chutneys from India, the fruit and chile mixes from the West Indies, and piccalillis of the American South.


salt – Common salt is a rock, the only one we eat (an mineral composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride, joined by one of the strongest chemical unions there is, an ionic bond).  One of the four elemental components of taste, along with sweet, sours, and bitter.  Salt sharpens and pulls together other tastes.  It comes from two primary sources; mines on land and water from the sea.  Salt is also essential to our health.  Without it, our cells cannot function properly and if we do not get enough of it, we will crave it until our physical need is satisfied.

kosher salt –  It is pure refined rock salt, also known as coarse salt or pickling salt.  It has larger crystals, which adheres better to food.  Because it does not contain magnesium carbonate, it will not cloud items in which it is added. Kosher salt is required for “koshering“ foods that must meet Jewish dietary guidelines.

pickling or canning salt – It is a fine-grained additive-free salt used to make brines for pickles, sauerkraut, etc.

rock salt or halite – It is mined from natural deposits and varies in color from colorless when pure, to white, gray, or brown.  It is not as refined as other salts and comes in chunky crystals.  Rock salt is used predominately as a bed on which to serve baked oysters and clams and in combination with ice to make ice cream in crank-style ice cream makers.

sea salt – Sea salt generally comes from coastal marshes, basins, and other areas where seawater has been trapped and is allowed to evaporate naturally.  It is grayish in color and contains traces of minerals.

table salt and iodized salt – It has additives added that prevent caking and may make the brine cloud.  Iodized salt may also darken pickles.

History:  Salt has always been among the world’s most important commodities and the human need for salt has shaped history.  It was in general use long before recorded history.  Civilizations rose in Africa, China, India, and the Middle East around rich salt deposits.  About 2,700 B.C. (about 4,700 years ago) there was published in China the “Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu,” the earliest know treatise on pharmacology.  A major portion of this writing was devoted to a discussion of more than 40 kinds of salt.

Salt played a crucial role in religion.  Homer called it divine and Plato described it as a “substance dear to the gods.”  The Israelites were required to include salt with all offerings, and ancient Jewish temples included a salt chamber.  For hundreds of years, Roman Catholic priests would place a pinch of salt on a baby’s tongue during baptism and say, “Receive the salt of wisdom.”  There are more than 30 references to salt in the Bible.  Jews and Christians, among others, shared the custom of rubbing newborn infants with salt (a symbol of long life).  Arabs made peace and declared friendship with the phrase “There is salt between us,” and considered it treacherous to harm someone with whom they had shared salt.  To ensure a long marriage, a Swiss groom would put bread in one pocket and salt in the other.  A German bride would put salt in her shoe.  Spilling salt, a superstition that brings bad luck, was immortalized in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper, where Judas has knocked over the saltcellar.



salt-rising bread – Salt rising bread is a bread that originated in the 1830s and 1840s.  This was before yeast leavening was readily available.  It relies on the fermentation of warm milk or water, flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt to give it rising power.  It has a very smooth texture with a tangy flavor and aroma.



sandwich – A sandwich is two or more slices of bread with a filling, such as meat, cheese, jam or various mixtures, placed between them.

History:  Check out History and Legends of Sandwiches.


sardines – Young herrings are frequently labeled and sold as sardines.


sashimi – (sah-shee-mee)  – It is Japanese for “raw fish in slices.”  Sashimi consists of the freshest, top-quality fish.  In Japan, it might be fillets of tuna, bonito, salmon, halibut or whatever is in season.  It is sliced into bite-size portions and dressed into different shapes.  Usually served with soy sauce and horseradish.


sauerbraten – German for “sour roast.”  Describes a beef roast marinated for five days or more in a sweet-sour marinade and braised.  It is best made from the bottom round.

History:  Charlemagne who died in 814 A.D invented Sauerbraten.  It was invented as a way of using up left over roasted meat.  Later in the 13th century, Albert of Cologne used the recipe with fresh meat.  The original sauerbraten never contained such things as tomatoes, gingersnaps, sour cream, bacon, or pork as many recipes do today.


sauce – It is a French word that means a relish to make our food more appetizing.  Sauces are liquid or semi-liquid foods devised to make other foods look, smell, and taste better, and hence be more easily digested and more beneficial.

History:  To learn about the history of Sauces, check out History of Sauces.


sauerkraut (SOW-uhr-krowt) – The word, which in German means “sour cabbage,” is first mentioned in American English in 1776 and the dish, was long associated with German communities in the United States.  Sauerkraut was also a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty.  The Dutch explorers carried barrels of sauerkraut with them on their ship. The properties in sauerkraut helped fight disease.Sauerkraut, also known as sourcrout, is a chopped cabbage that is salted and then fermented in its own juice.  Sauerkraut is made by placing salt between layers of finely shredded cabbage and then subjecting it to pressure, which bruises the cabbage and squeezes out its juices.  It then ferments.

History:  Chinese cooks were pickling cabbage in wine (as early as 200 B.C.) and using it as an accompaniment to meals.  The slaves who built the Great Wall of China were fed on cheap rice and cabbage, but when winter came, rice wine was added to the cabbage.  Genghis Khan substituted salt for the wine and carried this “sauerkraut” (as it is now called) to the eastern edge of Europe.  It was the Austrians, not the Germans, who made the most of it by shredding cabbage, allowing it to ferment in salt, and then flavoring it with caraway seeds and juniper berries.


saute (saw-TAY) – A cooking technique which means to cook a food quickly in oil and/or butter over high heat.  You can use a skillet or saute pan, but make sure it is big enough to comfortably contain what you are cooking.

History:  The Chinese community introduced us to the improved method of cooking, which we call “sauteing” and the Chinese call “chowing.”  Their Chinese cooks influenced the meals and diets of hundreds of California families.  Although the Chinese cooks were seldom permitted to prepare Oriental meals, they held to their art of cooking and serving vegetables, a contribution that eliminated English overcooking of vegetables and contributed to the cuisine of the West Coast.


savories – Small dishes served as the last course of a meal.  They are similar to appetizers.


savory (SAY-vuh-ree) – There are two types of savory – summer and winter.  Both of which are closely related to the mint family.  It has an aroma and flavor reminiscent to a cross between mint and thyme.  Summer savory is slightly milder, but both are strongly flavored so use this herb with discretion.


Savarin – It is a large, ring-shaped, spongy cake made from a rich yeast mixture, soaked in a rum-flavored syrup and filled with fruit and cream.

History:  To learn about the history of the Savarin Cake, check out History of Cakes.


Sazerac – A drink made with whiskey generally associated with the Sazerac Bar at the Fairmont Hotel. The bartender coats an Old Fashion glass with herbsaint, pours out the excess, pours in the Sazerac mix and tops off the drink with a twist of lemon.

History:  This drink is reported to be the first cocktail ever invented (at least in America).  The drink was developed in 1850 at an Exchange Alley bar.  In the early days, the Sazerac Cocktail was made with cognac or brandy, but as American’s taste changed to whiskey, the liquor was changed to rye whiskey.  In 1949, the bar was moved to the Roosevelt Hotel (now the Fairmont), which pays an annual fee to Sazerac Co. Inc.  That company owns the rights to the formula and bottles the drink in a New Orleans suburb called Metairie.


scald – (1) to dip into boiling water.  (2) To heat milk to just below the boiling point.  (3) To dip fruits, vegetables, or nuts in boiling water to facilitate removing the skin or shell.


scale – To remove the scales from fish with a knife or a fish scaler.


scallion (SKAL-yuhn) – The name scallion applies to several members of the onion family including a distinct variety called scallion, immature onions (commonly called green onions), young leeks, and sometimes the tops of young shallots.  In each case the vegetable has a white base that has not fully developed into a bulb and green leaves that are long and straight (both parts are edible).  True scallions are generally identified by the fact that the sides of the base are straight, whereas the others are usually slightly curved, showing the beginnings of a bulb.  All can be used interchangeably, but true scallions have a milder flavor than immature onions.  Scallions are available year-round, but are at their peak during spring and summer.  At their peak, scallions are crisp with bright green tops and a firm white base.  Mid-sized scallions with long white stems are the best.  Scallions can be cooked whole as a vegetable much as you would a leek.  They can also be chopped and used in salads, soups, and a multitude of other dishes for flavor.


scallop (SKAHL-uhp) – Although hundreds of different species of scallops exist in our oceans worldwide, only a few of these species are harvested commercially on a large scale.  The three you’re most likely to find at a fish market are Atlantic sea scallops, Atlantic bay scallops, and calicos.


scaloppini, scallopine or scallopini (skah-loh-PEE-nah) – An Italian term for a thin, pounded piece of meat.  Usually prepared by dredging the meat in flour, then sauteing and serving with a wine, lemon, or tomato sauce.  Also called piccata.


scant – Scant means lacking a small part of the whole; not quite up to full measure.  In other words, one (1) scant teaspoon means not quite a whole teaspoon but a little less.  Scant is a very bad term to use in writing a recipe.  The recipe should give the exact amount or say “to taste.”


schnapps (shnahps) – Schnapps is a generic term for strong, colorless alcoholic beverage distilled from grains or potatoes and variously flavored.  Peppermint schnapps is the most common, but other flavors include cinnamon, vanilla, root beer, blackberry, raspberry, peach, and mango.


schnitzel (SHNIHT-suhl) – In German the word means “slice” and usually refers to veal dishes.  It is a cutlet of veal which is beaten out until it is thin.


scone (skon) – A Scottish quick bread that has a texture half way between cake and biscuits (harder than a cake but softer than a biscuit).  Scones are best served warm from the oven and should be eaten on the same day they are made.

History:  It is thought that the name comes from the Stone of Destiny (or Scone).  Scottish kings have been crowned upon this stone for more than a thousand years.  The present British Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on the Stone in 1953.  The original version of scones was made with oats and griddle baked.  Today they are flour-based and baked in the oven and come in various shapes (triangles, rounds, squares, and diamonds).


score – (1) To cut narrow gashes in fat to prevent the meat from curling when cooked.  (2) To cut narrow crisscross lines on the fat of a ham or a roast.  (3) To cut even shallow lines in cucumbers with a fork or scoring knife for decorations.


Scoville unit – Scoville unit is the thermometer of the chile pepper. E stablished by Wilbur Scoville, these are the units of heat of a chile pepper.  Units rank from 0 to 300,000.


scrod – Scrod is not a type of fish.  The term originated in the Boston area to describe the catch of the day.  It is also used as a general label for small members of the cod family, including pollack, haddock, hake, and whiting.  In most New England restaurants, scrod is loosely defined as “catch of the day,” which allows the restaurants to offer whatever fish is available and call it scrod on the menu.

History:  Some historians think that scrod is a contraction of Sacred Cod, the name of the 4-foot-tall wooden sculpture that has been in the Massachusetts State House since 1748.  Others think that Boston’s famous Parker House Restaurant coined the word as a generic term for their “fish of the day,” not knowing in advance what to print on their menus.


sea cucumber – It is cylindrical, cucumber or sausage-shaped, hence its name sea cucumber.  It is found in all seas of the world, at all depths usually lying on the bottom on one flattened side, abounding on the British and European coasts, and from Nantucket northward to the rocky coasts of northern Massachusetts and Maine.  It is definitely not a plant, but a marine animal – the same class as sea urchins, sea lilies, sea stars, brittle stars, or starfish.  It can grow 3 to 4 inches thick, ranging in length from 1-inch to almost five feet, often brownish, but may range in color from black to bright yellow and red stripes.  There are more than 500 species of sea cucumbers, and some of the larger species are considered delicacies in the Orient and are used in the preparation of soups and some other delicate specialty dishes.  When cooked, it is soft, cartilaginous, almost transparent, absorbing all the flavors of the sauce and the other ingredients.  Sea cucumbers are available frozen or dried.


searing – The browning (caramelizing) of a food surface at high heat.  Little fat is used when searing.  Searing brings out the flavor and creates a fond at the bottom of the pan which is used for making sauces.


season – (1) To add flavor to foods (such as adding herbs and spices).  (2) To coat the cooking surface of a new pot or pan with vegetable oil and then heating in a 350 degree F. oven for about a hour.  This smooths out the surface of new pots and pans, particularly cast-iron, and prevents foods from sticking.


seaweed – Seaweed is also called sea wrack. It has been used, as food, for hundreds of years by people in northern Europe, especially in Japan.  It is used to thicken soups and sauces, and in making sushi.


semifreddo – Semifreddi are chilled creams which are typical Italian desserts.  They are also called spumoni.  They are prepared with an egg-based custard and whipped cream.  No ice cream machine is needed to make semifreddo (the basic mixture can be poured directly into the mold and put in the freezer for a few hours).  Chilled creams may be used as filling for casate and bombe, or can be prepared with fruits, syrups, chocolate. Etc.


semolina (she-muh-LEE-nuh) – A grainy, pale yellow flour that is coarsely ground from hard wheat (like durum).  It has a very high protein content.  Used primarily for pasta and polenta.


Serrano pepper – Meaning “from the mountains.”  It is native to Mexico and southwest America, and is widely believed to be the hottest chile by many Americans who adore it in its red or green form.  Serrano peppers are quite small (about 1 -inches long).  A larger, double-sized species called largo is only found in Mexico.


sesame oil (SEHS-uh-mee) – Sesame oil ha been used in cooking in Africa and the Far East for many centuries.  The main advantage of sesame oil over other oils is that it does not turn rancid, even in hot weather.  For this reason, it is very popular in tropical countries.

regular or light sesame oil – This light-colored oil is made from un-toasted sesame seeds and is used in most Chinese cooking.  It adds distinctive nutty flavor to foods.  It is especially good for frying and it is also very good in salad dressing.

dark or Asian sesame oil – This amber-colored oil is pressed from toasted sesame seeds.  It is a strong-flavored, aromatic oil that is used in Oriental cooking.  This oil is used as a seasoning and not used as a cooking oil, but is added at the last minute for flavor in hot cooked dishes or in marinades.  The thicker it is, the better the flavor.


seviche (seh-VEE-chee) –-See ceviche.



scalloppine (skah-luh-PEE-nee ska-luh-PEE-nee) – Scalloppine is an Italian term for a thin cutlet of meat (small thinly-sliced pieces of meat), typically veal.


shallot (SHAL-uht) – Has a flavor more subtle than that of the onion and less pungent than that of garlic.  The shallot is the most refined member of the onion family.  They look more like garlic than onions.


Shio Koji (Salt Koji) – It is a fermented mixture of rice inoculated with the special mold called Aspergillus oryzae, sea salt, and water as a seasoning in place of salt to draw out the flavors of umami It is used just like other Japanese seasonings in sauteed dishes. The fermenting process, it increases the amount of vitamin B1, B2, B6, H and Pateton acid.


shortening – A solid fat made from vegetable oils, such as soybean and cottonseed oil.  Although made from oil, shortening has been chemically transformed into a sold state through hydrogenation.  Vegetable shortening is virtually flavorless (has a bland, neutral flavor) and may be substituted for other fats (such as butter, margarine, or lard) in baking of pie pastry, cookies, and cakes.  Shortening is ideal for pastry, since it blends well with the flour.  It can be stored at room temperature for up to a year.


shred -To use a knife or a shredder (a cutting tool with round, smooth, sharp-edged holes) to cut food into long, thin strands.


shuck, shucking – Means to remove a natural outer covering from food, such as shells from oysters or husks from corn.


sifter – A flour sifter is a sieve that is especially adapted for use with flour.  It is commonly built in the form of a metal cup with a screen bottom and contains a mechanism (wires that either revolve or rub against the screen being operated by a crank or a lever) to force the flour through the mesh.

 – To cook submerged in liquid just below a boil, a temperature of 180 degrees F. to just short of the boiling point.  A simmering liquid has bubbles floating slowly from the bottom to the surface.


simple syrup – It is a solution of sugar and water that is boiled over high heat.  Most simple syrups contain a ratio of one cup water to two cups of sugar.  The longer you boil the mixture, the thicker it will become.


skillet – The term skillet once applied to any metal cooking vessel that had a handle, but the term has come to apply (in the U.S.) to the metal frying pan (cast-iron). Also called spider.


skim – (1) To remove floating matter from the surface of a liquid with a spoon or ladle which is usually perforated.C (2) To remove a top surface of fat, cream, or scum from the top of liquid.


skirt steak – It is a boneless cut of beef from the lower part of the brisket.  Cut from the beef flank, the skirt steak is the diaphragm muscle (which lies between the abdomen and the chest cavity).  It Is a long, flat piece of meat that’s flavorful but rather tough.  Properly cooked, skirt steak can be quite tender and delicious.  It can either be quickly grilled, or stuffed, rolled and braise.  Recently, skirt steak has become quite fashionable becauSe of the delicious Southwestern fish called fajitas.


sliver – To cut food into long, thin pieces or thin strips.


slurry – A slurry is a mixture of a starch and cold water.  You can use cornstarch (preferred for thickening milk or dairy sauces), arrowroot (great for defatted meat sauces or broths because it gives a wonderful glossy sheen), potato starch, rice flour, or regular flour.  Proportion is one (1) part starch with two (2) parts cold liquid. Remove from the heat before you add the slurry, or you’ll end up with dumplings.


smoke – To expose fresh food to smoke from a wood fire for a prolonged period of time.  Traditionally used for preservation purposes, smoking is now a means of giving flavor to food.


smoking point – The point when a fat such as butter or oil smokes and lets off an acrid odor.  This is not good since this odor can get into what you are cooking and give it a bad flavor.  Butter smokes at 350 degrees F., vegetable oil at 445 degrees F., lard at 365 to 400 degrees F., and olive oil at about 375 degrees F.


Smorgasbord – A Swedish buffet of many dishes served as hors d’oeuvres or a full meal.  Similar buffets are served throughout Scandinavia, as well as the Soviet Union.  Common elements of a smorgasbord are pickled herring, marinated vegetables, smoked and cured salmon and sturgeon, and a selection of canapes.


Snickerdoodles – Traditional snickerdoodles cookies are coated with cinnamon sugar before being baked.

History:  To learn about the history of Snickerdoodle Cookies, check out History of Cookies.


sno-ball – This is a New Orleans creation.  A machine that turns blocks of ice into sno-balls makes it.  Most “sno-cones” are made of crushed ice; this machine shaves a block of ice, giving it an extremely fine texture.  “Shaved ice” in Hawaii is the closest thing to the sno-ball.  A sno-ball is not an Italian ice, nor is it a crushed ice abomination.  Once the ice is shaved, it is collected into a cup, paper cone, bowl, plate, or even a container akin to the things that you get at a Chinese take-out place.  Then syrup is poured over the ice.  Some people continue the process, adding cherries, ice cream, ice milk, condensed milk, or other toppings.  Most sno-ball stands have anywhere from 30 to 70 flavors available from which to choose.  Sno-balls are a summer creature.


soda bread – This is traditional Irish bread that is made with whole-wheat flour or white flour or oatmeal (sometimes raisins are included).  It is round loaf with a cross cut in the top and it has a velvety texture and unusual smoothness quite unlike yeast bread.  It is sliced paper-thin and buttered.  Traditionally, soda bread was baked over a peat fire in a three-legged iron pot that can be raised or lowered over the fire.  Glowing peat sods put on top of the pot gave an even heat for baking.


soffrito – (1) The Italian soffrito normally consists of a little handful of fragrant herbs (parsley, dill, thyme, savory, and rosemary), and aromatic vegetables (onion, leek, garlic, and carrot) very finely chopped, simmered in oil before the meat, beans, fish or vegetables is added. It is used as a base in soups, sauces, casseroles, omelet’s and so on, and it imparts a lovely color and wonderful taste to the finished dish.  This blend is a fundamental of Italian cooking.  Also called “battuto.”  (2) Soffrito is also what the sautd onions are called to which you add to arborio rice when making risotto.


sofrito, sofritto – A Spanish term for a blend of seasonings and vegetables used to flavor many Puerto Rican and Cuban recipes.  The vegetables are usually cooked in olive oil to release the flavor before being added to a dish.  This blend is considered the foundation of a dish. Sofrito is not only a common seasoning in many Puerto Rican dishes, but it is also frequently served at the table as a condiment.


sole – Sole is a member of the flatfish species that consists of sole, flounder, and halibut.  It is significantly superior in flavor and texture to the flounder.  This is why the fish markets and restaurants deceptively call much of the flounder sold in America “sole.”  Gray sole, lemon sole, rex sole, and the Dover sole of the Pacific are all flounders.  Genuine sole are the true Dover sole, English sole, and turbot.


solferino vegetables – A blend of tomatoes and potatoes that commemorates the red on white motif of the Red Cross.  The garnish (sometimes accompanying other dishes) of carrot, potato, and other vegetables scooped out with a parisienne baller represent the cannon balls from the battle.

History:  Solferino, a town in Lombardia, Italy, famous for the battle in 1859 that was fought there and more specifically since this was where Henri Dunant founded the International Red Cross.



sonker – A sonker is a deep-dish pie or cobbler served in many flavors including strawberry, peach, sweet potato, and cherry.  I have also read this same dish is called zonker (or sonker) in Surry County, North Carolina.  It seems to be a dish unique to North Carolina.  The community of Lowgap at the Edwards-Franklin House, hold an annual Sonker Festival.

History:  See History of Cobblers for more information.


soppressata –  An Italian compressed cured pork (all-pork dry salami).  It is a salame (salami) made from pork meat and fat, usually from the head of the hog.  The mixture is then mixed and spiced with red pepper for the spicy version, and with black pepper for the sweet version.  The gentle entrails is covered by a layer of fat, hence a longer maturity is requested.  This also gives to the product a particular softness.  After seasoning and ripening (5 months) it can be kept, covered with pork fat, in glass jars.


sorbet (sor-BAY) – Sorbet is the French word for sherbets.

History:  Sorbets were introduced (along with ice cream) to Europeans by the Arabs, who learned to make them from the Chinese.  Originally sorbets were a cooling drink with a base of fresh fruit that was sweetened, diluted, and chilled (possibly with snow).  The ideas were copied later on throughout Europe with sherbet powders, which were used to make drinks.  A sorbet is a light, frozen mixture of diluted pureed fruit, fruit juices, sugar, water, and egg white.  In France, they are usually served in the middle of the meal as a “palate cleanser.”


sorghum – It is different from molasses, although many people use the terms interchangeably.  Sorghum is made from the juice of the sweet-sorghum cane stalk, sorgos, and has no sugar removed and thus is significantly sweeter than molasses.  Sorgos, a tall cereal grass resembling corn is sometimes called “brown corn,” and can be used as fodder.  It can be used interchangeably with sugarcane molasses.


souffle (soo-FLAY) – Souffle is taken from the French word “souffler” meaning to “blow or puff up.”  It is a light, foamy concoction made from egg whites, which are folded into a sauce of egg yolks, milk, and sometimes flour.  The air beaten into the egg whites expands in the heat of the oven, making the souffle light and puffy.  They are either baked or steamed. I t is usually a dessert, although there are also fish, meat, poultry, and vegetable souffel.


soup – The word “soup” was originally “sop” and it literally meant dipping a slice of bread into a broth.  “Potage” was a word for the contents of the soup.  Today the word “soup” describes both broth and contents as it means any combination of meat, fish or vegetables, cooked in water or in any other liquid, and intended to be eaten.   It may be thin (like consomme, thick (like gumbo), smooth (like bisque), or chunky (like chowder or bouillabaisse).  cMost soups are served hot, but some (like vichyssoise and fruit soups) are served cold.


sourdough – Bread that has been leavened with a fermented starter.

History:  The ancient Egyptians made sourdough bread, having discovered that fermented dough would rise in the oven.  Thousands of years later (in our frontier days), a sourdough starter was the most important personal possession, something to be guarded at the expense of everything else.  The American pioneers jealously guarded their starters, as freshly baked bread, biscuits, and pancakes often provided the only variety in the wilderness diet.  They usually carried their starters in wooden pails, which became permeated with the culture and which would retain the life of the yeast even if the starter spilled.

The prospectors of the Yukon during the Alaskan Gold Rush of the 1890s were nicknamed “sourdoughs” because of the sourdough starters that they usually had hidden under their jackets to keep warm.  In addition, there was the alcoholic by-product called “hooch,” the clear liquid that rises to the top of the starter and had its own uses.


soy flour – It is made up of ground roasted soybeans processed into flour to use in baking.  By itself, it makes a heavy bread, so it is usually combined with other flours. It can also be used to thicken gravies and sauces.


soy milk – Soy milk is rich and creamy and has a taste distinctive from cow’s milk.  Most often it is sold in aseptic (non-refrigerated) packages that can be stored at room temperature for several months.  Once opened, it must be refrigerated and will stay fresh for about five days.  Soy milk can be used the same as cow’s milk in recipes.


soy sauce – Soy sauce is a staple condiment and ingredient throughout all of Asia.  It is a salty, brown liquid that is made from fermented soybeans mixed with a roasted grain (wheat, barley, or rice are common), injected with a special yeast mold, and liberally flavored with salt.  After being left to age for several months, the mixture is strained and bottled. The sauce’s consistency can range from very thin to very thick.

Japanese soy sauce – Japanese-style soy sauce, such as Kikkoman, is suitable for most uses.

Chinese soy sauce – The Chinese use both light (thin) and dark (heavy) soy sauces.  Dark soy sauces are fermented longer with molasses added during the process.  They go best with spicy dishes and red meats.  The light soy sauces are used in dipping sauces or vegetable and seafood dishes.

Tamari – A dark soy sauce brewed with wheat.  In the United States, tamari refers to a Japanese-style light soy sauce with a slightly smoky flavor.

History:  Soy sauce was developed over a thousand years ago in China as a way of preserving food.


spaetzle (SHPEHT-sluh; SHPEHT-sehl; SHPEHT-slee) – Literally translated from German as “little sparrow,” spaetzle is a dish of tiny noodles or dumplings made with flour, eggs, water or milk, salt, and sometimes nutmeg.  The spaetzle dough can be firm enough to be rolled and cut into slivers or soft enough to be forced through a sieve, colander, or spaetzle-maker with large holes.  The small pieces of dough are usually boiled (poached) before being tossed with butter or added to soups or other dishes.  In Germany, spaetzle is served as a side dish much like potatoes or rice, and is often accompanied by a sauce or gravy.  The cooked spaetzle can also be pan fried with a little butter and onions (usually a good left-over idea).


Spam – It is considered a food that changed the course of history.  It is a canned ground pork and ham product that does not need to be refrigerated until opened.  Originally sold in 12-ounce cans and since 1960, it was been available in 7-ounce cans and even smaller varieties.

History:  It was the Hormel Company that developed Spam, a canned meat product that did not need to be refrigerated, in about 1936.  It was originally named and marketed it under the name Spiced Ham.  As this was a rather uninspiring name, Hormel would decide to give the product a new name.  They had a contest and offered $100 dollars (this was a lot of money in those days) to come up with a suitable name.  The winning name was the name it goes by today and that is the world famous “Spam.”

Hormel mounted a large advertising campaign in 1937 and called their product the miracle meat and promoted it for use at anytime of the day.  The first singing commercial was done to the tune of “My bonny Lies Over The Ocean.”  It was advertised as the meat in a can that saved time and tastes fine.

During World War II, sales skyrocketed.  Not only was Spam great for the military, as it required no refrigeration, it was not rationed as beef was, so it became a prime staple in American meals.  Even the Russians gave Spam the credit for the survival of the Russian Army during World War II.


spatchcocking (spatch-kok-king) – It is a French technique of butter-flying a whole chicken by removing the backbone so you can open it up flat, like a book, and cook it using direct heat.  Because the spatchcocked chicken cooks over fiery hot coals, the process cuts the grilling time almost in half and helps keep the meat moist.


spelt – Spelt is an ancient cereal grain that is native to southern Europe.  It was widely grown until the beginning of the 20th century, but can be difficult to find now.  After threshing, spelt is cooked like rice and can be found as an ingredient in certain country soups, especially in Provence.  Spelt has a mellow nutty flavor, and spelt flour can be substituted for wheat flour in baked goods.


spider – A spider is a cast-iron skillet or frying pan.  At one time, this cooking vessel had three long metal legs (enabling it to be set directly over the coals of a hearth fire).  It was from these legs (since discarded) that the utensil received its name.  Thought the legs were discarded with the coming of the range, the name has remained in many locations, referring to the cast-iron vessel only.


Spiedie Sandwich (SPEE-dee) – The name comes from the Italian spiedo meaning “kitchen cooking spit.”  Originally made from lamb, they are now made with virtually any meat.  It is chunks of lamb, pork, chicken, beef, or venison that has been marinated for days in a tart sauce and then grilled on a metal skewer, usually over charcoal or gas.  The traditional way of serving is between sliced Italian bread with extra sauce poured on top. T he Spiedie, skewer and all, is then inserted in sliced Italian bread.  The bread is used as a sort of mitt, wrapping around the meat.  Pull out the skew and you then have a wonderful and delicious hot sandwich.  Spiedies are a specialty of Broome County, New York.  People who live in the area eat them at restaurants, from street vendors, buy from supermarkets, and even make their own at backyard cookouts.  They even hold an annual Spiedie Cook-Off with a recipe contest.

History:  They originated with Binghamton’s Italian immigrant population in the 1920s.  Augustine Lacovelli from Endicott, New York is believed to have popularized the Spiedie by introducing them in his restaurant in the 1940s. Check out History and Legends of Sandwiches.


sponge cake – They are similar to angel cakes in that they use many eggs and no shortening or leavening.  Sponge cakes use the whole eggs, while angel cakes use only the whites.

History:  To learn about the history of the Sponge Cake, check out History of Cakes.


springform pan – A springform pan not only has sides that can be removed but the bottom comes out too.  Used mostly in baking, this unusual pan has a fastener on the side that can be opened to remove the rim after the cake is cool.  They are available in a number of sizes, 9- and 10-inch being the most common.  Cheesecakes and tortes are usually baked in this type of pan.


springerle (SPRING-uhr-lee) – These have been and still are traditional Christmas cookies in Bavaria and Austria for centuries.  Springerle cookie molds and rolling pins are carved to create a series of small cookies, each with a different design.  Although there are lots of variations, springerle cookies typically are light-colored and anise-flavored.  Hartshorn is the traditional leavening (it is an ammonia compound).


sprouts – A sprout is produced when a seed starts growing into a vegetable.  Sprouts can grow from the seeds of vegetables and the seeds of grains (such as alfalfa and buckwheat, and from beans).  Sprouts vary in texture and taste.  Some are spicy (radish and onion sprouts), some are hardy and are often used in oriental food (mung bean), and others are more delicate (alfalfa) and are used in salads and sandwiches to add texture and moistness.

History:  While most Americans believe “sprouting” (growing sprouts) began with the Hippies, the Bible actually mentions it in the Book of Daniel.  It is believed that Chinese physicians prescribed sprouts for curing many disorders more than 5,000 years ago.  The ancient Chinese used sprouts both nutritionally and medicinally – for year round food in colder regions of the country and for curing many disorders.  In the 1700s, Capt. James Cook had his sailors eat limes, lemons and varieties of sprouts (all abundant providers of vitamin C) to help prevent scurvy on long voyages.  Sprouts first grabbed attention in America during World War II, when Dr. Clive M. McKay, Professor of Nutrition at Cornell University wrote an article praising sprouts as quick and easy to grow in nearly any climate (and without soil or sunshine!) and of significant nutritional value.


Spudniks or Sputniks – An American nickname for potatoes. This term was popular after the Russian space satellites of the late 50’s and early 60’s.  Sputnik ushered in a new era of space exploration.  This term is not used much anymore.


Squab – Doves and pigeons belong to the same family of birds, the Columbidae.  Squab is just a fancy name for pigeon.  It is a fattened pigeon that is not allowed to fly (so it’s tender rather than sinewy) and are processed at four weeks old and at about 1 pound.  The meat of Squab is distinctly different from that of any other domestic poultry, while being milder than that traditionally associated with game meats.  Squab is probably the gamiest of the domestic birds.  It has a full rich flavor like black berries.

History:  Pigeons have been bred for food for centuries dating back to early Asian, Arabic, and European traditions.  The history of the squab is lengthier than even the current domesticated chickens and turkeys.  It was a popular special-occasion dish in Victorian England.



Squash – To learn all about the different types of Squash (Summer and Winter), check out All About Squash (Summer and Winter).


St. Louis style ribs – Style of ribs that got its name from the city of St. Louis.  A meatier rib than baby back ribs; trimmed evenly and squared off.


star anise – Named (both in English and in Chinese) for its distinctive shape. Its Mandarine name, bah-jyao, means “eight points.”  Star anise is the dried fruit of an evergreen tree that is a member of the magnolia family and grows wild in southern China, reaching a height of about 25 feet.  The tree starts to bear fruit at about six years of age and can continue to produce over the next one hundred years.  In spring, the tree blooms with yellow flowers, from them emerges the brown fruit that assumes a star shape as it ripens.  In cooking, the dried star and seeds can be ground up as seasoning or simmered whole in liquid mixtures to enhance broths and syrups.  It is a key ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder.


star fruit – Other names for the star fruit are carambola (Indian name for it), five-angled fruit, and Chinese star fruit.  Look for a star fruit that is from 2 to 5 inches long with juicy-looking ribs.  Avoid fruit with browned, shriveled ribs.  They can be purchased green, and then allowed to yellow at room temperature before eating.  There are a few varieties of star fruit.  One variety is sour/tart in flavor and has narrow ribs, the sweet variety has thick fleshy ribs, and there are two varieties of white star fruit marketed that are both considered sweet.  Use sour/tart variety in place of lemon or lime slices with fish, poultry, and mixed drinks.  In the east they are pickled.  Sweeter varieties are ideal for fruit salads and purees (alone or with other fruits).  You do not have to be peeling them.  You can simply rinse, slice, or eat them whole.  Appearance can be improved by shaving off darker skin with a vegetable peeler.


Steak Diane – Thin tenderloin steak sautd with shallots, thyme, mustard, mushrooms and cream.  Normally it would be prepared tableside by a Captain in a grand hotel dining room.  Check out my recipe for Steak Diane.

History:  Supposedly named after the Roman goddess, Diana or Diane.  Diana was the Goddess of the Hunt and also Goddess of the Moon.  Steak Diane was originally a way of serving venison.


steam – To cook with steam, usually in a steamer or on a rack over boiling water.  Steaming retains flavor, shape, texture, and nutrients better than boiling or poaching.  In this method, steam is the heat conductor.  If it is under pressure, as it is in a pressure steamer, the temperature is hotter than a water-based liquid can ever be.


Steelhead – They are Rainbow Trout that has returned from the sea.  Steelhead closely resemble rainbow trout with a life cycle similar to that of a salmon.  They are an anadromous species: born and reared in freshwater streams, as juveniles they migrate to estuaries, adjust to saltwater and then migrate to the ocean to mature into adults.  As they begin to sexually mature they return to the streams of their birth to spawn and then attempt to return to the ocean to repeat the cycle.  Unlike juvenile salmon that typically migrate to the ocean after just a few months of freshwater rearing, juvenile Steelhead resides in our rivers from 1 to 3 years.  As such, they require cool, clean water year round to sustain themselves.


steep – To soak herbs, spices, raisins, etc. in a hot liquid to extract or intensify the flavors and also the color.


Stevia – Stevia is used as a dietary supplement and sugar substitute.  It has no calories, no carbohydrates, and a zero glycemic index which makes it a great natural alternative to sugar and chemical sweeteners.  Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.  Read the interesting article called, Stevia – A Natural and Healthy Sweetener.


stew – It is the name of any dish which results from the action of stewing.  Stewing is the method of cooking which tenderizes tough pieces of meat.  It is a method by which meat and (usually although not always) vegetables are slowly simmered in liquid for a substantial period of time so that the meat not only becomes tender enough to chew but all the ingredients blend into a delicious mix.


sticky rice – The defining element of sushi is not raw fish as many thin, but the rice.  Sushi to the Japanese is synonymous with seasoned sticky rice.  In Japan, the correct preparation of the rice is so important, that in their finest restaurants there are chefs whose sole responsibility is to cook the rice.  The proportions of vinegar and sugar can very by season, chef, or even by the type of sushi you are preparing.


Stilton cheese – Stilton is a fine English blue cheese made from whole cow’s milk.  It is considered by many people to be one of the world’s best cheeses.  Stilton acquired its name in the 18th century because it was first sold in the small English village of Stilton in Hungtingdonshire.  Today it is made in parts of Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire.  Stilton is farm-made cheese and is at its best from autumn to spring.  It is allowed to ripen for 4 to 6 months, during which time it is skewered numerous times to encourage the growth of penicillium Roquefort mold (also present in Roquefort cheese).  Stilton cheese is best eaten by itself with a glass of port or a full-bodied dry red wine.

White Stilton – In addition to the better-known mature version, there is also young white Stilton that is marketed before the colored veins develop.  The white Stilton has a mild, slightly sour flavor.


stir-frying – It is a cooking technique that requires brisk cooking of small cuts of ingredients in hot oil over intense heat.  Three elements are crucial to stir-frying:  (1) Proper preparation, wherein the ingredients are conditioned through small cutting, marinating and partial precooking to respond to the fast cooking;  (2) thorough organizing, in the sense that everything needed is measured out and within reach so no interruption will disturb the cooking once it starts; and  (3) Vigilance from the cook – you must be ready to adjust timing and volume of heat instantly, not just by following recipe guidelines, but intuitively by the smell, look, and feel of the food and the sound of the cooking.


strawberry – Sixteenth-century author William Butler wrote, “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”  Juicy and red, the strawberry is a member of the rose family and has grown wild for centuries in Europe and America.  The cultivation of strawberries goes back to the 1600s when early settlers enjoyed strawberries grown by local Native Americans.  Today’s strawberries are a cross breeding of the Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), the native wild strawberry of the eastern seaboard (which was introduced into Europe around 1610), and the Chilean strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) which made the voyage a century later.  Today, about 70 percent of America’s fresh strawberries are grown in California.  Strawberries vary in size, shape and color and, in general, there is no direct relationship between size and flavor. Fresh strawberries are available year-round with the peak season from April to June.  Choose brightly colored, plump berries that still have their green caps attached and are uniform in size.  To learn all about Strawberries, check out Strawberry Hints and Tips.


strudel (STROO-dal) – It is a dessert with a delicate casing made of paper-thin layers of filo pastry, each of which is brushed with butter.  The Austrians say the pastry is so thin that you can read a love letter through it.  The strudel usually has a filling consisting of cooked and diced fruit, chopped almonds, a little cinnamon, and sometimes a little brandy.

History:  the invading Turks first brought a dessert that is famous in Austria, to central Europe in the 16th century.


Submarine Sandwich – Also know as a Hero Sandwich.  It is a king-sized sandwich on an Italian loaf of bread approximately 12 inches long an 3 inches wide, filled with boiled ham, hard salami, cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and sometimes flavored with garlic and oregano.  This sandwich is simply a takeoff on the famous Po Boy Sandwich invented in New Orleans.

History:  To learn about the history of Submarine Sandwiches, check out History of Hoagies, Submarine, Po’boys, Dagwood, and Italian Sandwiches.


suet (SOO-iht) – Suet is the white fatty casing that surrounds the kidneys and the loins in beef, sheep, and other animals.  Suet has a higher melting point than butter and when it does melt it leaves small holes in the dough, giving it a loose soft texture.  Many British recipes call for it to lend richness to pastries, puddings, stuffings, and mincemeats.

shredded suet – It is suet that has been shaved, grated, or cut into long narrow pieces.


sugar – Sugar or sucrose, is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in every fruit and vegetable in the plant kingdom.  It is the major product of photosynthesis, the process by which plants transform the sugar energy into food.  Sugar occurs in greatest quantities in sugar cane and sugar beets from which it is separated for commercial use.

Barbados sugar – See raw sugar and muscovado sugar.

brown sugar – It is made up of sugar crystals coated with varying amounts of molasses to obtain dark or light brown sugar . This lends a slightly grainy, moist texture.

castor/caster sugar – The spelling, castor sugar, used to be the prevailing one, but caster sugar seems to be more usual now, perhaps because it is used by some sugar manufacturers on their packaging.  See superfine sugar.

coarse sugar – Also known as pearl or decorating sugar.  It is shaped into small pearl-like balls that are several times as big as granulated sugar crystals.

confectioners’ sugar – See powdered sugar.

date sugar – Date sugar is more a food than a sweetener.  It is ground up from dehydrated dates.  Its use is limited by price and the fact it does not dissolve when added to liquids.

demerara sugar – See raw sugar.

granulated sugar – Also called table sugar or white sugar.  It is the most common form of sugar and the type most frequently called for in recipes.  Its main distinguishing characteristics are a paper-white color and fine crystals.

sugar cubes – They are made from moist granulated sugar that is pressed into molds and then dried.

Muscovado sugar – Also called Barbados sugar or moist sugar.  Muscovado sugar, a British specialty brown sugar, is very dark brown and has a particularly strong molasses flavor.  The crystals are slightly coarser and stickier in texture than regular brown sugar.  Light and dark brown muscovado sugars contain molasses; the darker the color is, the more molasses and therefore the stronger the flavor.

powdered sugar – Also called confectioners’ sugar.  In Britain it is called icing sugar and in France sucre glace.  It is granulated sugar ground to a powder, sifted, and a small amount (3%) cornstarch has been added to prevent caking.  The fineness to which the granulated sugar is ground determines the family “X: factor: The “X: designations are derived from the mesh sizes of the screens used to separate powdered sugar into various sizes.  Thus, 4X would have a larger particle size, whereas 10X would have a smaller particle size.14 X is finer than 12X, and so on down through 10X, 8X, 6X, and 4X (the coarsest powdered sugar).  Confectioners or powdered sugar, available at supermarkets, is usually 10X. Always sift it before using.

raw sugar – It is essentially the product at the point before the molasses is removed (what’s left after sugarcane has been processed and refined).  Popular types of raw sugar include demerara sugar from Guyana and Barbados sugar, a moist, fine textured sugar.  Turbinado sugar is raw sugar that has been steam cleaned to remove contaminates., leaving a llight molasses flavored, tan colored sugar.

superfine sugar – Sometimes called bar sugar and known as castor or caster sugar in Britain, and berry sugar in British Columbia.  It is similar to granulated sugar except that it has very tiny crystals.  Since it dissolves quickly and completely, leaving no grainy texture, it’s the perfect choice for caramel, meringues, drinks, and fine-textured cakes.

Turbinado sugar  See raw sugar.


sukiyaki (soo-kee-yah-kee) – Known in Japan as the “friendship dish” because its appeal to foreigners.

History:  Nobody really seems to know the origins of sukiyaki.  One theory is that in the old days, farmers slipped a little meat into the vegetarian diet imposed by Buddhist.  It is also thought that the Dutch introduced their version of this dish to the Japanese in the early 17th century.  Because the dish was a beef preparation, the Japanese would serve it only to foreigners.  In 1873, Emperor Meiji declared that beef was acceptable for consumption, and from that time on it became part of the Japanese diet, although traditional dishes continue to use small quantities of meat.


sulfrino vegetables – A corruption of the correct term “solferino.”  Sometimes used on menus to describe the vegetable dish.  See solferino.


sunflower oil – This oil is made from sunflower seeds.  It is pale yellow and has a bland flavor.  It is a good all-purpose flour that is low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fat.


supreme – (1) To remove the flesh sections of citrus fruit from the membranes.  (2) The wing and breast of the chicken or game bird.  (3) A fillet of sole or fish.


sushi (soo-shee) – It is a Japanese word, which originally meant “sour” or “vinegary” and later came to mean “pickled fish.”  Sushi is sometimes called “the Japanese sandwich.”  Contrary to popular American belief, sushi does not mean “raw fish,” but actually means “with rice.”  Sushi is small cakes (shaped into various bite-size forms) of cold cooked rice (sticky rice), flavored with sweet rice vinegar, and typically garnished with strips of raw or cooked fish, seafood, cooked egg, vegetables, etc.  They are then wrapped in seaweed to make a shaped package.  It is usually served with a green horseradish (wasabi) and soy sauce.  The “proper” way to eat sushi is in a single bite.

History:  Japanese sushi has a history and tradition of over a thousand years, beginning as a way of preserving fish.  It was not until 1824, when Hanaya Yohel of Japan conceived the idea of sliced, raw seafood at its freshest to be served on small fingers of vinegared rice.  To learn about American-Style Sushi, check out Linda Stradley’s web page on California Rolls – American Style Sushi.


sweat – To cook vegetables in fat over gentle heat so they become soft but not brown and their juices are concentrated in the cooking fat.  If the pan is covered during cooking, the ingredients will keep a certain amount of their natural moisture.  If the pan is not covered, the ingredients will remain relatively dry.


sweetbreads – Sweetbreads are the thymus and pancreas glands of animals.  They are light meat that is firmer in texture than brains.  The sweetbreads of veal are considered the best.  Beef sweetbreads are rather fatty and coarse, but if well prepared, they will taste almost the same as veal.  No on bothers with pork sweetbreads.  Such foods, along with other internal organs are called “Offal,” meaning, literally, the “off-fall” or off-cuts from the carcass; many call these items “variety meats.”

Now days, these foods are considered a delicacy by the people who enjoy them.  They are highly prized by chefs and connoisseurs for their mild flavor and velvety texture.  They are the most versatile of offal meats and can be prepared using virtually any cooking method.  They can be sauteed, braised, poached, grilled, fried, and even roasted.

History:  Up until the time that America starting enjoying the luxury of large supermarkets (mid-1940s), people would butcher their own cattle for consumption.  As times were hard and money was scarce, nothing was wasted.  This included all parts of the animal butchered.  Everything was used and eaten by the family.


Swiss cheese – It is also called Emmentaler cheese. Switzerland is famous for this cheese and a large part of the milk produced there is used in its production.  It was first made around the middle of the 15th century in the Canton of Bern in the Emmental Valley (which accounts for its native name of Emmentaler).  It is a large, hard, pressed-cured cheese with an elastic body and a nut-like flavor.  It is best known because of the holes (eyes) that develop in the curd as the cheese ripens.  The eyes are often 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter and from 2 to 3 inches apart.  It is considered one of the most difficult kinds of cheese to make.


syllabubs – (SIHL-uh-buhb) – Syllabub is softly whipped cream that is flavored with wine, sweetened cider, and sometimes brandy.  The froth is skimmed off and served in glasses.  It is a very light and fragile dessert.  It is closely related to eggnog, but less potent because no strong spirits are used.  Syllabubs comes from the early English word “silly” meaning “happy” plus a dialect word “bub,” meaning liquor.

History:  Originally an English recipe from the 17th century, the first syllabubs were made by diary maids who would direct the warm milk straight from the cow to a pal containing sherry or cider.  In their heyday, they were as popular as ice cream is today.  These are known as the oldest of all English desserts.  They have been especially popular in Maryland, Virginia, and other parts of the South since the first American colonies were established.


Szechuan peppercorns – Also called Szechwan pepper, Nepali pepper, or Timur pepper.  Timur pepper/Szechwan pepper (pimpinella anisum) is native to the Szechwan province of China.  Though it bears some similarity to black peppercorns, they are not actually of the pepper family, rather the dried berry of a tree in the prickly ash family.  The Szechwan pepper is one of the few spices important for Tibetan and Bhutani cookery in the Himalayas, since very few spices can be grown there.

Fruits are globose and are encapsulated in a grayish, pimpled purse-like jacket when young but splits into two halves upon maturation of the seed.  A mature seed is oval and jet black in color with a highly wrinkled surface, hence often mistaken for a pepper as the English name indicates.

The rural people apply the powder of its seeds on their legs to get rid of leech infestation while crossing a forest in the rainy season.  The seed emits a characteristic pungent odor so strong that even the stickly leech loses its foothold!  It can be verified by a locally popular maxim, which goes – “Timur in the mouth of a leech is like a hammer on the head of a nail.”  It also possesses formidable disinfectant properties and is used largely as a safety measure as well as a flavoring essence during wild mushroom cooking. The seeds possess several medicinal properties like curing stomach aches and toothaches; but in heavy dosage it may prove toxic.  People make tasty curries just by mixing it with a pinch of salt and piece of green chile.






Culinary Dictionary   

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2 Responses to “Culinary Dictionary – S”

  1. Howard

    I do not know the correct spelling but phonetically: ship a nod I suspect this to be a cutting term but no joy in the artificial intelligence “is this what you mean?” can you shed some daylight on this term?

    • Whats Cooking America

      The correct spelling “chiffonade”. The definition listed below can be found in the C section of our culinary dictionary.
      chiffonade (shihf-uh-NAHD) – (1) This is a French word, which comes from the word “chiffon” which means, “rag”. In culinary terms, a chiffonade describes a way of cutting herbs and lettuces into thin strips or shreds, which look a bit like rags. (2) Chiffonade is also a dish consisting of a mixture of green vegetables (such as spinach, lettuce, and sorrel) which are shredded or cut finely into ribbons (sometimes melted butter is added). It is used to form a bed for a dish such as egg mayonnaise or as a garnish for soups.


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