Culinary Dictionary – B

Linda’s Culinary Dictionary – B

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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baba (BAH-bah) – Baba is called babka in Poland and Babas Au Rhum in France.  In French, the word baba meaning, “falling over or dizzy.”  These are small cakes made from yeast dough containing raisins or currants.  They are baked in cylindrical molds and then soaked with sugar syrup usually flavored with rum (originally they were soaked in a sweet fortified wine).  After these cakes were soaked in the wine sauce for a day, the dried fruits would fall out of them.

Baba Au Rhum – In the 18th century, French chef, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826),created a cake that he served with a rum sauce that he called Baba Au Savarin.  The dessert became very popular in France, but the people called it Baba Au Rhum and soon dropped the name Savarin.

History:  For a history of Baba and Baba Au Rhum, check out Linda Stradley’s History of Cakes.

bacon – Bacon comes from the fatty parts of the pig, especially the sides.  The most desirable bacon is cut from the breast of the hog.  It is cured with either sugar or salt, which gives it a sweet or salty taste.

History:  Bacon has played a prominent role in the history of superstition.  It was considered a sacred food by the pagans and was regarded as a symbol of prosperity.  It was frequently used as an offering to the Gods, and was believed to have curative properties.  If a knife, which caused a wound, was stuck into bacon afterwards, it was supposed to prevent infection.

bagel (BAY-guhl) – Bagel derives from the Yiddish word beygl, which comes from the German word beugel meaning a “bracelet.”  Bagels are bread rolls in the shape of a doughnut or an old-fashioned curtain ring.  The brown crust is obtained on the rolls by first boiling them in water and then baking them in an oven.

History:  According to legend, the world’s first bagel was produced in 1683 as a tribute to Jan Sobieski, King of Poland.  The king, a renowned horseman, had just saved the people of Austria from an onslaught by Turkish invaders.  In gratitude, a local baker shaped yeast dough into the shape of stirrup to honor him and called it the Austrian word for stirrup, “beugel.”  The roll soon became a hit throughout Eastern Europe.

Over time, its shape evolved into a circle with a hole in the center and its named was converted to its modern form, bagel.  In the 1880s, hundreds of thousands of Eastern European Jews immigrated to America, bringing with them a love for bagels.  In 1927, Polish baker Harry Lender opened the first bagel plant outside New York City in New Haven, Conn.  The bagel’s popularity began to spread in the United States.


bagna cauda (BAHN-yah KOW-dah) – Bagna Cauda is an Italian term that means “hot Bath.”  It is like a Swiss fondue except that it has a much more boisterous flavor.  The original recipe called for walnut oil, but olive oil is now used and is considered the key to a successful sauce.  The sauce is made up of anchovy fillets, olive oil, garlic, cream, butter, and vinegar.

baguette(bag-EHT) – Is French for a “rod,” “wand,” or “stick.”  Baguette is the name for anything long and skinny, including drumsticks, strips of wood, etc.  The baguette is generally known as a French white bread due to its popularity in that country.  Baguettes are formed into a long, narrow, cylindrical loaf.  It usually has a thin, crisp brown crust and an open-holed, chewy interior.

History:  The shape for which it is famous was developed by an Austrian baker and brought to France in the middle of the nineteenth century.  At first French bread was all shaped round, but when bakers realized that their crusts were so tasty, they gave the bread more crust by making them long.

bain-marie (bahn mah-REE) – (1) A hot water bath that is used to keep food warm on the top of a stove.  It is also to cook custards and baked eggs in the oven without curdling or cracking and also used to hold sauces and to clarify butter.  (2) The term is also used for a cooking utensil, which is a fairly large pan (or tray) which is partly filled with water.  The food to be cooked is placed in another container in order that the food is not cooked too quickly or harshly.

History:  Most authorities think that it was named after Maria Prophetissa.  Maria Prophetissa was also known as “Miriam,” “Maria the Jewess” or simply “Maria” and lived during the first century A.D.  She is called The Jewess because Zosimos, Egyptian alchemist and historian, called her a Sister of Moses.  It is held that Mary Magdalene and the noted first century alchemical author known as Mary the Jewess was one and the same individual.  Whoever she was, Mary the Jewess was an accomplished practical alchemist and the inventor of a series of technical devices still in use today, such as the hot ash box for steady heat, the dung box for prolonged heat and the double boiler, still called the “bain-marie” in French and Marienbad in German.  Although no complete works by her have been found, enough fragments exist to establish her as a historical fact.  Yet her personal information, even her birthplace, remains a mystery.

bake blind – It is the technique used for baking an unfilled pastry shell.  The pastry shell is first pricked with a fork to prevent puffing, covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and then weighted with rice or beans.  It is then baked for a short period of time, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Baked Alaska – A dessert that consists of a sponge cake that is covered with ice cream, then with a layer of stiffly beaten egg whites, and lastly put in a hot oven to be browned.  Also known as omelette la norvienne, Norwegian omelette, omelette surprise, and glace au four.

Baked Apple a la Josephine – The soaked, pruned apples are boiled for 15 minutes.  Boiled milk is mixed with rice, salt and sugar are added, and then it is cooled down and divided into four portions.  The cores of the apples are removed and are covered with butter and sprinkled with sugar.  They are placed in a pre-warmed oven and baked for 20 minutes.  The apples are served in the middle of the rice pudding, sprinkled with sugar, and toppled with raspberry syrup.

bakers’ ammonia (ammonium carbonate)  – It is also called hartshorn.  It is an ammonia compound and not harmful after baking.  However, do not eat the raw dough.  Your kitchen will stink of ammonia while the cookies bake – but once baked, the cookies will not taste of it.  Can be substituted for equal amount of baking powder in any cookies recipe.  It is an old-time leavening favored for cookies, such as German Springerle.  It is said to give a “fluffiness” of texture baking powder can’t.  Its leavening is only activated by heat, not moisture (such as baking powder).

bake stone – A bake stone is a flat, round iron plate, usually with an attached semicircular iron loop, which allows it to be hung over a fire from a crane.  It can also be set down directly on hot embers.  Before baking ovens, and even after them, this was a common utensil for baking simple quick breads.

baker’s dozen – The “baker’s dozen” refers to providing 13 baked items for the price of 12.  This originated as a way to avoid shortchanging the customer. Bakers who shorted (cheated) customers could be punished severely-such as losing a hand to an axe!  This allowed that one of the 13 could be lost, eaten, burnt, or ruined in some way, leaving the baker with the original legal dozen.  The practice can be seen in the Baker Guild codes of the Worshipful Company of Bakers in London, 12th century.

Baker’s Scale – Baker’s scales are scales used by bakers to measure ingredients by weight, not volume.  That is how the master bakers and chefs of the world get great results every time.  They are also called Dough Scales.  A Baker’s Scale or Kitchen Scale should be an essential tool in every kitchen.  Most American kitchens have a set of measuring cups, but do not have a kitchen scale.  A scale is more accurate in baking than using measuring cups

baking powder – It is a leavener that consists of a combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and a moisture absorber (like cornstarch).  It has the action of yeast but it acts much more quickly.  It is used in batters where there is no acid present.  Baking powder acts immediately upon addition of water, therefore a filler (usually cornstarch) is added to absorb the moisture and prevent premature activity.  Various baking powders were sold in the first half of the 19th century.  Check out the History of Baking Powder.
baking soda – Baking soda, which is the alkaline element bicarbonate of soda, is used solely as a chemical leavener in baking.  Because it is not premixed with an acid, as is baking powder, it is used alone in baked goods where other ingredients, which also contain acid, are present (yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, or sour cream).  When the baking soda and acid are combined, they neutralize each other, causing carbon dioxide gas bubbles to form.  The bubbles make the dough or batter grow bigger, or rise.  Baking soda is more volatile than baking powder because it begins to act the minute you moisten it with the wet ingredients. You must put whatever you are baking right in the oven once the baking soda has been activated.  See also bicarbonate of soda.

History:  Baking soda was previously known as saleratus, a combination of the Latin “sal” (salt) and “aeratus” (aerated).  John Dwight of Massachusetts and his brother-in-law, Dr. James A. Church of Connecticut, started the manufacture of bicarbonate of soda in this country in 1846.  The first factory was in the kitchen of his home with baking soda put in paper bags by hand.  A year later, in 1847, the firm of John Dwight and Company was formed, and subsequently Cow Brand was adopted as a trademark for Dwight’s Saleratus (aerated salt) as it was called.  The standard package at that time weighed one pound.  The cow was adopted as a trademark because of the use of sour milk with saleratus in baking.

In 1867, James A. Church began marketing sodium bicarbonate as baking soda under the Arm & Hammer label.  He formed a partnership known as Church & Company, doing business under that firm name with his sons James A. Church and E. Dwight Church.

baking stone – Also referred to as a pizza stone.  Unglazed ceramic, clay, or stone tiles that allows for high temperature and dry heat, which is necessary for crisp crusts when making breads and pizzas.  A stone can be placed in the oven (and kept there when not in use) where it retains heat and makes an ideal surface for baking breads.  A baking stone is invaluable for getting the “perfect” crust and it can also help your oven to run more efficiently because of its heat retaining properties.  They should only be washed with clear, plain water, as these stones are actually molded sand, which is tightly compacted under high pressure.  Like sand on the beach, they will suck in any liquid exposed to the surface.

baklava (BAHK-lah-vah) – A popular middle eastern (especially Greece and Turkey) pastry that is made with buttered layers of phyllo dough.  How it is traditionally made depends on the region.  In some areas, it is made with walnuts; in other areas, it is made with pistachios or almonds.  Sometimes dried fruit is added between the layers.  Baklava consists of 30 or more sheets of phyllo dough brushed with lots of butter, and layered with finely chopped nuts.  After baking, a syrup of honey, rose water and lemon juice (sometimes spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, etc) is poured over the pastry and allowed to soak in.  This dessert is known as baglawa in Syrian and Lebanese.

History:  Most historians agree that the first people, the Assyrians, in the 8th century B.C. were the first to put together thin layers of bread dough, with chopped nuts in between those layers, added some honey and baked it in their primitive wood burning ovens.  This earliest known version of baklava was baked only on special occasions.  Baklava was considered a food for the rich until mid-19th century.  In Turkey the sheets of pastry for baklava are rolled out so thinly that when held up the person standing behind can be seen as if through a net curtain.  In Turkey, to this day one can hear a common expression often used by the poor, or even by the middle class, saying:  “I am not rich enough to eat baklava and boerek every day”.

The Greek seamen and merchants traveling east to Mesopotamia soon discovered the delights of Baklava and brought the recipe to Athens.  The Greeks’ major contribution to the development of this pastry is the creation of a dough technique that made it possible to roll it as thin as a leaf, compared to the rough, bread-like texture of the Assyrian dough.  Phyllo means “layer” or “leaf” in the Greek language.

The Armenians, located on ancient Spice and Silk Routes, integrated for the cinnamon and cloves into the baklava.  The Arabs introduced the rose water and cardamom.  The taste changed in subtle nuances as the recipe started crossing borders.

balsamic vinegar – Balsamic vinegar is an aged reduction of white sweet grapes (Trebbiano for red and Spergola for white sauvignon) that are boiled to syrup. The grapes are cooked very slowly in copper cauldrons over an open flame until the water content is reduced by over 50%.  The resulting “grape must” is placed into wooden barrels where older balsamic vinegar is added to assist in the acetification.  Each year the vinegar is transferred to different wood barrels so that the vinegar can obtain some of the flavors of the different woods.  The only approved woods are oak, cherry, chestnut, mulberry, cacia, juniper, and ash.  Balsamic vinegar can only be produced in the regions of Modena and Reggio in Italy.

History: The first historical reference to balsamic vinegar dates back to 1046, when a bottle of balsamic vinegar was reportedly given to Emperor Enrico III of Franconia as a gift. In the middle Ages, it was used as a disinfectant.  Check out Linda’s article on Balsamic Vinegar.

balti – Balti is an Indian dish, which may have originated in Northwest Pakistan.  It is a form of a meat curry, but one that’s cooked quickly (like a stir-fry.  The spice mix used to flavor the dish is a combination of seeds (coriander, cardamom, cumin, black mustard, fennel, wild onion, and fenugreek).  It can be made as either a masala paste or used dry.

History:  The name comes from the cast-iron pot “balti,” in which it was originally both made and served.  Now the term “balti” seems to refer to the food, and the pot is called a “karahi.”  In some parts of the world, the dish is also called karai, or karah.

bamboo shoot – Young shoots of the bamboo plant.  The shoots grown from an underground stock, and they are cut soon after their appearance above the ground.  The outer sheaths are removed and the shoots are prepared for the table much in the same manner as asparagus.  They are used a lot in Chinese and Japanese cooking.

banana – Bananas are not grown on trees.  They are part of the lily family, a cousin of the orchid, and a member of the herb family.  With stalks 25 feet high, they are the largest plant on earth without a woody stem.  The banana is harvested green, even for local consumption.  It is the one fruit, which if left to ripen on the plant, never develops its best flavor.  After they are picked, the sugar content increases from 2% to 20%.

History: The banana was probably one of the first plants to be cultivated.  The earliest historical reference to the fruit was 327 B.C., when Alexander the Great found them flourishing in India.  Traders in the Indian Ocean carried the banana to the eastern coast of Africa, and Chinese traders introduced the banana to the Polynesians before the second century A.D.  During Alexander the Great’s life, bananas were called pala in Athens.  North America got its first taste of the tropical fruit in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.  Each banana was wrapped in foil and sold for 10 cents.

Bananas Foster – A dish made of bananas and rum, flamed and served over vanilla ice cream.

History:  The original Banana Foster was created in the New Orleans restaurant called Brennan’s in the old French Quarter.  In the 1950’s, New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America.  Owen Edward Brennan challenged his talented chef, Paul Blang to include bananas in a new culinary creation – Owen’s way of promoting the imported fruit.  Simultaneously, Holiday Magazine had asked Owen to provide a new recipe to appear in a feature article on Brennan’s.

In 1951, Chef Paul created Bananas Foster.  The scrumptious dessert was named for Richard Foster, who, as chairman, served with Owen on the New Orleans Crime Commission, a civic effort to clean up the French Quarter. Richard Foster, owner of the Foster Awning Company, was a frequent customer of Brennan’s and a very good friend of Owen.

barbecue – There are several theories on where or how the word “barbecue” originated.  (1) One is that it is a derivative of the West Indian term barbacoa, which denotes a method of slow-cooking meat over hot coals.  (2) It is also thought that the word barbecue comes from the French phrase “barbe a queue,” meaning “from heat to tail.”  (3) Another theory is that the word comes from a 19th century advertisement for a combination whiskey bar, beer, hall, pool establishment and purveyor of roast pig, known as the “Bar-Beer-Cue-Pig”.  (4) The final explanation is that the method of roasting meat over powdery coals was picked up from indigenous peoples in the colonial period, and the word barbacoa became barbecue in the lexicon of early settlers.

Barbecuing is a long, slow, indirect, low-heat method that uses smoldering logs, charcoal, or wood chunks to smoke-cook the food (usually some kind of meat). “Indirect” meant that the heat source is located away from the food to be cooked.  “Barbecuing” and “grilling” are two different techniques.

History:  The earliest example of barbecue is in 1661, when it is used as a verb meaning ‘to cook on a barbecue’.  Other early senses include ‘the wooden framework for supporting food’; ‘a whole animal, or a piece of an animal, roasted on a barbecue’; and ‘a social gathering at which food is cooked on a barbecue’.

Barbecuing is primarily a New World phenomenon, originating in the Caribbean and then spreading to the United Sates (the American South in particular).  In the Southern United States, barbecue is considered a cherished cultural icon. In other areas of America, the word barbecue is a verb (Northerners barbecue food on the backyard grill). In the South, barbecue is most definitely a noun (a barbecue is a gathering of food aficionados who appreciate the aroma of roasted meant that has been painstakingly smoked for several hours)

During the colonial period, the practice of holding a neighborhood barbecue was well established, but it was in the fifty years before the Civil War that the traditions associated with large barbecues became entrenched.  Plantation owners regularly held large and festive barbecues, including “pig pickin’s” for slaves. In the 19th century, barbecue was a feature at church picnic and political rallies as well as at private parties.  A barbecue was a popular and relatively inexpensive way to lobby for votes, and the organizers of political rallies would provide barbecue, lemonade, and usually a bit of whiskey.  Unlike most food preparation in the South, which is dominated by women, barbecue is a male preserve.

In 1951, George Stephen of Palatine, Illinois invented the kettle grill and revolutionized the art of outdoor cookery throughout the US.

bard – Refers to the practice of surrounding or enveloping meat with pork fat.  The fat keeps the meat moist while it cooks.

barley – Barley, as a food, is most commonly identified as pearl barley, which is traditionally used in soups and stews.  In the last few years, we have become more creative with barley and have used it in summer salads, casseroles, and side dishes.  Barley is also used as a commercial ingredient in prepared foods such as breakfast cereals, soups, pilaf mixes, breads, cookies, crackers, and snack bars.  Today it is the world’s fourth largest cereal crop.

History:  Barley has held a prominent and long-standing place in the history of food, being the world’s oldest grain, and has been cultivated for about 8,000 years. Babylonians brewed beer from barley around 2500 B.C.  Both the ancient Greeks and Hebrews made use of barley in porridge and bread.  Barley remained an important bread grain in Europe until the 1500s when wheat breads became popular.

Bartlett pear

History: The Bartlett pear variety originated in Berkshire, England, in the 17th century, by a schoolmaster named John Stair.  Stair sold some of his pear tree cuttings to a horticulturist named Williams, who further developed the variety and renamed it after himself.  After pear seedlings crossed the Atlantic with the early colonists, the Williams pear found fame and fortune in 1812 under the tutelage of nurseryman, Enoch Bartlett, of Dorchester, Massachusetts.  Bartlett, unaware of the pear’s true name, distributed it under his own name.  Ever since, the pear has been known as the Bartlett in the United States, but is still referred to as the Williams pear in other parts of the world.  Bartlett pear trees eventually came out West in the covered wagons of the 49ers heading for the Great California Gold Rush.

base – Base is a soup reduction paste similar to bouillon, but richer, more flavorful, and less salty.  You can find it in the soup section of the super market. It comes in a jar and must be refrigerated after opening.

baste – To spoon, brush or pour drippings or liquid over a food before or during cooking in order to prevent drying, to add flavor, or to glaze it.

batter – The name of many semi-liquid, floury mixtures of flour, water or milk (or both) or some other liquid. It also usually includes sugar and eggs.  Batters may be thin or thick (but even when thick, they must be fluid enough to drop from a spoon).  When thin, they should pour out like creamy milk.

sponge – A batter to which yeast is added.  This batter is so stiff that it does not drop from a spoon, but can be handled.

BasilBasil – Learn about basil, how to store it, and preserve it.

History: The ancient Greeks believed that only the king should be allowed to cut the basil plants, and he must use a sickle made of pure gold.

Bavarian cream – It is a molded cream that is made from custard sauce or sweetened fruit puree that is bound with gelatin and lightened with whipped cream. Bavarian cream can be served on its own or used as a filling for cold charlottes or molded cakes.

Bavarois – It is a light mousse, usually made with chocolate, praline or fruit.

bean curd – Of all the vegetarian products, bean curd is the most versatile and important in the Chinese cuisine.  Bean curds are made of soybean powder and come in square cakes measuring 2 1/2 or 3 inches to a side.  They are white and have the consistency of firm custard.  They are bland but absorbent, soft-textured but strong, and are conducive to all types of cooking.  Because they are inexpensive, there is an eastern Chinese expression for taking advantage of a person that is “eating bean curd.”

beans – Originally the name of the large, smooth, kidney-shaped, edible seeds within the uneatable long pods of the “broad bean.”

History:  In Europe, where it has been cultivated from a very early date, it was the only vegetable known by the name of bean until the 16th century.  Since then, a number of other vegetables, mostly from South America and also from the East, are known as beans.  The Spaniards and the Portuguese originally brought Beans to Europe from Central America in the 16th century.  From archeological research, beans have been found to be used as early as 4000 to 5000 B.C.

bean sauce – After soy sauce is brewed, the soybean pulp is removed from the vats and made into several types of condiments.  The first is bean sauce, sometimes called brown bean sauce or soybean condiment.  Use this rich condiment to replace soy sauce where thicker gravy is desired.  Especially good used as a marinade for roasted meats.

beaten biscuit – Southerners describe beaten biscuits as a cross between a soda cracker and a baking powder biscuit.  To achieve the right texture and lightness, the dough had to be beaten hard (usually with a mallet) for at least half an hours.  The purpose of the beating was to incorporate air into the mixture (this was a time in history before the invention of baking powder).  They were a very heavy biscuit, not like our present day baking powder biscuits.

History:  Beaten biscuits originated in Virginia and traveled across the mountains to Kentucky and then south to Maryland.  Chuck wagon cooks also made them, recruiting a gullible new cowhand for help.  They were considered the pride of the South, and in earlier days no Southern hostess would fail to offer these at any and all times of the day. They are one of the delicious hot breads that have made Southern cooks famous.  They were basically considered an upper-class status symbol dish that depended on a lot of labor.  Making the beaten biscuits was the daily duty of the plantation cook.

beau monde seasoning salt – Beau Monde is a seasoning salt containing ground dried onion and celery seed.  It can be found in the spice section of your grocery store.  Check out the web page on Beau Monde Seasoning Salt.

Bechamel Sauce (bay-shah-mel) – In France, it is one of the four basic sauces called “meres” or “mother sauces” from which all other sauces derive.  It is also know as “white sauce.” It is a smooth, white sauce made from a roux made with flour, boiled milk, and butter.  It is usually served with white meats, eggs, and vegetables.  It forms the basis of many other sauces.

History:  Check out History of Sauces for more detailed history.

Beef On Weck Sandwich – Also called Beef On Wick, an alternative spelling usually used by older people from Buffalo and eastern suburbanites.  It is a roast beef sandwich on a salty kummelweck roll.  This sandwich is a unique staple of Buffalo, New York’s bars and taverns.  Few, if any, restaurants outside of the Buffalo area serve this sandwich or even know what it is.  The important ingredient to these sandwiches is the German roll, called kummelweck.  These rolls are large, hard rolls with chunks of salt and caraway seeds on the top.  Kummelweck is simply shortened to “weck.”

History:  For a more detailed history on Beef On Weck Sandwiches, check out History of Sandwiches.

Beef Stroganoff (STROH-guh-noff) – A dish that consists of thin slices of tender beef (usually tenderloin or top loin), onions, and sliced mushrooms. The ingredients are quickly sauteed in butter and combined with a sour-cream sauce. It is usually accompanied by rice pilaf.

History: The recipe did not appear in English cookbooks until 1932, and it was not until the 1950s, after World War II, that beef stroganoff became popular for elegant dinner parties in America.  There is more than one story on who first created this elegant dish: <?font>

Beef Stroganoff was created in the 1890s by chef Charles Briere for Count Paul Stroganoff, a 19th century Russian diplomat, who was in a friendly competition with the chefs of other families in St. Petersburg, the cultural center of Russian society. The Stroganoff’s chef won the prize with his recipe.

Another version is that Count Pavel Stroganov, a celebrity in turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg, was a noted gourmet as well as a friend of Alexander III.  He is frequently credited with creating Beef Stroganoff or having a chef who did so.

The name of this dish comes from Russian Count Grigory Stroganove (1770-1857) who was one of the richest noblemen and held the highest diplomatic posts. Great gourmet, he loved delicious dishes and always had the best cooks.  One of them invented an original dish from scraped meat and it was on the Count’s taste.  The dish took the name Stroganoff, but, as to the cook, his name was unfairly forgotten but some people told (“bittertongues”) that the dish was made especially for the Count when he, being old, lost all his teeth and couldn’t chew a simple beef stake.

Beef Wellington – It is a choice fillet of beef (often flambeed in brandy) that is covered with liver pate and sliced mushrooms.  The meat is then placed in a case of puff pastry and baked in a hot oven.

History:  It was named in the mid 19th century in honor of Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), British soldier and statesman.  He is best known for his military victory over Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.  He was a national hero and was made the first Duke of Wellington to honor him.  Because of his love of a dish of beef, truffles, mushrooms, Maderia wine, and pate cooked in pastry, this dish was name Beef Wellington in his honor.  He was also Prime Minister of Britain and Ireland.  According to Queen Victoria, the Duke was The pride of this country.  He was the GREATEST man this country ever produced.  To think that all of this is gone; and that this great and immortal man belongs now to History.”

beet – Scientific name is Beta vulgaris.  Among its numerous varieties are the red, or garden, beet, the sugar beet, and Swiss chard.  In the United States, sugar beets are grown extensively from Michigan to Idaho and in California, accounting for more than half of United States sugar production.  Greens are used, as you would cook spinach

History:  The beet has been cultivated since pre-Christian times.  The beet comes from the Mediterranean area where the people in Babylonia, Egypt, and Greece grew them.  Then as now were used not only to eat but for their red dye.

beignets (ben-YAYS) – Puffy squares of deep-fried dough dusted with powdered sugar.  The word beignet comes from the early Celtic word “bigne” meaning “to raise.”  Beignet is also French for “fritter.”  It is a New Orleans specialty that is a fried, raised piece of yeast dough, usually about two inches in diameter or two inches square.  After being fried, they are sprinkled with sugar or coated with various icings.  It is like a sweet doughnut, which is square-shaped, and minus the hole.  Traditional fare at New Orleans coffee houses, most notably Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter.

History:  Check out History of New Orleans Beignets with a recipe.

Belle-Helene – (1) A classic French dessert called “Poires Belle Helene” with cold poached pears, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce.  (2) This is also used in French cookery as a name for a garnish to grilled meat dishes.

History:  Introduced around 1865 by Paris chefs from restaurants on the Grands Boulevard.  This dessert was created in the 1870s and named in honor of the title character, Belle Helene, in an opera by Offenbach of the same name.  Offenbach is perhaps best known in the United States for the popular melody associated with the French can-can.

Betty or Brown Betty – A Betty is a baked dessert dating back to Colonial America.  It is a baked pudding made with layers of spiced sweetened fruit (usually apples) and buttered breadcrumbs.

History:  Learn more about History and Legends of Cobbler, Crisps, Crumble, Brown Betty, Buckle, Grunts, Slumps, Bird’s Nest Pudding, Sonker, & Pandowdy

bernaise sauce (bair-naz) – It is a variation of hollandaise sauce.  White wine or vinegar, diced shallots, tarragon, and peppercorns are cooked together and reduced and sieved and then added to hollandaise sauce.  The spice tarragon is what gives it a distinctive taste.  The sauce is served with beef and some shellfish.

History:  Chef Jules Colette at the Paris restaurant called Le Pavillon Henri IV in the 19th century invented Bernaise sauce in Paris, France.  It was named Brnaise in Henry’s honor as he was born in Bearn, France (a region in the Pyreness mountain range in southwest France).  It is said that every chef at the restaurant tried to claim the recipe as his own.  Check out History of Sauces for more detailed history.

beurre (burr) – This is the French word for “butter.”

beurre manie
(burr mahn-YAY) – This is a French term for a kneaded mixture of butter and flour.

beurre noir – French for sweet butter that has been cooked until it has just turned a light shad of brown.  Wine vinegar, capers, and parsley are then added.

bialy (bee-AH-lee) – A bialy is similar to a bagel, in that it is a round, chewy roll.  But it is unlike a bagel in two important ways:  One, it does not have a hole in the middle, but a depression; and two, it never became popular outside of New York City.  The indentation in the middle of the dough is can be filled with onion, garlic, or poppy seeds.  As the bialy has a very short shelf life, about six hours, they do not lend to being shipped around the country.  They can be modest in size, three to four inches, or the size of a small pizza.

History:  Check out History of Bialys.

bias-slice – Slicing a food crosswise at a 45-degree angle.

bicarbonate of soda – Another common name for baking soda is bicarb which is short for bicarbonate of soda or sodium bicarbonate.  Baking soda, is a naturally occurring substance that is present in all living things.  It helps living things maintain the pH balance necessary for life.  Baking Soda is made from soda ash, also known as sodium carbonate.  It is found in all grocery stores in the baking section.

Bierock Sandwich – See Runza Sandwich.

Bird’s Nest Pudding – A pudding containing apples whose cores have been replaced by sugar.  The apples are nestled in a bowl created by the crust.  Also called Crow’s Nest Pudding.

History:  Learn more about Legends of Cobbler, Crisps, Crumble, Brown Betty, Buckle, Grunts, Slumps, Bird’s Nest Pudding, Sonker, & Pandowdy

Bird’s Nest Soup – A classic Chinese soup, called yin waw, is made using the nests of the swiftlet (a sea swallow), a tiny bird found throughout Southeast Asia and especially high in the caves of Thailand’s southern islands.  These small birds live on high cliffs in the isolated islands of Indonesia and in parts of Western China bird.  Instead of twigs and straw, it makes its nest from strands of gummy saliva, which harden when exposed to air.  When dried, these nests are translucent and grayish in color and have the texture of soft plastic.  They are about the size and shape of a human ear.  Once the nests are harvested, they are cleaned and sold to restaurants, where they are served simmered in chicken broth.

Both the Indonesian and the Chinese governments have limited harvesting of swallow’s nests to twice a year, because of the fear of causing extinction to these cliff swallows.  This is when the swallows have left their nest and migrated elsewhere (before the eggs are laid and after the swallows have left their nests).

The soup has the reputation of being an aphrodisiac.  The soup is popular because it is believed to help growth, skin complexion, and sex drive, prevent lung disease, and stave off aging.  All through the ages in China, swallow’s nest soup is fed to very old people and to sick people that could not eat anything in order to sustain themselves.  It is also quite costly (a bowl of bird’s nest soup at a good Hong Kong restaurant can go for as much as $60), many western restaurants serve a less expensive version consisting of soup with noodles shaped to resemble a bird’s nest.

History:  Chinese began eating the nests of edible-nest swiftlets in soup or in jelly mixed with spices or sweets about 1,500 years ago.  It was during times of famine that the imaginative Chinese discovered that not only were sharks’ fins and car’s tongues edible, but that swallows’ nests were as well.  According to legends, Empress Dowager of the Qing Dynasty was able to keep her youthful looks because of her daily intake of swallow nests.

Birthday Cake

History: Check out History of Cakes.

biscotti (bee-SKAWT-tee) – In Italian, biscotti means, “twice cooked.”  The word biscotto is derived from bis (twice) and cotto (cooked).  Biscotti is also the generic term for cookies in Italian.  The dough is formed into logs and baked until golden brown.  The logs are then sliced, and the individual biscotti are baked again to give them their characteristic dryness.  The shelf life of biscotti are three to four months without preservatives or additives.  Other countries have their version of this cookie – Dutch rusk, French biscotte, and the German zwieback.

History:  Early Seaman’s biscuits, also known as hard tack, probably were the first version of biscotti.  They were the perfect food for sailors who were at sea for months at a time on long ocean voyages.  The biscuits were thoroughly baked to draw out the moisture, becoming a cracker-like food that that was resistant to mold.  Biscotti were a favorite of Christopher Columbus who relied on them on his long sea voyage in the 15th century.  Historians believe that the first Italian biscotti were first baked in 13th century Tuscany in the in a city called Prato.

biscuit (BISH-kiht) – In England, it is the equivalent of U.S. cookies (small, sweet cakes).  In the U.S., a type of non-yeast bread made of flour, milk, and shortening, usually served with breakfast – small, and similar to what much of the world refers to as “scones.”

bisque (bisk) – A bisque is a thick, rich, creamy sauce in the form of a puree.  Bisque in French means a “shellfish soup.”  The word is a corruption of “biscuit,” as the soup was cooked twice to thicken it.  Bisques in the 18th century were made of poultry and game, not with shellfish as they usually are today.

bistro (BEES-troh) – (1) In France, a bistro used to be a bar that also sold wine. S ometimes, they would have one or two tables and the wife of the owner would have made a dish she would sell.  Today a bistro is a small neighborhood restaurant with a comforting, predictable menu and reliable daily specials.  It functions as a home away from home for many people, drawn by the familiar atmosphere, honest food and consistent prices.  (2) Bistro also means a style of cooing (simple home cooking – it is similar to old-fashioned American food).  It is a return to the era before fast food, before speed and convenience became more important than flavor and quality, but not quite to the complexity of old school French cooking.

Black pudding – Called “Marag” (Blood Pudding) in Gaelic (it also means a fat, shapeless person!).  This is one of the famous blood dishes that Scottish people love.  It usually accompanies other fried dishes, such as bacon and eggs.  While it might seem shocking to eat blood, do not forget that all meat dishes contain blood and it’s the basis, with fat, of gravy.  Blood dishes are popular all over Europe, especially in Transylvania.

blackened – A cooking technique where meat or fish is usually seasoned with a Cajun spice mixture and then cooked in a cast-iron skillet that has been heated almost red-hot.  This technique gives the food an extra crispy crust and sears in the juices.  It is also guaranteed to set off your smoke detector–unless the battery is dead!

Blackened Redfish – A dish made by searing seasoned redfish fillets in a smoking hot skillet (usually a cast-iron skillet).

History:  This cooking technique and popular fish dish was introduced by Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme, causing a worldwide culinary phenomenon in the early to mid-1980s.  As the dish’s fame grew in the late 1980s, stiff limits had to be placed on redfish catches to prevent the disappearance of the species from Gulf Coast waters.  Chef Paul Prudhomme’s non-traditional “blackened redfish” dish sparked a worldwide Cajun food craze which inspired creative chefs to start “blackening” everything from chicken to veal in order to continue to cash in on the craze.

blanch, blanching – (1) To briefly plunge food into boiling water and then into cold water to stop cooking.  (2) Blanching allows you to cook vegetables completely, then cool them quickly for use in dishes like salad, soup, stew, and pasta.  Blanching is used to loosen skins of fruits and vegetables or to prepare them for more cooking by another method.  (3) To scald shelled nuts until the thin outer skins are sufficiently loosened to remove easily.

blend – To mix ingredients together thoroughly (either by hand or mixer).

bleu cheese – Also called fromage bleu.  It is the French name for a group of Roquefort-type (blue-veined) cheeses made in the Roquefort area in southeastern France.  Roquefort-type cheeses made in the United States are called blue cheese.

Danish blue – After World War II, Danish cheese makers created a new blue cheese.  By using Bleu d’Auvergen and Bleu des Causses as models, they began making a cheese that we know today as Danish Blue.  It is made with large machinery and modern technology.  It is a flawless blue cheese but it is considered uninteresting and with a predominant flavor of salt.

Bleu D’Ambert – The name comes from the mold or form traditionally used to shape the cheese in its tall, cylindrical shape.  Originally, the cow’s milk used for this ancient cheese came from the pastures around the town of Ambert in the heart of France.  Fourme was made long before the English Stilton that it resembles visually and in terms of recipe and flavor, but is not as crumbly as Stilton.  This liberally veined blue cheese has a pronounced but not evenly sharp flavor.

Bleu d’Auvergne (bluh-doe-VAIRN) – This is a pasteurized cheese.  They are made in 6-pound wheels.

Bleu des Causses (dluh-duh-KOSE) – This is always unpasteurized.  The texture is creamer than Bleu d’Auvergne though the recipe is the same.  The difference is in the quality of the milk.  They are made in 5 to 5 1/2 pound wheels.  It is made by only a few small producers and is quite rare.

blini (blee-nee) – They are Russian pancakes made with yeast and buckwheat flour, and have been made in Russia for hundreds of years.  They are used in place of puff pastry for canap to serve caviar, smoked salmon, and a number of other savory foods.

blintz – This is the Yiddish word, derived from blini for a small pan-fried battercake that is rolled with meat, potato, cheese, or fruit filling.

blood orange – The blood orange generally is sweeter than its orange cousins, with a slight raspberry aftertaste.  It can be enjoyed as any other orange, for its juice, or in fruit salads, or as a garnish for desserts, but its high price dictates that it should be reserved for special occasions.  The blood orange is generally about the same size as a Florida juice orange (about the size of a tennis ball), though it has none of the green streaks common to juice oranges.  Blood oranges are generally seedless, or close to it, and may outwardly range from bright orange to orange with red areas.

bloom – (1)  To soften gelatin in cool liquid before using in the dish you are making.  Blooming gelatin is a step integral to ensuring the smooth texture of a finished product.  It involves sprinkling the powdered gelatin into a liquid and letting it sit for 3 to 5 minutes.  Then, when the mixture is heated, the gelatin will dissolve evenly.  You can bloom gelatin in just about any liquid.  Avoid the fresh juices of tropical fruits such as papaya, kiwi, mango, and pineapple as they contain an enzyme that will eat the gelatin.  Pasteurizing kills the enzymes in these fruits, so canned or frozen juices are fine.

(2)  The term is also used when allowing the casing on smoked sausage to darken at room temperature after it has been smoked.

blueberry – The blueberry of the genus “Vaccinium,” is a Native American species.  One of only three berries native to North America; Wild Blueberries were well known to the earliest inhabitants.  To settle the question about blueberries and huckleberries being the same berry, they are not.  Huckleberries have ten large hard bony seeds, which do not disappear when the berries are baked, boiled, or eaten fresh.  Wild blueberries have many tiny seeds that are so soft they literally melt in your mouth.

History:  Low bush blueberries (often referred to as “wild blueberries”) were the first to be cultivated commercially (the first attempts were made by the Indians who practiced burning as a pruning technique).  When the explorers and settlers arrived on the North American Continent, they found the native Indians using berries as an integral part of their food supply.  Early settlers cherished the fruit as a staple ingredient in foods and medicines.  They incorporated the berries into their diets (eating them fresh off the bush and adding them to soups, stews, and many other foods).  The North American harvest runs from mid-April through early October, with peak harvest in July.  Efforts in the early 1900’s by Elizabeth White and Dr. Frederick Coville to domesticate the wild high bush blueberry resulted in today’s cultivated blueberry industry.

blue cheese – Blue, blue-mold, or blue-veined cheese is the name for cheese of the Roquefort type that is made in the United States and Canada.  It was not until about 1918 that attempt to make Roquefort-type cheese in the United States met with success.  See bleu cheese.

bocconcini – (1) Bocconcini means “a mouthful” and refers to small nuggets (about 1-inch in diameter) of fresh mozzarella.  They are usually sold packed in whey or water. (2) It can also describe tempting Italian dishes.

boil – To cook submerged in a boiling liquid at or above the boiling point of water.  Check out my article on How To Boil Water – Boiling Points of Water.

boiled peanuts – These are green or raw peanuts that are boiled in salty water for hours over open flames.  Green peanuts must be obtained at just the right time to ensure their high quality.  One of the drawbacks of boiled peanuts is that they are a low-acid food and highly perishable.  Because of this, they have a very short shelf life unless refrigerated or frozen.  Boiled peanuts are considered a traditional southern snack in the states of South Carolina, Georgia, northern Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.  They are an acquired taste, but according to Southerners, they are totally addictive. In the months of May through November, you will see roadside stands that can range from woodsheds to shiny trailers offering fresh boiled peanuts.  A traditional way that old-timers like to eat boiled peanuts is to drop the shelled peanuts into a bottle of cold RC Cola and gulp the combo down.

History:  The origin of who first boiled peanuts remains a mystery.  It is known that boiled peanuts have been a southern institution since the Civil War (1861-1865) when General Sherman led his troops through Georgia.  When troops of the Southern Confederacy were almost with food, peanuts suddenly became very important.  Soldiers roasted the peanuts in a campfire and boiled them.  Check out history of Boiled Peanuts.

bombe (bahm) – Bombe is French for a “bomb” which was used in a cannon.  In France, they had at one time, a spherical mold for food shaped like a round bomb.  Originally it was made of copper and had a tight lid so that it could be buried with its contents in salted ice to keep the contents frozen.  It is a dessert made with two different ice cream mixtures.  The first is a simple plain ice cream, which is used to line a mold. T he second is a more elaborate ice cream mixture (usually with a strong flavoring), which, is used as a filling.  The bombe is usually decorated when it is complete with crystallized fruit.  It is then frozen and served cold as a dessert.

bon appetit (bon a-pet-tite) – A French phrase that literally means “good appetite” or “enjoy your meal.”

Bon Appeti Seasoning Salt – Bon Appetit Seasoning is a spice, put out by McCormick Company.  Bon Appetite is a very mild blend of Celery, Onion, Salt, and MSG.  Its light color makes it ideal for chicken, fish, white sauces and vegetables, tossed salads and baked potatoes.  Check out the web page on Bon Appetit Seasoning.

bonne femme – A French phrase indicating that a dish has been cooked simply (with vegetables and stock).


Borscht – Also known as borsch and borsch.  A beef soup that originated in Ukraine and is considered their national soup. his delicious soup is served in many variations with up to 25 different ingredients, which usually contain either beef, cabbage, or chicken with dumplings stuffed with meat, mushrooms, or vegetables. The best known of these soups is a cold version based on beets and served with sour cream, but hot versions are also very common.

History:  Ukrainian cuisine stems from peasant dishes based on grains and staple vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, beets and mushrooms.  Meat is typically boiled, fried or stewed.  This soup was so popular with the American Jewish people in the 1930s to 1950s, that the popular resorts in the Catskill Mountains of upper New York State became know as the “Borscht Belt,” due to their largely Jewish clientele.

Boston baked beans – Beans baked slowly over a long period of time.

History:  When the first colonist arrived, the local Indians were cultivating several types of beans that they baked in small holes in the ground lined with stones. The colonist called the holes “ban holes.”  This was the first way of baking beans and every colonial family had a bean hole until fireplaces with brick ovens were built in their homes.  The Pilgrims baked their beans on Saturday because of the religious mandate that dictated Sunday as a day of rest.  The beans were baked overnight in brick ovens.

Boston Cream Pie – It is really a cake, not a pie.  Two layers of sponge cake are filled with thick vanilla custard and topped with a chocolate glaze or a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.  It is cut in wedges like a pie.  The Boston Cream Pie was proclaimed the official Massachusetts State Dessert on December 12, 1996.  A civics class from Norton High School sponsored the bill.

History:  For more detailed history of the Boston Cream Pie, check out Linda Stradley’s History of Cakes.

bottarga – Also known as bottarga di muggine.  It is salted Mediterranean salted tuna or mullet roe.  Bottarga is made with gray mullet in Sardinia and tuna in Sicily.  The term Bottarga, from the Arabic bot-ah-rik, means “raw fish eggs.  This delicacy is a specialty of the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.The mullet’s eggs, after being extracted, in their protective sacs, are washed and purified, put under salt, rinsed and laid to dry.  The aging process takes four to five months.  The dried eggs are then pressed and vacuum packed.  The color of the roe goes from yellow-gold to dark amber; the change of color does not affect the quality or taste.  The Sardinians serve it simply, with spaghetti, extra-virgin olive oil, and chopped garlic, parsley, and red pepper flakes.  The bottarga was once the fishermen food but nowadays it is served in restaurants as delicious hors’ d’ouvre.

botulism – A food-borne illness caused by toxin (called botlinus toxin or botulin).

bouchees – Puff pastry shells, used for holding fillings and stuffings.  Large bouchees are called voul au vents in France, and patty shells in the United States.

boudin blanc (boo-DAHN BLAHN) – (1) Also called white boudin, it is a wonderful Cajun sausage stuffed with pork and rice.  It is one of those food products that originated in frugality; the rice was meant to stretch the meat.  Now, it’s a unique and delicious treat all its own. 2) This term in French means, “white pudding.” It is a delicate sausage made with pork, chicken, fat, eggs, cream, breadcrumbs, and seasonings.

boudin noir – A blood sauce that is sometimes called “black pudding.”  It is served grilled and usually accompanied with mashed potatoes.

boudin rouge – Also called red boudin, it is a blood sausage.

bouillabaisse (BOO-yuh-BAYS or Boo-yuh-BAYS) – The name probably derives from the French phrase bouillepeis, meaning “bubble of fish.”  Although called a soup, this is really a main dish or a stew, a full meal in itself.  Bouillabaisse has many regional variations based on the different local fish.  The favorite place for bouillabaisse in Marseilles, France is the cabanon, a modest shed erected along the seashore by local people who used it for fishing, and gatherings with family and close friends.

History:  Bouillabaisse is a soup that came from the Provence region of France in and around Marseilles, the seafood capital of Provence, France.  The soup was based on local fish, usually those unsold at the daily market, with other local shellfish added. It was a “fisherman’s” dish, and never contained any expensive ingredients such as lobster.

bouillon (BOO-yahn) – It is the French word for broth.  It is a clear soup made from cooking meat, vegetables, poultry, or fish in water.  The liquid that is strained after cooking is the bouillon, which can form the base for soups and sauces.  Bouillon is available on the market in the liquid, cube, granule, and packet forms.

court bouillon – A poaching liquid for fish whose ingredients usually include water, vinegar or wine, diced vegetables, and seasonings.

History:  The Duke of Godefry, who was born in 1061 and died in the year of 1100, in his castle at Bouillon, Belgium, invented this clear, delicious soup, which is now called bouillon.  He became the first European King of Jerusalem.

bouquet garni (boo-KAY gahr-NEE) – It is generally a triad of herbs.  The literal translation from the French is “nosegay trimmings.”  It is a small bunch of herbs, which traditionally consist of a bay leaf, sprig of thyme, and a sprig of parsley.  When fresh herbs are used, the three herb sprigs can be tied together with kitchen twine and tossed into the sauce “as is”.  When the cooking is done, the bouquet is removed and discarded.  If the herbs are dried, they can be crushed and added directly to the pot in roughly equal proportions.  In Britain it is sometimes called an herbal faggot.

braise (brayz) – Braising is basically a slow-cooking method for tough cuts of meat or poultry and even stringy vegetables.  They are cooked slowly in a small amount of liquid in a covered pan.  Stews and pot roasts are among the dishes prepared this way.  Braising may be done in a covered container in the oven, on the range, or in a covered steam kettle or fry pan.  In all the moist-heats methods of cooking, the moisture or liquid not only conducts heat to a product, but it interacts with the food being cooked and can influence the final taste and texture of a product.

Brazil nut – Although referred to, as nuts these are actually the seed of a South American tree that grows in the Amazon jungle.  The tree yields 3 to 4 pound pods with thick shells that must be broken open with a machete. Inside are 12 to 20 three-sided Brazil nuts.  Their extremely hard shells are dark brown and triangular in shape and can be very hard to break.  The kernel is white and has a rich flavor.

bread – Bread is the name given to the oldest, commonest, and cheapest form of human food.  Bread is made of the flour or meal of one or more kinds of cereals, which can be obtained from some grasses, seeds, and root stocks other than cereals.

History:  Grain cultivation most likely began around 10,000 B.C, and bread was baked on hot stones into loaves of flatbread.  Evidence of ovens was found dating back as far as 25,000 B.C. in the Ukraine.

Historians think that the first combination of bread ingredients and yeast happened by accident.  Probably when an alcoholic drink or fermented honey was accidentally added to flatbread dough.  This more likely happened in a brewery in ancient Egypt where archaeologists have found ruins and drawings of bakeries and breweries.  The Egyptians had supplies of mead, beer, and primitive wines.

By the third century B.C., Romans had created ovens made from dried and hardened mud, and by 200 B.C. there were more than 200 bakeries in Rome.  Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.) founded the first bakers’ school in Rome.  Once a man became a baker, he was not allowed to change work.  They taught their sons the trade, passing baking secrets down from generation to generation.

There are many stories of wars being won or lost and favors being granted by the barter of freshly baked bread.   French soldiers demanded white bread to give them courage, and Greek women were said to have tucked a piece of bread into their husbands’ clothing as he went off to war.  Bakers in local communities celebrated political victories or “saved a country” by introducing a specific shape or type of bread.

breadfruit – Although it is a fruit, it’s light yellow flesh has the starchy consistency of unripe potatoes, which makes it seem more like a vegetable weighing between two to five pounds.  As the breadfruit ripens it softens to about the consistency of a mango but without the sweetness.  The reason for the name “breadfruit” is that when eaten before it is ripe, breadfruit not only feels like fresh bread, but also tastes like it.  Not only are breadfruit trees in the Pacific prized for their fruits but their wood is also highly valuable.  In Hawaii, the wood of breadfruit trees was made into fine quality canoes, drums, and surfboards.  In Guam and Samoa, the bark was used for making tapa cloth.  A starchy staple of the Caribbean and Pacific islands, breadfruit is fried, baked, boiled, and sometimes mixed with coconut milk to make a pudding.  It is used like a potato – in stews, whipped, and diced, and in a salad resembling potato salad.

History:  Probably native to the Malay Archipelago, breadfruit either drifted on the sea or was carried by early peoples to the Pacific Islands well before written history.  The plant has been cultivated there for thousands of years.  Breadfruits were traditionally baked with hot stones in pits dug into the ground.  The wood of the trees—which grew as high as 60 feet—was also used for canoes, and the bark was made into cloth on Guam and the islands of Samoa.  In Hawaii the wood was prized for making drums and surfboards.

In the 1700’s the British began to establish breadfruit crops in the West Indies, as a staple with which to feed the African slaves who worked the huge sugar plantations.  During his voyage to Tahiti in 1769, Captain James Cook was introduced to breadfruit when he brought it back to England. King George III was convinced of the necessity of transporting breadfruit from the Pacific to the Caribbean and in 1787 Captain Bligh and his ship HMS Bounty was sent to Tahiti with the mission of delivering the breadfruit trees to the Caribbean.  Records indicate that 347 breadfruit trees arrived on the HMS Providence on the fifth of February 1793, and were distributed throughout the island.

bread pudding – A pudding that dates back to earlier times.  It originated as a way to use stale bread and avoid throwing it away.

brie cheese (bree) – One of the most popular of imported cheeses, brie has been called the “king of all cheeses.”  This cheese is made from whole, skim, or partially skim cow’s milk (the quality varies with the kind of milk used).  It is described as creamy, smooth, and very delicate.  The natural white rind of the brie cheese is edible; so do not discard it when serving brie as an appetizer.

History:  Brie cheese originated in France centuries ago.  It is named after La Brie, the province in northern France where it was first made.

brine – Brining is like a marinade as it keeps food moist and tender.  Brining or salting is a way of increasing the moisture holding capacity of meat resulting in a moister product when it is cooked.  One of the great things about brining is that there are so few rules.  Most brines start with water and salt — traditionally, 3/4 pound of salt per gallon of water, but since we’re not concerned with the brine as a preservative, you can cut back on the salt.  Check out Guidelines for Brining Poultry.

broaster, broasted, and broasting – Broaster and broasted are registered trademarks of the Broaster Co. in Beloit, Wisc. that has been broasting chickens since 1954.  It is a registered process that builds pressure in the pot, which seals in the natural juices while sealing out almost 100% of the cooking oil.  It is not only the process of frying chickens under pressure, but includes a special marinating process.  The Broasters and the seasonings are sold only to restaurants and the food trade, so Broasted chicken is available to you only when you dine out.

broccoli – It is a member of the Cruciferae family and is a relative of cabbage, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.  It has tight clusters of tiny buds that sit on stout, edible stems.  It is available year-round.  The word broccoli comes from the Italian word “brocco” meaning “arm branch.”

History:  Broccoli has been around for more than 2000 years.  During the 16th century, the plant was grown in France and Italy.  Little was known about broccoli in the United States until the 1920s, when the first commercially grown broccoli was grown in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1923, broccoli was first planted in California.

broccolini – A new hybrid vegetable that is sure to make a statement at your dinner table.  Technically a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, this vegetable looks more like a broccoli-asparagus mix.  Broccolini comes in bunches of 17-20 stalks and has a shelf life of 2 weeks in the refrigerator from date of purchase. Broccolini is a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A and potassium, and has no fat.  It can be cooked and eaten the same as broccoli: blanched, steamed, sauteed, poached, roasted, fried or grilled. It is 100% edible, so there’s no need to remove any of the stems, making a wonderful presentation on the plate with its long slender stems.

broccoli rabe – Also known as rapini, broccoli raab, broccoletti di rape, and broccoletto.  It is related to the turnip and cabbage families and has very little resemblance to broccoli.  It has a thin, leafy, dark green stock with few buds, and has a pungent-bitter flavor.  It gives a lift to bland foods and a nice accent to spicy foods.  If served alone, blanch in salt water before further cooking to remove some of the bitterness.  When choosing broccoli rabe, it should be firm with small stems and few buds.  It is best to keep it wrapped and in the vegetable crisper for no more than five days.  Broccoli rabe is available all year, but it most plentiful from spring to late fall. It is a great source of vitamins A, C and K, and a good source of potassium and folic acid.

brochette –  (1) Small portions of meat, chicken liver, or seafood that is coe on a skewer (usually sauteed or grilled). Food cooked “en brochette” is cooked on a skewer.  Also known as kabob, a la broche, or shish ka bob.  It is derived from the word “broche,” meaning, “pointed tool.”  (2) Brochette is also used by confectioners to thread fruit in before candying them.

broil, broiling – In this method of cooking, the heat source is above the food. In home cooking, an oven is often used for broiling by setting it so that only the top element comes on.  Broiling is a high-heat method of cooking in which food is placed on a rack below, and the speed with which it cooks depends on how far away it is from the element.  As with grilling, food has to be watched carefully, so it does not overcook.


broth – Broth is a flavorful liquid resulting from the long simmering of meat, vegetables, poultry or fish.  The French call if “bouillon.”  Also know as “stock.”

brownie, brownies – A chocolate bar cookie. The name comes from the deep-brown color of the cookie.

History:  The origins of the chocolate brownies is uncertain but it is felt that it was probably created by accident, the result of a forgetful cook neglecting to add baking powder to chocolate cake batter.Sears, Roebuck catalog in 1897 published the first known recipe for the brownies, and it quickly became very popular (so popular that a brownie mix was even sold in the catalog).

brunch – A combination of the words for breakfast and lunch, and which is neither breakfast nor lunch, which combines some of the features of both and is served mid-morning.

History:  Brunch first appeared in England at the end of the 19th century.  In August 1896, the word appeared in the magazine called Punch.  The magazine reported on a company breakfast by Mr. Guy Beringer of the defunct Hunter’s Weekly about a combined breakfast and lunch that was served after guests returned home from a morning of hunting.  The article went on to say “To be fashionable nowadays, we much brunch.”  It was not until the 1930s in the United States that the idea of brunch became popular in restaurants and hotels.  Customers became know as “pilers.”

brunoise (broo-NWAHZ) – It is a French word used to describe a mixture of vegetables, usually onion, celery, and carrot, which has been very finely diced, then cooked slowly in butter.  This classic mixture is used as a base to flavor soups, stews and sauces.
Brunswick stew – This famous stew was originally a game stew and not a domestic meat stew as it is today.

History:  According to one story, it began as a squirrel stew created by “Uncle” Jimmy Matthews and named after Brunswick County, Virginia (which was named for Braunschweig in Germany).  In 1828, Dr. Creed Haskins, a member of the Virginia state legislature, wanted something special for a political rally he was sponsoring.  He persuaded Matthews to part with his recipe.  The stew remained, for many years, one of the main attractions at political rallies conducted by both the Whigs and the Democrats.  Gradually more vegetables were added and chicken replaced squirrel as the major ingredient.

Virginians insist that the dish was invented in Brunswick County, VA.  A county of the same name in North Carolina and some citizens of Brunswick, GA., also lay claim to have originated the stew.

bruschetta (broo-SKEH-tah) – Traditional Italian garlic bread.  Grilled slices of bread are brushed with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh garlic.

brussels sprouts – They are the buds of a cultivated variety of the common cabbage plant. In appearance, brussel sprouts resemble miniature cabbages, but have a much stronger flavor than their larger cousins.

History:  They were cultivated as food in Belgium as early as the 13th century.

brut (broot) – Very dry (un-sweet) reference to Champagne or sparkling wine.

Bubble and Squeak – An English dish of equal parts mashed potatoes and chopped cooked cabbage mixed together and fried until well browned.  Originally, the dish included chopped boiled beef.  The name is said to come from the sounds the potato-cabbage mixture makes as it cooks (some say it’s from the sounds one’s stomach makes after eating bubble and squeak).

Bubble Tea – Bubble Tea is the catch-all name for endless unusual names of this drink such as: tapioca pearl drink, tapioca ball drink, pearl shake, pearl tea, black pearl tea, big pearl, boba tea, boba ice tea, boba nai cha, milk tea, bubble drink, zhen zhu nai cha, momi, momi milk tea, QQ, BBT, PT, and possibly many other names.  This drink is far from the plain-looking tea that you are generally familiar with and it.  It is non-alcoholic and non-carbonated.  The tea is sweet, thought it has less sugar than a typical soft drink.  There are a huge variety of flavors to try; depending on the teahouse or stand you visit.  The drink is usually a mix of tea, milk, sugar, and giant black tapioca balls.  The “bubble” refers to the foam created by shaking the freshly brewed tea with ice (the drink must always be shaken and not stirred).

The unique ingredient of Bubble Tea is the tapioca pearl.  About the size of pearls or small marbles, they have a consistency like gummy candy (soft and chewy). Being heavier than the drink they tend to always stay near the bottom of the glass.  These drinks are usually served in large see-through plastic containers with an extra-wide straw to sip these jumbo pearls.

History:  For history and a recipe for Bubble Tea.

buckle  – Also called crumble.  Is a type of cake made in a single layer with berries added to the batter.  It is usually made with blueberries.  The topping is similar to a streusel, which gives it a buckled or crumpled appearance.

History:  Learn more about History and Legends of Cobbler, Crisps, Crumble, Brown Betty, Buckle, Grunts, Slumps, Bird’s Nest Pudding, Sonker, & Pandowdy

Buffalo Chicken Wings – They are deep-fried chicken wing serve with a hot sauce, celery stalks, and blue cheese dressing.  Because the residents of Buffalo are so enamored with these chicken wings, the city of Buffalo, New York has declared July 19th as the “Official Chicken Wing Day.”  The city’s proclamation noted that, because of Mrs. Bellissimo’s kitchen, “thousands of chicken wings are consumed by buffalonians in restaurants and taverns throughout the city each week.”

History:  This famous chicken wings were created a the Frank & Teressa’s Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York on October 30 1962, by owner Teressa Bellissimo. According to the story by the restaurant, her son, Dom Bellissimo, asked Teressa Bellissimo to fix something for his group of hungry friends.  To make a long story short, as she was about to put them in the stockpot for soup, she looked at them and said, “It’s a shame to put such beautiful wings in a stock pot.”  So she battered and then deep-fried the chicken wings.  The rest is history!

bulgogi – Bulgogi is marinated strips of beef cooked over charcoal on a grill. It is the best known and most popular of all Korean foods.  Beef is most often identified with bulgogi, but even pork, chicken, lamb, squid, and octopus can be cooked bulgogi style.  Foreigners consider it the national dish of Korea.  It is often prepared at the table on small grills and accompanied by kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage.  In Korean, the word bul means “fire” and gogi means “meat.” The word is commonly translated as Korean barbecue, thought it literally means “fire meat.”

Bully Beef – A term used in Great Britain for corned beef.

History:  The name was given by troops during the First World War to corned beef (canned salted beef).

burgoo – Burgoo is a savory stew made from a varying array of ingredients that is popular in Kentucky.  It is often cooked in enormous iron kettles outdoors over an open flame.  Cooking can take as long as 30 hours and flavor improves as it ages.  It has been said that burgoo is more of a concept than a recipe.  This is because there are as many different ways to prepare burgoo as there are people who prepare it.  The meats could include any or all of the following meats: mutton (sheep/lamb), beef, pork, chicken, veal or opossum.  You will also find some combination of these vegetables: potatoes, corn, lima beans, tomatoes, or okra.  Of course there are also many spices to choose from as well.  As you might imagine there are many people who keep their recipes a closely guarded secret.

History:  It is believed that the word “burgoo” originated in the 17th century on the high seas.  These sailors used to subsist on an oatmeal-like porridge made from the Middle-Eastern grain, bulgur (or bulghur) wheat.  The term first appears in the 1650 book “Adventures by Sea” by Edward Coxere.

burnt cream

History:  It is sometimes known as Trinity Cream since it is generally believed to have originated at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the 18th century.  It is the English relation (and predecessor) of the French Cre Brulee.

burrito (burr-EE-toe) – A large (10″) flour tortilla filled with any number of ingredients, which can include beans, beef, or pork.  The tortillas are rolled and then sealed by tucking the ends under.  They can be eaten like this or topped with salsa, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and guacamole.

butter – Churning cream into a semi-solid form produces Butter.  By U.S. standard definition, it is 80 percent milk fat, with the remaining 20 percent consisting of water and milk solids.

History:  The ancient Greeks and Romans used butter as an external medicine for skin injuries and sore eyes.  For centuries, butter was one of the only ways known to preserve milk.  The word “butter” comes from the Greek word “bous” which mean, “cow” and “tyros” which means cheese.  The expression “to butter” meant to flatter as early as 1850, but did not become “butter up” until the late 1930s.

brown butter – Is made by cooking butter over low heat until it turns light brown.If allowed to darken further, is called Black Butter.

butter ghee – Clarified butter and ghee are not the same.  Ghee is clarified butter that has been cooked longer to remove all the moisture, and the milk solids are browned (caramelized) in the fat and then strained out.  This gives a rich nutty taste.  Ghee has a longer shelf life, both refrigerated and at room temperature.  It is traditionally used in Indian cuisine.

clarified butter – Also called drawn butter.  Clarified butter is the translucent golden butterfat left over after the milk solids and water are removed.  In short, clarified butter is just butter that contains only pure butterfat.  It has a higher smoke point than regular butter, thus allowing you to be able to cook at higher temperatures, and won’t spoil as quickly.

compound butter – A mixture of butter and other ingredients used to enhance various dishes.

cultured butter – It is made from cream to which lactic acid cultures have been added.  The mild fermentation that results produces a richer, more developed flavor.

Plugra butter – Takes its name from the French words meaning “more fat.”  It is a higher-fat butter with 82 percent butterfat.

salted butter – The most popular kind of butter in the U.S. is made from fresh cream with no less than 80 percent butterfat.  This butter is lightly salted.  Salted butter lasts longer than unsalted butter.  When used for frying, salted butter scorches much more easily than unsalted

unsalted or sweet butter – Is the same as salted butter but without the salt.

whipped butter – Has air or nitrogen gas whipped into it to increase the volume, lighten the texture and make it easier to spread.

butterfly – To split food (usually meat, fish, or poultry) down the center, cutting almost, but not completely through.  The two halves are then opened flat to resemble a butterfly.  Often this is the first step when preparing a roast that is to be stuffed and rolled.

BYOB – A slang term for “Bring your own bottle” or “Bring your own booze” or “Bring your own bucket.”  In other words, you may bring your personal bottle of wine, beer, or alcohol to a party or event you will be attending.  Some restaurants also allow patrons to bring their own alcohol purchased from elsewhere.  That alcohol is usually subject to an “opening fee” or “corking fee.”


Culinary Dictionary   

Comments and Reviews

5 Responses to “Culinary Dictionary – B”

  1. Larry Mike Gawith

    What is the term used when cutting across julene

  2. Nicole

    Bechamel has a typo. The “C” was left out.

    • Nancy

      Thank you for catching that, we love good editors!

  3. Jessica

    What is the term used when cutting tomatoes


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