Culinary Dictionary – G

Linda’s Culinary Dictionary – G

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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galia melon – They resemble a small cantaloupe and have a light golden-yellow skin when ripe.  Their flesh is lime green and tastes similar to a sweet honeydew melon.

ganache (gahn-AHSH) – Ganache is a rich chocolate mixture made by combining chopped semisweet chocolate and boiling cream and then stirring until smooth.  The proportions of chocolate to cream can vary, and the resulting ganache can be used as a cake glaze or beaten until fluffy and used as a filling or as the base for truffles and other chocolate confections.

garam masala (gah-RAHM Mah-SAH-lah) – Traditionally used in northern Indian cuisine, garam masala means literally “warm spice blend” because its spices are supposed to heat the body.  There are many variations of garam masala and it can contain up to twelve spices. Some of the spices can be cardamon, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

garbanzo bean – Also known as ceci or chickpeas.  They are very popular in Mediterranean cuisine.  Canned chickpeas can be found in the bean aisle of most grocery stores.

garlic – The pungent, segmented bulb of the perennial plant Allium sativum, a member of the Lily family, closely related to the onion.  Among the oldest known cultivated plants and most universally popular cooking herbs, garlic appears extensively, both raw and cooked in the cuisines of southern Europe and is considered essential to many dishes in Italy.  The peeled cloves can be preserved for short periods in jars of oil.

garnish – A decorative edible accompaniment that is added to a finished dish entirely for eye appeal, such as a sprig of mint or parsley.  A garnish may be eaten but that is not its purpose.

garniture (gahr-nih-TEUR) – French word for garnish.  A garniture becomes part of the dish and is eaten with it.

gazpacho – A cold uncooked summer tomato soup (a liquid salad).  Usually contains tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, celery, cucumbers, and bread moistened with water.  Gazpacho should be drunk slightly chilled, but not iced.  As its purpose is to quench thirst as well as nutritious, there should no need to supplement it with a drink.

The southern Spanish region of Andalusia is known for this dish.  A Spanish refrain says, “De gazpacho no hay empacho” which means there’s never too much gazpacho.  It hits the spot any time of the day or night. In Andalusia, you will probably eat these cold soups as a first course, just as they have been served for about thirty years in the restaurants and private homes of the large cities in Andalusia.  It is still customary in village homes to have gazpacho after the first course and before dessert.

History:  Originally a soup from Andalusia in southern Spain.  It probably derives from Roman dish gruel of bread and oil.  The name gazpacho may come either from the Latin or Mozarab (Hispano-Romans or “would-be Arab”) word “caspa,” meaning “fragments, residue, or little pieces,” referring to the bread crumbs which are such an essential ingredient.  None of the forerunners of gazpacho contained tomatoes, considered basic today.  That’s because tomatoes were unknown in Spain, until after the discovery of the New World.  The base for gazpacho was originally bread, garlic, oil, vinegar, and salt.  The Roman legions carrying bread, garlic, salt, olive oil and vinegar along the roads of the Empire, with each soldier making his own mixture to taste.  An ancient ritual whereby they approach after each other and then “step back” at the moment of eating.  The Moorish influence is evident too, especially in some of the variations on the basic theme, such as ajo blanco, made with ground almonds.  Gazpacho was originally poor people’s food and was eaten in the fields.

According to historians, the popularity of gazpacho out of Andalusia into the rest of Spain is said to be the result of Eugenia de Montijo, originally from Granada and the wife of the French Emperor Napoleon III in the 1850s.  Gazpacho was unknown, or little known, in the north of Spain before about 1930.

gelatin – The word gelatin comes to us from the French word geatine meaning “edible jelly” and gelato meaning” to freeze.”  In Italian, it’s gelatina.  An odorless, colorless, tasteless thickening agent is the nutritious glutinous protein material obtained from animal tissues by boiling.  Most comes from beef bones, cartilage, tendons, and pigskin.  Learn how to work with Gelatin.

gelato (jau-LAH-toe) – An Italian word meaning “frozen” and is the same as ice cream in the U.S.  It is usually made of whole milk and eggs.  This gives it richness without flavors becoming masked by the fat from cream.

History:  According to historians, gelato has very ancient origins.  It is believed that the Arabs brought what came to be known as sorbetto to Sicily; but gelato is said to have been first created by Bernardo Buontalenti for the court of Francesco de’ Medici in 1565.  The Greeks and the Turks were also known for preparing lemon-based mixtures that resembled sorbetto (sherbets).  Sherbets were thought to have a beneficial effect on the nervous and digestive systems, and were usually served between main courses, more precisely after the first few meat and fish dishes, at the sumptuous banquets of the 18th and 19th century.  It was only later that richer ingredients such as egg yolks, sugar, milk, and cream began to be used; to make what is now known as gelati alla crema (ice cream).  Gelato is classified according to the ingredients used in making them.

semifreddo – Literally means “half cold. ” It is made from the same base as gelato but has whipped cream folded in.  It vaguely resembles a mousse, which is what the chocolate flavor is called.

sorbetto – Also know as fruit sorbet. It has become popular in many Italian restaurants and is often served halfway through the meal to separate the fish and meat courses and act as a palate cleanser, but instead it anesthetizes the mouth in time for the arrival of the red wine.

granite – These are slushy grainy water ices, usually come in lemon or coffee flavors, are normally found in bars, and are more common in southern Italy.

General Tso’s Chicken – Fried boneless dark-meat chicken, served with vegetables and whole dried red peppers in a sweet-spicy sauce.  It is not authentically Chinese, but it’s nevertheless one of the most popular dishes at Chinese restaurants.  Alternate spellings include General Cho, General Zo,  General Zhou, General Jo, and General Tzo.  It is pronounced “Djo,” with the tongue hard against teeth.

History:  This dish is thought to have been the invention of Taiwanese immigrants to the United States in the 1970s and was named after General Zou Zong-Tang (1812-1885), a general of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty of China.  He was responsible for suppressing Muslim uprisings.  His name was used to frighten Muslim children for centuries after his death.

genoise (zhayn-WAHZ) – An almond powder based sponge. It is usually about a 1/4-inch and wrapped around a cake.

German Chocolate Cake – German Chocolate Cake is an American creation that contains the key ingredients of sweet baking chocolate, coconut, and pecans..

History:  For the history of German Chocolate Cake, check out Linda Stradley’s History of Cakes.

Gewurztraminer wine (ger-VERTZ-trah-meener) – A variation of the Traminer grape (meaning ‘of the village of Tramin’*) which itself is a variation/mutation of the distinct and ancient Muscat grape.  The name Gewz is curious in that, although its German translation means ‘spicy’ (in fact the official protected title only came into being in 1973), its French and Italian names (traminer musque, traminer parfume, termener aromatico ) lead one to believe that the wine’s perfumes would indicate a more accurate translation.  Roses and flowers generally are cited as the most common smells, followed by litchees and perhaps grapefruit.  And yet, cloves and nutmeg are also consistently noted, thus legitimate spice references.Obviously differences could be attributed to the terroir, except that the one characteristic of the Muscat family is that they give their intense flavor to the wine independent of where they are planted.   A better answer might lie in climate; a cooler climate with a long, slow ripening season seems to produce the superior versions of this wine, interruptions of which may result in bitterness, and the wine-making procedure itself.  Gewztraminer is, generally speaking, a fragile grape which requires great care.  SOURCE: Gewurztraminer article courtesy ofPaul Armas Lepisto, Director,The Olive University.

ghee (GEE) – Ghee is clarified butter with all of the water and solids removed.  Ghee will not scorch or burn and can be cooked at higher temperatures than any oil.  It allows cooking with butter at a higher temperature before it will burn.  It removes the milk solids from the butter and will last in the fridge for a long time!  Ghee can be used in place of butter (it has a nutty more intense flavor).  It can also be used for stir-frying as the ghee making process removes the protein solids permitting it to be used in high temperature cooking.  It does not require refrigeration if you keep moisture out of it; for example, don’t dip a wet spoon into the ghee jar.  Ghee is used extensively in good Indian Cuisine.  Ghee comes from ancient India; I believe the first reference to ghee comes from the Ayurveda text, which dates back a couple thousand years.

giardiniera – In Italian, the word means “garden style.”  Italian mixed pickled vegetable assortment or condiment that usually includes cauliflower, carrot, sometimes celery or fennel, and hot or sweet peppers.  Generally used as a condiment on sandwiches or antipasto plates.

ginger, ginger root – At one time ginger was as common as salt and pepper and was frequently placed on the table. Hawaii, Fiji, and Costa Rica grow most of the world’s ginger supply, which is available throughout the year.  In January and February look for its pale, golden flesh; in summer and early fall look for young, baby ginger.  In late fall or early winter, the harvest can come from as far away as Fiji.  Ginger is thought of as a “hand” and the “fingers” are snapped off. It should feel heavy for its size.  There are many types of ginger available today, including fresh and dried.  As a general rule, fresh and dried ginger should not be substituted for one another in recipes, as their flavor is very different.  Ginger is also available in syrup, crystallized, candied, preserved and pickled (as served with sushi).

History:  The Chinese and Indians first cultivated it.  It was one of the important spices that led to the opening of the spice trade routes. The name Ginger comes from the Sanskrit word “sinabera” meaning “shaped like a horn” because of its resemblance to an antler. In the 19th century it was popular to keep a shaker of Ginger on the counter in English pubs so the patrons could shake some into their drinks. This practice was the origin of ginger ale.

glace (glahs) – French word meaning: (1) ice or ice cream;  (2) Icing or frosting used on a cake;  (3) A cut of meat that has been glazed in a hot oven by constantly basting the meat with its own juices.

glace de viande (glahs duh vee-AHND) – It is a meat glaze by French definition, but it is actually a very high end bouillon cube made by reducing unsalted meat stock.  The stock is boiled down to about 20% of its original volume or until it is thick, viscous, and syrupy.  It is so concentrated a little bit goes a long way.

glaze – (1) To alter the surface of a product for taste or eye appeal by adding a glossy coat.  Glazing can be done by basting the food with a syrupy liquid while it is cooking or by putting a sauce on it and placing briefly under the broiler.  To glaze a cold food, you can cover it with a shiny coat of aspic or gelatin.  (2) Also coating pastries and cakes with an icing.

gluten – A protein found in wheat and other cereal flours that forms the structure of the bread dough.  It holds the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by the yeast and expands during fermentation.  Gluten is developed when flour is combined with water and liquids, mixed, and kneaded.  It provides the elasticity and extensibility (stretch) in bread dough.

glycerine – Available at cake decorating stores.  Used by professional bakers and not usually at home.

gnocchi (NYOK-kee) – In the Italian tradition gnocchi are always meant to be dumplings.  They are generally made with a potato base with the addition of flour.  The proportions of potatoes and flour may vary from one region to another, according to local customs and traditions, as well as to the type of potatoes used.  In addition to potato-based gnocchi, there are also other types of gnocchi made with flour, semolina, ricotta cheese, spinach, or breadcrumbs.

gnocchetti – These are usually smaller than gnocchi.

gooseberry – A small green, grape-sized fruit that is still slightly tart even when ripe. Makes wonderful jams and jellies.  The New Zealand gooseberry or Cape gooseberry is a small tart fruit that is enclosed in papery husks.

Gorgonzola cheese (gohr-guhn-ZOH-lah) – The most popular of the Italian blue cheeses.  Made of cow’s milk, fat content 45%, and is very soft and tender.  Gorgonzola, which has an intricate, complicated method of creation, dates back to the eleventh century.  The thick veins are created from the addition of penicillin glaucum, a mold, which is primarily grown in laboratories today.  Originally, Gorgonzola was aged in caves, but now it is mass-produced by creating controlled environments.  Named after a village in Italy.  It is similar to the American blue cheese and the French type.

History: Gorgonzola was made in the Po Valley in Italy in 879 A.D. and Italy became the cheese-making center of Europe in the 10th Century. According to folk legends dating back to the 10th century:

(1) Gorgonzola was invented by an absent-minded dairyman, which let a curd bundle drip all night long.  The day after he tried to make up for his mistake by mixing it with the morning curd.

(2) Its inception was the result of the herds of cattle that were moved through the village on their way down from the northern Alps.  By the time the poor beasts reached the town, they needed badly to be milked.  Much of this of milk was then given or traded to local inhabitants.  Quite often, curdled milk from the morning milking was mixed with the then cooled milk from the evening.

Gouda cheese (Goo-dah) – Gouda was first made in the vicinity of Gouda, in the Province of South Holland, Netherlands.  It can range from semi-soft to firm with a smooth texture.  It is made from whole or partly skimmed cow’s milk.  It is usually shaped like a flattened sphere and it usually has a wax coating (a more mature Gouda has a yellow wax coating and black wax or a brown rind suggests it has been smoked and aged for over a year).  Gouda melts quickly when it is shredded and heated.

Baby Gouda – It is usually coated in red wax coating.

goujon – (French) small thin chunky strip of fried food.  Originally term was used for fish, but now term is also used for chicken.  Chicken cut this way is known as goujon style.

gourmet (goor-MAY) – (1) A gourmet is a person of impeccable taste.  A gourmet is not only concerned with the quality of the food and wine he serves, but also with the way the food he chooses harmonizes with each other.(2) Food of the highest quality that is perfectly prepared and presented.

gourmand (goor-MAHND) – A French word for a person who appreciates fine food.  Considered to be a step about a gourmet.  It is said that basically the word means a “glutton.”

graham crackers – Graham crackers are sweetened wheat “biscuits” or “crackers” eaten in the United States.  They are flat; about 3 inches square and appear dark golden brown.  They are (frequently sweetened with honey).  Despite the name, most brands of “graham cracker” today use refined white flour

History:  Graham crackers were invented in 1829 by American Presbyterian minister named Sylvester Graham (1795-1851).  He was a vegetarian and promoted and preached on temperance and stressed whole-wheat flour and vegetarian diets.  He promoted the use of a type of coarsely ground wheat flour, which was high in fiber.  The flour became known as “Graham Flour” and the crackers known as “Graham Crackers”.

Graham thought intense physical desire, regardless of whether you were married or not, would have dire physiological consequences on people.  He thought men should remain virgins until age 30 and then should make love only once a month–not at all if they were sickly.  To control lust, Graham prescribed a special vegetarian diet, the centerpiece of which was “Graham bread,” made from whole-wheat flour.  Graham crackers, which Graham invented in 1829, were another manifestation of the same idea.

grana – Grana is a class of hard grating cheeses from Italy, which were developed in the 13th Century in the Po Valley.  One-quarter of Italian milk production goes to making Grana cheese.  Most are aged for up to four years, yet they have a smooth texture and “melt in your mouth.”

granita (grah-KNEE-tah) – It is an Italian ice.  A coarse fruit ice similar to sorbet, without the meringue, which is often flavored with liqueurs.  Unlike ice creams or sherbets, granita must be frozen into a pan of plastic or stainless steel with the syrup not higher than 1-1/2″ up the sides.  It should be stirred from time to time to allow the sides and the top to freeze.  Churn before serving, so as to yield a lightly granular texture.  Liqueurs may be added if desired.  The sugar and/or liqueur will not allow the granita to freeze solid, making it easier to churn before serving. Granita is served in a long-stemmed glass.

grape leaves – Leaves from grape vines originally planted in the Mediterranean region, but now grown locally.  Available in jars, packed in brine, at specialty food stores and some supermarkets.  Leaves bought in jars should be soaked briefly in hot water and rinsed well before using.  Fresh leaves should be steamed or poached briefly to soften before using.

grape must – The juice pressed from grapes before it has fermented; new wine.  Grape must is also used in making traditional balsamic vinegar, which must mature by a long and slow process thought natural fermentation.

grapes – It is the common name of an edible fruit in the buckthorn family, and of the vines that produce the fruit.  There are thousands of types of grapes.  Grape varieties are classified according to their ultimate use.  Grapes used to make table wine must have relatively high acidity and moderate sugar content; those used for dessert wines and other sweet wines must have high sugar content and moderate acidity.  Table grapes must be low in both acidity and sugar content, and grapes used to make juices and jellies must have high acidity and moderate sugar content.  Raisin grapes are preferably seedless, with high sugar content and low acidity.

grapeseed oil – This is very light oil that cooks at high temperatures.  It should have a “grapey” flavor and fragrance.  It is excellent for sautng and for fondues.

grappa (GRAHP-pah) – An old alcoholic beverage made from the remnants of wine-grape pressings (whatever was leftover, including stems, seeds, and skins).  Grappa has been made in Italy since at least the sixteenth century.  The first grappa makers were probably frugal farmers seeking a way to use up the leftovers from the wine making process.  Like balsamic vinegar and wine, the price goes up depending on the vineyard, and the aging process.  Although grappa is a thoroughly Italian beverage, similar concoctions are produced in other nations, including the United States.  In Spain it is aguardiente, the French call it marc, and the Greeks have their raki.

grate -To rub hard-textured food against a grater (a tool with small, rough, sharp-edged holes) to reduce to fine particles.  Grating works best with firm foods; soft food (such as some cheeses) form clumps.

gravlax, gravlax  – Scandinavian cured salmon in a sugar, salt, and dill mixture.  It is then sliced paper thin and served on dark bread with a dill and mustard sauce.  The word literally means ‘buried’.  Originally, fishermen in the middle ages salted the salmon (or other fish) and then ‘buried’ the fish in the ground, or under snow and ice, to preserve it and to keep it cool.

Green Goddess dressing – A salad dressing that is a mixture of mayonnaise, anchovies, tarragon vinegar, parsley, scallions, garlic, and other spices.

History:  It was created at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel (now called the Sheraton-Palace) in the 1920s.  The Palace Hotel was built in 1875 and was San Francisco’s first grant lodging.  The hotel chef named the dressing for English actor George Arliss (1868-1946), who stayed there while performing in the play called The Green Goddess.  This play was considered the best play of the 1920-21 Broadway season and it later became on the earliest “talkie” movies in 1930.  The actor frequently complemented San Francisco’s marvelous weather and proclaimed that it induced a healthy appetite.  George Arliss, himself, suggested that the hotel should name a salad or salad dressing after the play.

green onion – A green onion can be classified as a type of scallion.  As 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.

gremolata [greh-moh-LAH-tah] – An Italian garnish consisting of minced parsley, lemon peel, and garlic that adds a fresh flavor to dishes.  It [s traditionally sprinkled over Osso Bucco.  Etymologically speaking, the root means ground or chopped, hence the preparation of the ingredients.

grill, grilling – Grilling is a high-heat cooking method done directly over live flames (cooking the food in a matter of minutes).  Many grilled foods have a wonderful smokey or charred flavor because as the food cooks, fat drips down to the heat source and as it burns on the coals or heat element its fumes and flavors are sent back up to the outside of the food.  Usually the food is turned over as it grills, so both sides are directly exposed to the heat source.

grits – The word comes from the Old English grytt meaning “bran,” but the Old English greot also meant “something ground.”  Grits are coarsely ground hominy (corn with the hull and germ removed).  Hominy is made from field corn that is soaked in lye water (potash water in the old days) and stirred over the next day or two until the entire shell or bran comes loose and rises to the top.  The kernel itself swells to twice its original size.  After the remaining kernels have been rinsed several times, they are spread to dry either on cloth or screen dryers . In the Southern United States, it is commonly boiled and served for breakfast or as a dinner side dish.  Grits are considered an institution in the South, but rarely found in northern states.  Many cookbooks will refer to grits as hominy, because of regional preference for the name.

History:  Americans have been using the term “grits” since at least the end of the 18th century.  Learn more about the History of Grits and how to cook grits.

grouper – Groupers are members of the sea bass family. They are particularly common around coral reefs and rock outcroppings of the inner coastal shelf, which makes them less vulnerable to, trawls or traps.  In addition to the southern United States, Mexico, Central and South America, the Mediterranean, and South Africa have important grouper fisheries.  They are a white-fleshed and lean fish.

gruyere cheese GRUYE (groo-YEHR) – It is also known as groyer cheese.  It is named for the village of Gruyere, in the Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland, which is near the French border.  It is a shiny yellow, hard, smooth small-eyed cheese that melts well without separating and is often used for sauces, with grilled meats, poultry, and fish.  It is made from cow’s whole milk in much the same way as Swiss cheese.

guacamole (gwok-ah-moh-lay) – An avocado condiment that is made from ripened avocados and lemon or lime juice, diced onion, tomatoes, and cilantro.

guava (GWAH-vah) – A native to South America, it is also grown in the U.S.  There are many varieties of guavas, and they can range in size from a small egg to a medium apple, all are very sweet.  Guavas make excellent jams, preserves, sauces, and sorbets.

gumbo (gum-boe) – A delicacy of South Louisiana. It is a thick, robust soup almost always containing a roux, and sometimes thickened with okra or file’.  There are thousands of variations, only a few of which are shrimp or seafood gumbo, chicken or duck gumbo, okra and file’ gumbo.  Generally, gumbos come in two categories, those thickened with okra (thus the name), which comes from an African word for “okra,” and those with ground sassafras leaves, known as “file.”  The earlier gumbos were closer to soups than to the stew often served today.  You can make the soup thicker by using more roux or adding more file powder.  The ingredients call for oyster liquor, the juice left over from opening oysters, which would have been abundant in an era when many meals began with oysters.  Bottled clam juice or fish broth make suitable substitutes.  Serve the gumbo over rice.

History:  Check out History and Legends of Gumbo.


Culinary Dictionary   

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2 Responses to “Culinary Dictionary – G”

  1. Margo Haynes

    What good does it do to apply to sign up for annewsletter from you when your registration link does not work!
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    • Nancy

      Margo, I found your email on our subscription list. When did you sign up? Our last email went out yesterday 12/27/18


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