Culinary Dictionary – M


Linda’s Culinary Dictionary – M

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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macadamia nut (mak-uh-DAY-mee-uh) – The macadamia tree is a native of Queensland, Australia.  It has an extremely hard shell, a buttery texture, and a high fat content.  It is now grown extensively in Hawaii.  It is also a staple in Indonesia where it is known as Keriri, Buah or candle nut.



macaroon (mak-uh-ROON) – A small round cookie that has a crisp crust and a soft interior.  It may be made from almonds, though coconut is common in the U.S.  They may also be flavored with coffee, chocolate, or spices.  Amaretti, from Italy, are also a type of macaroon.

History:  They originated in an Italian Monastery around 1792.  The Carmelite nuns to pay for their housing when they needed asylum during the French Revolution baked these cookies.  The Carmelite nuns followed the principle: “Almonds are good for girls who do not eat meat.”  During the Revolution, two nuns who hid in the town called Nancy, made and sold macaroons.  They became known as the “Macaroon Sisters.”


mache – Means “corn salad.”  It is a salad green (not actually corn), having small, white to pale bluish flowers and edible young leaves.  Mache leaves are tender, velvety green with either a mild or sweet, nutty flavor.  It is also sometimes called field salad, field lettuce, feldsalat, lamb’s tongue, and lamb’s lettuce.  It is considered a gourmet green and usually is expensive and hard to find.  This plant grows wild in Europe and is used as a forage crop for sheep and is a pest in wheat and cornfields.  However, skilled chefs, who love these early spring greens, desire it.  Mache is very perishable, so use immediately.  Cook it like spinach, or use it in fruit and vegetable dishes. Makes a nice salad by itself when dressed with a peanut oil based dressing or light vinaigrette.


madeira (mah-DER-ah) – A fortified red wine that is made from white grapes and comes from the island of Madeira.  It resembles a well-matured, full-bodied sherry.


Mahi Mahi – This is a type of dolphin fish, not to be confused with the dolphin that is a mammal.  The Hawaiians named it mahi mahi to avoid this misunderstanding.  It is a moderately fatty fish with firm, flavorful flesh and it is usually available as steaks or fillets.  It tastes best when grilled or broiled.


Mai Tai – It is a potent cocktail that combines light and dark rums with different frit juices of choice served over ice.  The Mai Tai is considered the unofficial and favorite drink of the State of Hawaii.  It seems that every bartender in the Hawaiian Islands has his own secret recipe and that every tourist seems to sample as many as possible.

History:  It was created in San Francisco, California in 1944 by restaurateur, Victor J. Bergeron, the original owner of Trader Vic’s Restaurant.  Supposedly he created it for a couple of Tahitian friends, Harn and Carrie Guild.  On tasting the drink, Carrie reportedly exclaimed, “Mai Tai – Roa Ae” meaning in Tahitian, “Out of this world – The Best.”  In 1953, Bergeron introduced the Mai Tai at the Royal Hawaiian, Moana, and Surfrider Hotels in the Hawaiian Islands.  Victor Bergeron is reported to have said, “There’s been a lot of conversation over the beginning of the Mai Tai, and I want to set the record straight.  I originated the Mai Tai.  Many other have claimed credit.  All this aggravates my ulcer completely.  Anyone who says I didn’t create this drink is a dirty stinker.”


maitre d’ hotel – Maitre is French for “master.” Maitre d’ hotel literally means “master of the hotel.”  It came to mean the “head waiter” in a restaurant, a person in charge of a dining room in a hotel or restaurant.


mango – Mango trees are evergreens that will grow to 60 feet tall.  Most of the mangos sold in the United States are imported from Mexico, Haiti, the Caribbean, and South America.  Today there are over 1,000 different varieties of mangos throughout the world.  Mango cultivation has now spread to many parts of the tropical and sub-tropical world, where they grow best.

History:  The mango originated in Southeast Asia where it has been grown for 4,000 years.  Because the mango seed can’t be dispersed naturally by wind or water due to it’s large size and weight.  It is believed that people who moved from one region to another transported the fruit to new areas.  The spread of Buddhism assisted in the distribution of mangoes in Southeastern Asia.  Mangoes were carried to Africa during the 16th century and later found their way aboard Portuguese ships to Brazil in the 1700’s.  Later, in 1742, mangoes were found growing in the West Indies.  In 1860, mangoes were successfully introduced to Florida along the East Coast, where only a few varieties were grown.


maple sugaring – The term “maple sugaring” is part of the history of maple.  In many areas of the region where the most maple products are made, the expression “sugaring” has survived since the earliest times, when sugar was the product made instead of maple syrup, which is the most popular variety of maple produced by the sugar makers of today.  In the early days, sugar was more easily kept in the primitive containers available, and more safely stored for later use.

History:  Journals of the explorers and settlers from as early as 1609 indicate that the native North American Indians were the first sugar makers.  “Indian sugar” and “Indian molasses” are terms that were used by the settlers.

In later February or early March, at the time of the “Maple Moon,”  Indian families made sugaring camps in areas where maple trees were plentiful.  Gashes were cut in the sugar maples and sap was caught in hollowed out logs or birch bark containers were cut and folded at the corners so as to avoid breaking and consequent leakage.  Indian women and children did most of the work.  Sugaring was a time of celebration for Indian families.  After the cold winter, the Maple Dance brought on warmer weather.

The early settlers who came to Northeastern North America made maple sugar in much the same way as the Indians.  Most sugaring was done in outdoor camps, set up in groves of maple trees.  Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S., was enthusiastic about maple sugar and established a grove of maples at his Monticello home (one of those maples remains standing on a hill at the plantation today).  Abolitionist friends of Jefferson thought the cultivation of sugar maple might bring West Indian slavery to an end.  Maple sugar was known as “sugar not made by slaves.”


maple syrup – It is the first finished product made from boiled map of the maple tree.  This is the form most widely used in recipes.  A maple tree is usually 30 years old or more and at least 10 inches in diameter before it is tapped.  Depending on its size, a tree may have from one to four taps, each of which yields an average of 10 gallons of sap each season.

History:  Before the French even colonized the New World; maple sap was already being collected by the American Indians who used it as a sweet beverage.  Although they knew how to tap the trees and collect maple sap, their primitive earthenware, however, were not allowing them to boil the sap quite enough to produce maple syrup.  Some historians believe that the American Indians taught the process of sugar making to Europeans; others, rather believe that this discovery can be attribute to a certain doctor named Michel Sarrazin, a military surgeon, who arrived to the Canadian country in 1685.  Although nothing proves that he might be the father of sugar making; the fact remains that the maple syrup production spread through the French colony.  Maple syrup was considered a precious elixir used as medicine to strengthen the chest.

It is now considered a delicacy in the U.S., but in colonial days it was used extensively as an ordinary sweetener.  The Indians taught the first white settlers how to tap Maple trees in the spring, and then evaporate the sweet sap until it became maple syrup.


maquechoux (mock-shoe) – This is a dish that the Cajun people of Louisiana got from the Native American tribes that populated southwest Louisiana.  It is a wonderful vegetable dish featuring fresh corn.  The recipe is varied the by adding chicken or even crawfish tails.



margarine – A butter substitute that was made originally from other animal fats, but nowadays exclusively from a combination of vegetable oils.  Because margarine closely duplicates butter, it can be substituted equally in recipes, though there will be differences in flavor and sometimes texture depending on what you’re making.  Both margarine and butter have approximately 18% moisture in them.

History:  Margarine was developed in 1869 by a French chemist, Hippolyte Mege-Mouriez, in response to the prize offered by Emperor Louis Napoleon III for a substitute for butter.  The first margarine was made of suet and milk and it was originally called oleomargarine from the Latin word “oleum” which means “oil” and the Greek word “margaron” which means “pearl” (because it had a pearl-like luster).  In 1878, manufacturing began in the United States as “artificial butter.”  After World War II, it began to be called margarine.


Margarita (mar-gur-EE-tuh) – The basic or classic Margarita is made using fresh lime juice, orange liqueur, and tequila served in a salt-rimmed glass.  Whether plain, salted, straight up, on the rocks, or frozen, Margaritas are made in an array of flavors and colors.

History – iSeveral  Mexican bars and bartenders have staked a claim to its origin:

(1)  The strongest claim comes from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 1942. Francisco “Pancho” Morales (1919-1997) is credited with inventing the drink while working in Tommy’s Bar.  A woman came in and asked for a “magnolia” – a drink he had not heard of.  Pretending to know what she wanted, he whipped up a cocktail of tequila, cointreau, and lime juice.

(2)  Margarita Sames claimed to have invented the drink in 1948 at a poolside Christmas party at her Acapulco vacation house.  The game at the party was to make a new drink concoction and have the party guests test and rate the result. T he result was a success with her guests and quickly spread throughout the southwest United States.

(3)  Another claim is from Carlos Herrera, owner of the Rancho La Gloria, located between Rosarito Beach and Tijuana.  In the latter 1930s, Herrera would fix various tequila drinks for a showgirl named Marjorie King.  She liked one particular drink so much that he named it Margarita, the Spanish name for Marjorie.

(4)  The final story is from a bartender in Virginia City, Nevada who named the drink after his girl friend, Margarita Mendez, who hit someone over the heat with a whiskey bottle and died in the crossfire that pursued.


marinade (marin-ad) – It is a Spanish word originally meaning “pickle in brine.”  Today marinade is a strongly-flavored liquid which meat and fish are steeped until they take on some of the flavor or the marinade before cooking.



marmalade – Marmalade is a jellylike preserve that contains pieces of citrus fruit and rind. The word is first recorded in English in the early sixteenth century.  The word is borrowed from Portuguese marmalada ‘quince jam’, from marmelo ‘a quince’.  The original marmalades were made from quince and the Portuguese word “marmelada” means “quince jam.”

History:  The world’s first known book of recipes, called “Of Culinary Matters,” written by the Roman gastronome Marcus Gavius Apicius in the first century, includes recipes for fruit preserves.

Marmalade is thought to have been created in 1561 by the physician to Mary, Queen of Scots, when he mixed orange and crushed sugar to keep her seasickness at bay.  It has also been suggested that the world “marmalade” derives from the words “Marie es malade” (Mary is sick).

In the late 18th century in Scotland, James Keiller bought a considerable quantity of oranges off a ship that had come to Dundee from Spain.  The oranges were cheap, the reason being, as he soon discovered, that they were very bitter because they were Seville oranges.  Unable to sell them he took them home to his wife.  She experimenented in her kitchen and came up with what we know as marmalade.


marmite (mahr-MEET) –  (1) Marmite is a British product that is a concentrated yeast paste.  It can be used on toast, sandwiches, or as an added ingredient in stews and casseroles.  It is 100% vegetarian and it contains virtually no fat or sugar.  Marmite has a distinctive savory taste, unlike anything else.  It remains a popular food in Britain. ( 2) A French cast iron or earthenware soup pot with a lid.


Marsala – Marsala is a wine imported from Sicily.  It is Italy’s most famous fortified wine that ranges from dry to sweet.  Dry Marsala makes a tasty aperitif.  Sweet Marsala is used as a dessert wine and also to flavor.  It is also a popular cooking wine.


marshmallows – Marshmallow is a confection made from the root of the marsh mallow plant.  When we think of traditional holiday meals, sweet potatoes with marshmallows always come to mind.

History:  The plant name is really old, first found in an Old English medical book written around 1000 A.D., when it was spelled merscmealwe.  As a candy, marshmallows date back at least to the late nineteenth century.  Originally the marsh mallow plant was mixed with eggs and sugar and then beaten to foam.  Today they are generally made of gelatin, water, sugar, egg whites, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and artificial sweeteners.  In the 1920s, marshmallows were introduced as a topper for sweet potatoes.  While sweet potatoes and marshmallows were not originally created for the holiday meal, it has become a tradition.


Martini – The Martini consists of gin and a varying amount of dry white vermouth, depending on personal taste, and is served in the traditional glass with a V-shaped profile.  It can be garnished with an olive, a twist, or a cocktail onion.  The Martini has become Americans most popular hard-liquor drink and an American icon.  The cocktail has been represented in film, literature, and pop culture as the cocktail of choice for the cool, the suave, and the connected.

History:  In the 1920s, the Martini really became popular during the Prohibition era.  Prohibition ruined the restaurant business in cities and it changed the way Americans drank.  Across the country general liquor consumption was down, but city dwellers drank more per capita, and the trend was towards a mass binge on hard liquor.  An illegal truckload of gin carried higher profit margins than beer or wine and because it was easier to counterfeit than whiskey.

Just as there are many recipes for Martinis, there are also several stories or legends on how it originated:

(1)  In 1862, a gold miner came into the bar of the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, threw a gold nugget on the table and asked the legendary bartender, “Professor” Jerry Thomas to shake up something special for him.  This recipe that Jerry Thomas made was later produced in an 1887 reprint of Thomas’ Bartending Book (it did not appear in his first edition of the book) . A mock court held in San Francisco, called the Court of Historical Review, ruled that the Martini was invented in San Francisco, but not before a Martini was drank by the presiding judge.

(2)  In 1870, a gold miner stopped at Julio Richelieu’s saloon in Martinez, California, and put a fistful of gold nuggets and an empty bottle on the bar, and asked for Champagne, a beverage not available.  The bartender told the miner he had something much better than Champagne and served him a drink, which he said, was a “Martinez Special.”  To this day, Martinez, California claims to be the birthplace of the Martini.  A court in Martinez, California overturned Court of Historical Review’s decision that the Martini was invented in San Francisco, and the in 1992, the citizens of the town erected a brass plaque in downtown Martinez proclaiming their town as the birthplace of the Martini.

(3)  An Italian bartender, Martini di Taggia, at New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel claims to have invented the drink in 1912.  It is said that he was the first to mix a Martini with dry, not sweet, vermouth.

(4)  Also bartender, William F. Mulhall, wrote of mixing both sweet and dry Martinis at New York’s Hoffman House around the same time.

(5)  The English also claim the name derived from the Swiss Martini & Henry rifle used by the British army between 1871 and 1891.

(6)  The Italians also like to take credit for the origin being from the Martini & Rossi Vermouths.  The Oxford English Dictionary states that the earliest use of the word was in 1894 and states that the word comes from Martini & Rossi Vermouth citing an advertisement for Heublein’s Club Cocktails.


marzipan (MAHR-zih-pan) – A mixture of sugar, almonds, and egg whites. Also called almond paste.  It is widely used in dessert preparations.  Almond paste and marzipan are both made from ground almonds.  They differ mainly in their sugar content.  Marzipan is made from almond paste and sugar and is used primarily in confections and decorations because it is more moldable and the almond flavor is less pronounced.  Almond paste is used in pastries and other baked goods. They are not interchangeable in recipes.

History:  In ancient Persia, the favored sweet was ground almond paste flavored with rose water called lauzinag.  This sweet was wrapped in a paper-thin pastry made from egg whites and cornstarch.  When the Arabs conquered Iran, the lauzinag became the most admired dessert in Baghdad.  Plain almond paste is still used in the Middle East where it is now called lauzina.  When it reached Spain the Moors started calling it makshshabaan, which was the name of the kind of wooden box they stored it in. In Spanish, that word became mazapan.

Other Europeans heard the Spanish name, thinking it meant, “March bread,” called it marzipan (the traditional shape of marzipan is in the form of a loaf of bread).  From the late Middle Ages through the 19th century, the confection was called marchpane.  For a long time only apothecaries were entitled to prepare and sell this delicacy.  It was thought of as strong flavored bread to which precious stones and pearls were ground and added to cure ailments and prolong life.

According to a legend, the walled city of Lubeck. while under attack, the city gates were closed.  Eventually the bakers ran out of flour, and to stave off starvation, they ground their abundant supply of almonds into flour and created marzipan.


mascarpone cheese (mass-car-POHNE) – Mascarpone is an Italian triple-creme cheese, made from a generally low-fat (25%) content fresh cream.  It’s made from the milk of cows that have been fed special grasses filled with fresh herbs and flowers (a special diet that creates a unique taste often described as “fresh and delicious”).  Milky-white in color, it is a thick cream that is easily spread.  When fresh, it smells like milk and cream, and often is used in place of butter.  It is much like fresh ricotta in consistency and has a mildly acid and buttery flavor.  It is actually not a cheese because to starter or rennet is used in its production.  Lemon juice is what helps it to coagulate. Because of its low sodium content, mascarpone is highly perishable.

History:  According to a 12th century document from Lake Como (not too far from Milan), it indicated that what they called mascarpone then was actually like ricotta cheese.  The cheese apparently originated in the area between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, west and south of Milan. S ome say the name came from the Spanish work “mas que bueno” which means “better than good.” It also may have come from “mascarpa,” a milk produce made from the whey of stracchino or aged cheese.  Or, it may come from “mascarpia,” the local dialect for ricotta, since a virtually identical process makes both cheeses.  The thought then, is that mascarpone originated as a by-product from other cheeses.  Originally, it was produced in autumn and winter for immediate consumption.


matzo (MAHT-suh) – Matzo is a Hebrew word that means “unleavened bread.”  The Bible commands Jews to commemorate the exodus from Egypt by eating matzo – and no leavened bread – for the eight days of Passover.  Thousands of years of rabbis have come up with long explanations for how to observe that seemingly simple commandment.  For ritually observant Jews, it means that just about anything with a grain base that hasn’t been rabbinically certified as suitable for Passover will be removed from the house for the eight days.  And many recipes that use regular flour or bread will be reformatted to use Passover matzo or matzo meal, which is nothing but ground up Passover matzo.  There are only a few acceptable deviations from the standard recipe:  Egg matzo is acceptable fare for children, the ill and the elderly.  And whole-wheat matzo is suitable for anyone who thinks regular matzo isn’t quite crunchy or dry enough.


mayonnaise (MAY-uh-nayz) – (French) Mayonnaise is an emulsion consisting of oil, egg, vinegar, condiments, and spices.

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


medallion (med-al-eean) – A French word meaning “metal.”  The word means a skinless, boneless round piece of meat which is usually cut from the loin of pork, lamb, or veal. he meat is tied with a string to help retain its round shape during cooking.


Melba Toast – Melba toast is a very thinly sliced crisp toast that is served warm.

History:  Also named after Dame Nellie Melba. Melba toast is said to be derived from the crisp toast that was part of Dame Melba’s diet during 1897 when she was strenuously dieting, living largely on toast.  It is said that she so enjoyed a piece of toast a young waiter had burnt, while she was staying at the Savoy Hotel.  It was bungled and was served to her in a thin dried-up state resembling parchment.  Cesar Ritz beheld with horror his celebrated guest crunching this aborted toast, and hastened over to apologize.  Before he could say a word supposedly Madame Melba burst out joyfully, “Cesar, how clever of Escoffier.  I have never eaten such lovely toast.” The hotel proprietor Cesar Ritz supposedly named it in a conversation with chef Escoffier.


meringue (ma-rang) – A meringue is a light, delicate foam confection made by slowly beating egg whites and then adding sugar.  Whipping egg whites are much like blowing air into a balloon.  Beating or whisking causes the protein in the egg whites to unfold, forming films that trap the air bubbles, and the sugar stiffens the foam.  A meringue is really nothing but a foam, and foam is a big collection of bubbles.  Fat interferes with the formation of a good foam in the egg whites.  Fats tend to collapse egg foams.

History:  According to the The Origins of Meringue by Douglas Muster, there are four (4) claims to who invented meringue:

Lady Elinor Fettiplace for a baked beaten-egg-white-and-sugar confection in a manuscript cookery book published in 1604

Lady Rachel Fane for a baked beaten-egg-white-and-sugar confection in a manuscript cookery book published in 1630

Recipe of Franis Massialot in a cook book published in 1692

Recipe of Gasparin in a cook book published in 1720, the only copy of which was destroyed in World War II


merlot (mare-low) – A red wine that is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.



mignardise (min-yard-EEEZ) – Small, one-bite sweets or delicacies, generally presented with the check, as a thank you from the restaurant.  The French called them “preciousnesses.”  They are usually very simple but elegant desserts.  In other words, it is the finish to a meal.


mille-feuilles (meel-FWEE) – In French it translates as “a thousand leaves.”  Outside of France it is known as “Napoleon.”  It consists of layers of puff pastry interspersed with pastry cream or whipped cream and iced with fondant and chocolate or with confectioner’s sugar.  It is believed to have been developed in France during the latter part of the 19th century.


mincemeat – Mincemeat was developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking some 500 years ago in England, where mince pies are still considered an essential dish for holiday dinners just like the traditional plum pudding.  It is, very simply, a mixture of fruits and spices that are cooked with or without minced meat and generally doused with brandy, rum, or whiskey.  It improves and becomes moister as the weeks pass, so allow it to mature for at least four weeks before using.


minestrone (mih-nest-ROE-nay) – Means “big soup.” It is a thick vegetable soup that generally contains pasta.


mint – Mint is the aromatic plant of the genus “mentha,” used in infusions, to flavor liqueurs, sweets, syrups, and as a culinary herb.  There are about 25 species. Its leaves are used to flavor sauces and salads, in cooking vegetables, and to season meat dishes.  It’s also used in making mint tea (made by infusing the leaves).  Dried mint lasts up to two years.  The leaves of peppermint produce a very pungent oil (used mainly in making sweets, liqueurs, and jellies).  Lemon bergamot is a Mediterranean species that also produces an essential oil used mainly in marinades and drinks.  Japanese mint is the species from which menthol is extracted.


Mint Julep – A Mint Julep is always made with fresh mint, Kentucky bourbon, and plenty of crushed or shaved ice.  The drink is traditionally served in a silver or pewter cups (this is because these cups frost better than glass).  Kentuckians say that when a Mint Julep is made right, you can hear angels sing.  It is a classic drink of Kentucky and is traditionally served at the running of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May.  Thousands of Mint Juleps are served each year at the Derby and at weekend Derby parties around the nation.  The citizens of Charleston, South Carolina also like to claim the Mint Julep as their own.

History:  Mint Juleps have been served in the South since the 1700s.  A visitor in 1774, describing the southern menu and especially breakfast as being overly luxurious, observed that the average planter rose early and had his drink (because a julep before breakfast was believed to give protection against malaria).

The clubhouse at the Kentucky Derby began mixing Mint Juleps around 1875.  The drink really became popular and became the track’s signature libation in 1938 when the management began charging 75 cents for the drink and the small glass vessel it came in.


mirepoix (meer-PWAH) – When a recipe refers to “mirepoix” it is talking about a standard ratio of onions, carrots, and celery used in classical cooking.  The ratio is 50% onion, 25% carrots, and 25% celery.  Mirepoix is often used in the making of stocks and soups.  Sometimes ham or bacon is added for more flavor.  It is used to season sauces, stews, and soups.  Mirepoix can also be used as a bed on which to braise meats.

History:  Named after Duke Maresch Mirepoix of France. It is believed that his cooks created the mixture.



mirin (mee-rin) – Mirin is Japanese for a sweet rice wine made from glutinous, short-grained rice.  It has an alcohol content of 13% to 22% . It is not used for drinking but is used in Japanese cooking to add a sweet flavor to a dish.


Mise en Place [MEEZ ahn plahs] – A French term referring to having all the ingredients necessary for a dish prepared and ready to combine up to the point of cooking.  Organizing and completing in advance all the preliminary steps required in a specific preparation.  Mise en place makes the actual process of cooking more efficient and helps prevent the cook from making mistakes or discovering missing ingredients at a crucial moment.  Check out my article on Mise en Place on how to use this technique in your cooking.


miso (mee-sohl) – Miso is known as soybean paste to Westerners.  Miso has played an extremely important role in the dietary life of the Japanese for centuries along with rice.  It is a fermented paste of grain and soybeans, has the consistency of peanut butter, and comes in a wide variety of flavors and colors.

History:  It is said that miso came to Japan from China.  At first, Buddhist monks and nobles treasured fermented food like miso as luxuries, but it became a daily necessity in the Nara Period (710-784).  Later in the Muromachi Period (1392-1573), it came to be a popular food of common people.  It was in the I7th century that industrial production of miso was started.  At present, there are about 1,600 miso-manufacturing plants in Japan.  The production volume of Miso in Japan is about 600,000 tons and of which about 3,000 tons are shipped overseas.  Mix miso with a little water before combining with other foods so that it will blend easily.  Miso can enhance the flavor of sauces, soups, and marinades.  Since it’s high in sodium, don’t add salt or soy sauce to a recipe until testing for taste first.  Miso also makes a good substitute for anchovy paste.



molasses (muh-LAS-sihz) – Molasses is made from sugar cane, which goes through a complex process, which removes all of the nutrients, resulting in a white sugar. When the natural sugar crystallizes, the molasses is drawn off or “spun out.”

History: This food sweetener was probably first extracted from sugar cane by the early Chinese or by the East Indians.  Its American history dates back to 1493 when Columbus introduced it to the West Indies.  Molasses became an important product in Colonial trade.  It was the major sweetener used in America until after World War I because it was less expensive than sugar.  Molasses was so important that the founders of the colony of Georgia promised each man, woman, and child who endured a year in Georgia 64 quarts of molasses as a reward.

blackstrap molasses – It is the thick, dark residual liquid food (syrup) that remains after the last extraction of sugar from cane or sorghum.  During the refining of sugar cane and sugar beets, the juice squeezed from these plants is boiled to a syrup mixture from which sugar crystals are extracted.  The remaining brownish-black liquid is molasses.  Blackstrap molasses comes from the third and final boiling and is what amounts to the dregs of the barrel. The resulting molasses (blackstrap) is very dark and has a robust somewhat bitter-tart flavor.  As the final product, blackstrap molasses contains the lowest sugar content of the molasses, but is the more vitamins, minerals, and trace elements (iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium) found naturally in the sugar cane plant, making it more nutritious than most other sweeteners.  Used in a variety of baked goods, particularly meat and vegetable dishes, as a sweetener and coloring agent . It is also widely accepted as a “health food”.  When blended with Fancy Molasses, it produces a cooking molasses, which can be used in any number of recipes and is particularly suitable for ginger snaps, soy based sauces, licorice, and canned baked beans.

sorghum – It is different from molasses, although many people use the terms interchangeably.  Sorghum is made from the juice of the sweet-sorghum cane stalk and has no sugar removed and thus is significantly sweeter than molasses.


moldMold on Food – Are Molds Dangerous? – Molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant or animal matter.  Mold grows from tiny spores that float around in the air.  When some of these spores fall onto a piece of damp food, they grow into mold.  The mold feeds itself by producing chemicals that make the food break down and start to rot.  As the bread rots, the mold grows.



mole (MOH-lah) – The word comes from the Aztec word “molli” that means “concoction”, “stew”, or “sauce.”  In Mexico, mole is a Mexican is a very rich, thick chocolate sauce that is made with a variety of chiles, onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, seeds, and a small amount of chocolate.  It varies from town to town and family to family. It’s best known ingredient is chocolate.  The chocolate contributes richness to the sauce without adding too much sweetness.


monkey dish – A “monkey dish” is a small or tiny round bowl or saucer used in the restaurant industry for side dishes.  The dish is also called a “fruit dish.”

History:  Some researcher’s think that the name comes from the little hat that a hurdy gurdy man’s monkey wore.  When the monkey’s hat was taken off its head and tipped over to accept change, it resembles the little dish known in restaurants as a monkey dish.


monkfish – Also called angler fish is named for the way it lures its prey.  A bottom dweller, it has a long filament, which grows from its head, and it twitches and resembles a worm.  When the prey fish attacks the “worm”, it’s engulfed by the huge mouth of the Monkfish (also known as Angler, lotte, bellyfish, frogfish, sea devil, and goosefish). Not a pretty fish, the Monkfish is large and firm textured.  It is low fat and has a mild sweet flavor.  It is often compared to lobster. T he edible portion, tail (loin) can be roasted, grilled, braised, poached, or sauteed.


Monterey cheese – This cheese was first made on farms in Monterey County, California around 1892 and manufactured on a factory scale was begun about 1916.  It is made from pasteurized whole, partly skimmed, or skim milk.  Whole-milk Monterey is semi soft, and Monterey made from partly skimmed or skim milk is hard and used for grating.



morel (mo-rel) – A morel is a mushroom, which belongs to the fungus family. Morels are edible fungus.


mornay sauce – A cream sauce made with cheese.  This is especially good with fish, eggs, vegetables, and pasta.

History: (1) Legend dates this sauce to the 17th century when a French nobleman named Philippe de Mornay threw a handful of cheese into a Bhamel sauce and this achieved this sauce.  (2) Another version states that a cook named Voiron who dedicated the sauce to his former chef, named Mornay, created it.


mortar and pestle – Mortar and pestles are used to grind solids into powders.  A mortar is a bowl-shaped container made of a hard wood, marble, pottery, or stone.  The pestle is a bat-shaped tool that is used to grind inside the mortar (bowl) and pulverize grains, herbs, and other food substances as well as medicines.  The pestle is rotated against the bottom of the mortar to pulverize the ingredient between them to the desired consistency.  Crushing the fibers of herbs releases the full range of essential oils they contain.  Fresh spices and herbs are more flavorful and add more zest to a dish when they are freshly ground.



molcajete (mohl-kah-HEH-teh) – The Mexican term for mortar and pestle.  Molcajete being the mortar (seasoning bowl) and tejolote (from stone doll) the pestle.  They are made from volcanic rock and are used to grind herbs and spices or to crush tomatoes, tomatillos or other vegetables for salsas.  Foods traditionally prepared in the molcajete include salsas and mole’s (mohl-LAY), as well as guacamole.  It is also used for grinding chilies, garlic or other herbs and spices for food preparation.

History: The Molcajete, or Mexican version of the mortar and pestle appears in Mexican pre-history in the Tehuac Valley 6,000 years ago.  This is an ancient device, which was originally used for grinding grain . The grain was placed in a shallow depression in a stone, the mortar, and then pounded with a stone, the pestle.

Suribachi – The Japanese version of the mortar and pestle. It consists of an earthenware bowl glazed on the outside.  The inside of the bowl has a ridged pattern to facilitate grinding.  It is used with a wooden pestle called “surikogi”. Wood is used to keep the pestle from wearing down the ridges in the mortar.  In Japanese cooking the suribachi is used to crush sesame seed as well as for various pastes.

History: The earliest excavated evidence of its use in Japan was known in the Yayoi period (400 B.C. to 400 A.D.), when rice cultivation was introduced.  In China, early in the former Han Dynasty (221 B.C. to 9 A.D.), foot-driven and water-powered tilt-hammer pestles throve and seem to have been introduced in Japan in about the eighth century.


Mousse (MOOS) – The word derives from the Latin “mulsa” meaning a mixture of honey and water, and also the French meaning “froth” or “foam.”  This dessert is usually served cold.



Mother Sauces – Also called “Grand Sauces.”  These are the five most basic sauces that every cook should master.  Antonin Careme, founding father of French “grande cuisine,” came up with the methodology in the early 1900’s by which hundreds of sauces would be categorized under five Mother Sauces, and there are infinite possibilities for variations, since the sauces are all based on a few basic formulas.  Sauces are one of the fundamentals of cooking.  Know the basics and you will be able to prepare a multitude of recipes like a professional.  Learn how to make the basic five sauces and their most common derivatives.  The five Mother Sauces are:

Bechamel sauce (white) – White cream sauce made from a roux (a combination of flour and a fat).  The old expression, “First you make a roux,” indicates that you make the roux before adding anything else to it.  A roux is an equal combination of butter and flour (normally one tablespoon of each), simmered over low heat until it bubbles; milk (one cup) is then added.  The flour/butter roux thickens the milk, creating a rich sauce.  To thicken the sauce to a medium consistency, use two tablespoons each of butter and flour per cup of milk; for an even thicker roux, use three tablespoons of each ingredient per cup of milk.  Bechamel sauce is the base for such sauces as Mornay sauce, and it’s the foundation for many savory souffl.  In Italy, bechamel sauce is known as balsamella.

Veloute sauce (blond) – Very similar to Bhamel sauce; although instead of adding milk to the roux, white chicken or veal stock (and sometimes fish fumet) is added.  Veloutis often made even richer by adding egg yolks or cream.

Brown (demi-glace) or Espagnole sauce – Traditionally made from beef stock, aromatics, herbs and, sometimes, tomato paste.  Brown sauce is the basis from which many other sauces are made.  Brown sauce consists of a liquid thickened with a cooked mixture of butter and flour called a roux.  The difference is that for a brown sauce, the roux is cooked much longer; it must be stirred over low heat until it acquires a nut-brown cast that intensifies the color and flavor of the sauce.  This lengthier cooking diminishes the thickening power of the starch, a factor that should be taken into consideration before you start cooking.  To make a brown sauce of medium thickness, allow two tablespoons of both butter and flour for each cup of liquid.

Hollandaise sauce (butter) – Uses butter and egg yolks as its liaisons.  It is served hot with vegetables, fish, and eggs (like egg benedict).  It will be a pale lemon color, opaque, but with a luster not appearing oily.  The basic sauce and its variations should have a buttery-smooth texture, almost frothy, and an aroma of good butter.  Making this emulsified sauce requires a good deal of practice – it is not for the faint of heart.  Becrnaise sauce, which is “related” to hollandaise sauce, is most often served with steak.

Tomato sauce (red) – Prepared on a tomato product base with flavorings and seasonings, plus liquid added.  The tomato sauce is slightly coarser than any other of the grand sauces because of the degree of texture that remains even after pureeing and straining tomatoes.  The sauce will have a deep, rich tomato flavor.
mount with butter – Mount with butter is a technique where small pieces of cold, unsalted butter are whisked into a sauce just before serving.  This gives sauces texture and flavor as well as a glossy look.


moxie – Moxie was our nations first mass-marketed soft drink.  Long before Pepsi, Coca Cola, and the current variety of “new age” soft drinks with sophisticated names, there was Moxie.  The word Moxie is the only proper name that has made it to the dictionary as a noun synonymous with having “spunk” or “guts” (if you ever tasted it, you would instantly know why!).  It is still common to hear of someone as having “a lot of Moxie”.

History:  Moxie was founded in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1884 by Dr. Augustin Thompson of Union, ME.  Originally, Moxie was touted as a patent medicine guaranteed to cure almost any ill including loss of manhood, paralysis, and softening of the brain.  These claims were revised slightly (more than slightly, actually) with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.  By the early 20th century, the “Nerve Food” was carbonated, brilliantly merchandised, and became a household word.  In spite of the claims restrictions placed on Moxie by the Food & Drug Act, many ads from this explosive growth period touted the “healthful” and alleged medicinal benefits of the tonic.  Bottlers were opened all over the country.  The horse drawn Moxie Bottle Wagons were a common scene. In the twenties and thirties, these were replaced by the famous Horsemobiles, which could be seen at resorts, parades, civic events, and fairs.


mozzarella cheese (fresh) (mo-tsah-REL-lah) – In Italian, mozzarella means to “chop off.”  Mozzarella cheese is one of the most popular cheeses used in Italian cooking.  The cheese should taste fresh and reminiscent of milk.  It should be mild and delicate.  Some say it is bland, yet there is flavor.  There should be a hint of sourness.  If it tastes too tart or sour the cheese is past its prime.  The color should be white; however, seasonally the cheese can be more yellow due to the cows’ diet of grasses.  The fresher the cheese, the more elastic and springy the curd.  As the cheese ages it becomes more and more soft.  The perishability of fresh mozzarella varies according to packaging.  Vacuum sealing extends the shelf life dramatically.  There are three types: industrially produced fresh mozzarella that is available in many specialty stores, mozzarella curds that are available for delis to mix with hot water to form soft mozzarella in their stores, and some handmade fresh mozzarella.  Fresh mozzarella can be packaged dry in vacuum-sealed plastic packages or in a governing liquid sometimes called “latte”.  It is available salted and unsalted.  It is most often made from cow’s milk; however it can be made from a combination of other milks such as cow’s milk and goat’s milk mixed.  No buffalo-milk mozzarella is produced in the USA because water buffalo milk is not commercially available here.  All the buffalo milk mozzarella sold here is imported from Italy and South America.

History:  Legend has it that mozzarella was first made when cheese curds accidentally fell into a pail of hot water in a cheese factory near Naples – and soon thereafter the first pizza was made!  Actually, new cheeses are often formulated when mistakes happen, so there well may be truth in the tale! Mozzarella was first made in Italy near Naples from the rich milk of water buffalos.  Because it was not made from pasteurized milk and because there was little or no refrigeration the cheese had a very short shelf life and seldom left the southern region of Italy near Naples where it was made.  As cheese technology, refrigeration and transportation systems developed the cheese spread to other regions of Italy.  However, to this day it is widely known that the best and most highly prized buffalo mozzarella is still found south of Naples near Battipaglia and Caserta where small factories continue centuries-old traditions making buffalo mozzarella fresh daily for their local customers who line up at the factories to buy the freshly made delicacy.


muenster (MUN-ster) – It is also call munster cheese.  It is a semi soft, whole milk cheese that was first made in the vicinity of Munster in the Vosges Mountains near the western border of Germany.  It has a yellow, orange, or white surface with a creamy white smooth interior.  It melts quickly when shredded and is often used shredded for sandwiches and pizza toppings.


muffuletta (moof-fuh-LEHT-tuh) – Its nickname is simply “muff.”  These sandwiches can be found all over New Orleans from delis to pool halls and the corner grocery stores.  It is an Italian sandwich that consists of a round loaf of bread (about 10 inches across) filled with Italian salami, olive salad, cheese, Italian ham, and freshly minced garlic.  They key ingredient is the olive salad which gives the sandwich its special flavor and makes it appealing to the eye.  A true Muffuletta Sandwich must always be served at room temperature, never toasted; it is considered blasphemy to heat the sandwich.

History:  To learn about the history of the Muffuletta Sandwich, check out History of Sandwiches.


mung beans – It is also known by many other names, some of which are green gram, green bean, lutou, look dou, moyashimame, and oorud bean.  The 12 to 24 inch tall mung bean plants produce clusters of slender, 3 to 4 inch long, blackish, fuzzy pods with very small brown seeds.  They are little round yellow beans sealed in a dark green seed coat. Its dried seeds are used in sprouting or for grinding into bean meal.  The mung bean is what most edible bean sprouts are produced from.

History:  Native to India, they spread to China.  They were cultivated by 1500 BC, and were often sprouted, being much more digestible that way.  It has been written that the Ancient Chinese physicians recognized and prescribed sprouts for curing many disorders over 5,000 years ago.  Accounts of sprouting appear in the Bible in the Book of Daniel.  In the 1700’s, sailors were riddled by scurvy (lack of Vitamin C) and suffered heavy casualties during their two to three year voyages.  In an effort to battle the illness, the sailors drank beer brewed from grain sprouts, rich in vitamin C.


mustard – Mustard is from crucifer family, which includes turnips, radishes, horseradish and watercress.  Mustards vary in texture and flavor, as well as color.  Mustard is low in calories and cholesterol and also high in protein and minerals.  Though mustard can be grown almost anywhere with a cold or temperate climate, most of the mustard purchased today, including most French imports, comes from the prairies of Canada.  The only European countries with significant mustard crops are England and Hungary.

Today, there are nearly 1,000 varieties of mustard on the market. Americans seem to favor the sweet-hot, tangy versions and the Dijon blends.  There’s even a mustard museum, Mount Horeb Mustard Museum in Wisconsin that features 3,043 jars of specialty or blended mustards worldwide.

History:  From the earliest times, mustard has been known as a condiment and as a medicine.  There seems to be a variety of stories relative to the origination of mustard.  The name mustard is derived from a Latin word “must” which was an unfermented grape wine made potent and fiery with the addition of ground mustard seed.  Some historians reference that the Chinese have grown mustard for more than 3,000 years, while others say that it originated in the Mediterranean, where it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years by the Greeks and Romans.  The Greeks and Romans used mustard not only as a condiment, but also medicinally, applying it externally for the relief of a variety of aches and pains.  The Egyptians, it is reported, consumed mustard by popping a seed or two into the mouth while chewing meat, rather than making a powder or paste such as is used today.

In the 14th century, Pope John XII of Avignon became so devoted to mustard that he put it in every dish and even created a title, “Mustard Maker to the Pope” when trying to figure out what to do with a good-for-nothing nephew from Dijon.  In 1336, when the Duke of Burgundy invited his cousin, Philip the Fair of Valois, King of France, to a festival, 70 gallons of mustard were consumed at a single dinner.  Generally, people consumed a lot of mustard back then.  For example, in the books of a 13th century Tudor household were listed expenses for seven to 10 gallons of mustard monthly.

In 1853, Maurice Grey developed a machine that could grind and sift mustard seeds, advancing the art of moutarde (the French word for mustard).  He then went into business with Auguste Poupon, giving birth to prepared mustard history.  In England, at the same time, Jeremiah Coleman was refining his mustard powder.  But it wasn’t until the late 19th century that the British enthusiasm for mustard developed.


mutton ham – Mutton hams are a well-known specialty reflecting the lack of pigs in Scotland in days gone by.  This 18th century recipe is an ideal dish for those whose religious principles forbid them to eat pork but who would enjoy the flavor.

History:  In the 1700s mutton hams were a famous Scottish border specialty and a major export overseas from Glasgow.  Today, especially in the north, geese and beef joints are still cured and smoked.



Culinary Dictionary   

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