Glossary of Culinary Terms


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Al dente is a culinary term describing pasta that is cooked to the point where there are still a bit on the firm side but no longer hard.  It also reveres to vegetables that are cooked to the point of being tender but still crisp; still offering a bit of resistance to the bite yet cooked through.  The term comes from the Italian meaning, “to the tooth.”

Bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs, usually tied together with string and most often used to flavor soups, stews and stocks.  The bouquet is boiled or simmered with the other ingredients and removed before the dish is served.  Although there is no set formula for a bouquet garni, the most common ingredients are thyme, bay,

parsley and celery leaves.  It may also include basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, savory, leek and tarragon.


Emmental is a yellow, medium-hard cheese, with characteristic large holes. It has a piquant, but not really sharp taste.

Emulsion – Emulsify:  An emulsion is when two substances that usually will not mix are, through various methods convinced to become one.  Homogenized milk is a good example.  Milk is comprised of butterfat, (the cream) and water.  When milk is not homogenized, since fat or oil is lighter than water, the cream will rise to the top.  During homogenization the whole milk is agitated at very high speeds until the molecules are broken down and combine to such a degree that they will not separate on their own.  Another common example of an emulsion is mayonnaise.  In this case oil and egg are, through gentle agitation forced to become one substance.   


FILÉ, or gumbo Filé, as it is the powdered dried leaves of the sassafras tree. The Choctaw Indians (Mississippi and Alabama) first used this seasoning. It has a flavor resembling that of root beer. It is an essential flavoring and thickening ingredient of gumbo and other Cajun and Créole dishes. Filé is generally added after

cooking, when the dish has been removed from the heat, but still hot, because it has a tendency to become slimy if cooked for very long.


Garbanzo Beans or Chick Peas are a delicious bean with a totally different, almost nut like flavor and texture, from more traditional beans. 

They are one of the oldest cultivated crops with references to them found in ancient and biblical writings.  They are widely used in the Middle East and have been used in the U.S. for over 100 years.  They are very high in protein.

Greyure cheese originated in Switzerland. It's a hard yellow unpasteurized cheese made from cow’s milk. It is named after the Gruyere valley of Fribourg, Switzerland. Like other Swiss cheeses, it is filled with many holes. It is usually cured anywhere from 3-10 months. The longer it cured the better.  It has a sweet, nutty flavor, with a hint of fruity taste. Rusty brown in color and hard. Great when melted and works well in most recipes. Is good when served with fruit, crackers, and pairs well with French onion soup.


Italian Seasoning: is a good basic blend of herbs which may be used in a wide range of recipes, not just Italian.


Masa Harina: is a flour made out of processed corn. It is used to make tortillas and tamales and in many other Hispanic dishes.  In communities with a large Hispanic population you will find it in bags in the flour section.  If it is not available where you live you can find it on line.


Baker’s Parchment: is a silicon coated paper which is used to line pans.  It prevents sticking, retards scorching and makes cleanup a lot easier.  It is available in grocery stores in packages of; very expensive in per sheet.  It is also available in sheets and at some specialty shops in both sheet and roll form where is a bit less expensive.  The best place to buy it is at a restaurant supply house where it comes in cases of 1,000 sheets at a cost of about three cents a sheet and these are double sheets that may be cut in half for domestic use. 


Zest:  is the peel of citrus fruit, (orange, lemon, grapefruit, etc.) grated or very finely minced to release the flavorful oils.  It is used to flavor foods such as sauces, lemon meringue pie, sorbets, marinades, and salads.


The word zest has, in recent usage become a synonym for strong flavor, spice or interest.  To remove the zest from a fruit a Zester, Vegetable Peeler, sharp paring knife, wood rasp or fine grater is used.   Only the outer, colorful part of the peel should be used as the inner white portion is quite bitter.






        Copyright © 2008 - Geraldine Duncann