This general glossary is to help with clarification for items and terms that I use in my posts that might be unknown to you or require further understanding.
In many instances, I have copied portions of detailed definitions from Wikipedia. In such cases, I have provided the links for your convenience and further examination.
All Clad – All Clad stainless steel pots and pans are my hands down favorites to cook with. I use the standard stainless series. Stainless steel is consistently considered the safest material to use for cookware for the stove top.
Amino Acids – In the form of proteins, amino acids comprise the second largest component (after water) of human muscles, cells and other tissues. 9 of the 20 standard amino acids are called “essential” for humans because they cannot be created from other compounds by the human body, and so must be taken in as food. Others may be conditionally essential for certain ages or medical conditions.
Anise – Also called aniseed, it is a flowering plant native to the eastern Mediterranean region of Southwest Asia. Its flavor has similarities with some other spices, such as star anise, fennel, and licorice.
Antioxidant – An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons or hydrogen from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. Antioxidants are widely used in dietary supplements and have been investigated for the prevention of diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease and even altitude sickness.
Arborio Rice – Italian short-grain rice. It is named after the town of Arborio where it is grown. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, creamy, and chewy, due to its higher starch content; thus, it has a starchy taste but blends well with other flavours. It is used to make risotto, although Carnaroli, Maratelli and Vialone Nano are sometimes used to prepare the dish. Arborio rice is also used for rice pudding.
Arrowroot – It is a starch that I often use in place of cornstarch in recipes for thickening purposes.
Balsamic Vinegar – Authentic aged balsamic, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, is rich in character and history. It has a distinct flavor that comes from centuries old traditions of fermentation and aging in a variety of wooden casks. This liquid gold that has been touted for its therapeutic properties, is viscous, sweet, tart, and almost black in color. It truly sits in a class of its own, and is often referred to as the vinegar from the Gods. Such unique qualities with a minimum of 12 years of aging have earned it the D.O.P. seal (the Protected Denomination of Origin), which guarantees its origin and the authenticity of the methods used in its production. Only a select group of European products bear this official stamp of distinction. Although a small bottle of authentic balsamic Tradizionale can cost a small fortune, there are some excellent affordable commercially produced aged balsamic vinegars that can be found for under $50 per bottle. But you can also cheat by reducing an inexpensive balsamic vinegar with a sprinkling of sugar in a saucepan by about two thirds. It will not have the character and depth of flavor that you get from a truly aged balsamic, but it will do the trick for salads and everyday use.
Basmati Rice – Brown basmati rice is my favorite go to rice for most dishes. It is a long grain rice traditionally from India. Due to growing concerns regarding potential arsenic found in brown rice, I currently try to buy rice that is not grown in the US, and rinse thoroughly before cooking.
Bloom (chocolate) – When chocolate blooms, whitish spots show on the surface. This is usually a result of the cocoa butter fats separating at the surface of the chocolate or possibly from sugars that have been exposed to too much moisture. Anyone that has worked with chocolate knows that it is a very delicate and temperamental (no pun intended) task. Chocolate that is tempered or stored at temperatures that are too high is prone to blooming. If chocolate has bloomed, the milky white spots that appear on the surface are less attractive, but the flavor is usually unaffected, and it is still safe to eat.
Brown Rice Vinegar – Available in the Asian section of health and specialty food stores, I prefer brown rice vinegar over the traditionally found seasoned rice vinegars which have added sugar for most of my recipes.
B vitamins – B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in cell metabolism. The B vitamins were once thought to be a single vitamin, referred to as vitamin B (much as people refer to vitamin C). Later research showed that they are chemically distinct vitamins that often coexist in the same foods. In general, supplements containing all eight are referred to as a vitamin B complex. Individual B vitamin supplements are referred to by the specific name of each vitamin (e.g., B1, B2, B3 etc.)
Chia – The 16th century Codex Mendoza provides evidence that it was cultivated by the Aztec in Pre-Columbian times; economic historians have suggested that it was as important as maize as a food crop.It is still used in Mexico and Guatemala, with the seeds sometimes ground, while whole seeds are used for nutritious drinks and as a food source. They are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, since the seeds yield 25–30% extractable oil, including Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA). Chia seeds are typically small ovals with a diameter of about 1 mm (0.039 in). They are mottle-colored with brown, gray, black and white.
Chiffonade – a cooking technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and basil) are cut into long, thin strips. This is accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then cutting across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife, producing fine ribbons.
Dulse – Palmaria palmata (Linnaeus) Kuntze, also called dulse, dillisk or dilsk (from Irish/Scottish Gaelic duileasc/duileasg), red dulse, sea lettuce flakes or creathnach, is a red alga (Rhodophyta) previously referred to as Rhodymenia palmata (Linnaeus) Greville. It grows on the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a well-known snack food. In Iceland, where it is known as söl, it has been an important source of fiber throughout the centuries. It is a good source of minerals and vitamins compared with other vegetables, contains all trace elements needed by humans, and has a high protein content. It is also used in cooking. (Its properties are similar to those of a flavour-enhancer).
Farro Perlato – With more than twice the amount of protein derived from wheat, farro is an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, trace minerals, B vitamins, and has cyanogenic glucosides which are believed to lower cholesterol and maintain blood sugar. This grain does contain gluten.
Flavonoids – Flavonoids (both flavonols and flavanols) are most commonly known for their antioxidant activity in vitro. At high experimental concentrations that would not exist in vivo, the antioxidant abilities of flavonoids in vitro may be stronger than those of vitamin C and E, depending on concentrations tested.
Consumers and food manufacturers have become interested in flavonoids for their possible medicinal properties, especially their putative role in inhibiting cancer or cardiovascular disease. Although physiological evidence is not yet established, the beneficial effects of fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine have sometimes been attributed to flavonoid compounds.
Julienne – It is a term used to describe the technique of slicing foods into long thin strips to resemble matchsticks.
Kombu – A type of dark green sea vegetable with benefits that might include the ability to soften or reduce tumors, prevent high blood pressure, regulate metabolism, and increase the digestibility of beans. I use it in stocks, soups, and when cooking beans.
Le Creuset – Enamel coated cast iron cookware. I have 2 Le Creuset dutch ovens that are workhorses in my kitchen for soups, braises, stews, and more.
Magnesium – Magnesium is the eleventh most abundant element by mass in the human body. Its ions are essential to all living cells, where they play a major role in manipulating important biological polyphosphate compounds like ATP, DNA and RNA. Hundreds of enzymes thus require magnesium ions to function. Magnesium compounds are used medicinally as common laxatives, antacids, and in a number of situations where stabilization of abnormal nerve excitation and blood vessel spasm is required
Millet – The millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for both human food and fodder. Millets have been important food staples in human history, particularly in Asia and Africa, and they have been in cultivation in East Asia for the last 10,000 years. Millet is a delicious grain to use in cereals, breads, as as a grain in dishes such as pilafs and salads.
Mirepoix – Generally a simple combination of chopped onions, celery, and carrots that are used as base ingredients in a multitude of recipes including sauces, stews, and soups.
Mirin – It is a kind of rice wine that is similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content. I often use it in dressings and sauces for its sweet and acidic flavors.
Miso – Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley, and/or soybeans with salt and a fungus, the most typical miso being made with soy. The result is a thick paste used for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables or meats, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup called misoshiru, a Japanese culinary staple. It is high in protein, and rich in vitamins and minerals. Miso varieties have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory
Nutritional Yeast – Nutritional yeast, not to be mistaken with brewers yeast, is a deactivated yeast which is sold commercially as a food product. It is sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder similar in texture to dried mint leaves, and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores. It is popular with vegans and vegetarians and may be used as an ingredient in recipes or as a food condiment. It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins, and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium, and is free of sugar, dairy, or gluten.
Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used by vegans in place of cheese. It can be used in many recipes in place of cheese, such as mashed and fried potatoes, as well as put into scrambled tofu as a substitute for scrambled eggs. Another popular use is as a topping for popcorn. Some movie theaters offer it along with salt or cayenne as a popcorn condiment.
Pine Nuts – Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines that have been eaten in Europe and Asia since the Paleolithic period. They are frequently added to meat, fish, salads and vegetable dishes, or baked into bread. In Italian, they are called pinoli (in the U.S. they are often called “pignoli” but in Italy “pignolo” is actually a word far more commonly used to describe a fussy, overly fastidious or extremely meticulous person)and are an essential component of Italian pesto sauce.
Polyphenols – Generally foods contain complex mixtures of polyphenols. According to a 2005 review on polyphenols: “The most important food sources are commodities widely consumed in large quantities such as fruit and vegetables, green tea, black tea, red wine, coffee, chocolate, olives, and extra virgin olive oil. Herbs and spices, nuts and algae are also potentially significant for supplying certain polyphenols. Some polyphenols are specific to particular food (flavanones in citrus fruit, isoflavones in soya, phloridzin in apples); whereas others, such as quercetin, are found in all plant products such as fruit, vegetables, cereals, leguminous plants, tea, and wine.”
Quinoa – Pronounced “keen-wah” is a species of goosefoot, is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Nutritional evaluations of quinoa indicate that it is a source of complete protein. Quinoa is gluten-free.
Rejuvelac – Rejuvelac is a non-alcoholic fermented liquid made from sprouted grains. It is purported to improve digestion of food. Rejuvelac can be drunk as a digestive aid or used as a starter culture for other fermented foods such as raw nut and seed yoghurts, cheeses, sauces and Essene Breads. Rejuvelac is prepared using whole wheat, oats, rye, quinoa, oats, barley, millet, buckwheat, rice and other types of grain.
Sambal – Ground chili paste.
Soba – Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat. It is synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour, and in Japan can refer to any thin noodle (unlike thick wheat noodles, known as udon). Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. Soba noodles made from 100% buckwheat are gluten-free.
Sriracha – Popular hot sauce in my house and among chefs today.
Tahini – Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. I like to use it in dressings, sauces, and dips such as hummus.
Tamari – Originally referred to as a liquid byproduct of miso making. Today it is known as a wheat-free soy sauce. Tamari is made by fermenting soybeans for at least one year.
Tamarind – Tamarind which has a sort of sour apple flavor can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets
Umeboshi Plum Paste and Vinegar – The word “umeboshi” is often translated into English as “Japanese salt plums,” “salt plums” or “pickled plums.” Ume (Prunus mume) is a species of fruit-bearing tree in the genus Prunus, which is often called a plum but is actually more closely related to the apricot. Umeboshi are a popular kind of tsukemomo (pickles) and are extremely sour and salty.
The paste is made from pureed fermented umeboshi plums and the vinegar is the liquid byproduct of the umeboshi plum production. Umeboshi is used to enhance digestion and to treat colds, flus, morning sickness, and hangovers. I use both umeboshi vinegar and paste in a variety of dressings, dips, and dishes to add depth of flavor and character. Use is sparingly as the flavor is very strong and salty.
Vitamin A – Vitamin A is a group of nutritionally unsaturated hydrocarbons, which include retinol, retinal, retinoic acid and several provitamin A carotenoids among which beta-carotene is the most important. Vitamin A has multiple functions, it is important for growth and development, for the maintenance of the immune system and good vision.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, usually ingested as ascorbic acid. The oxidized form, dehydroascorbic acid, can also be absorbed from the diet, and has similar antiscorbutic effects. Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid, or simply ascorbate (the anion of ascorbic acid), is an essential nutrient for humans and certain other animal species. Vitamin C refers to a number of vitamers that have vitamin C activity in animals, including ascorbic acid and its salts, and some oxidized forms of the molecule like dehydroascorbic acid. Ascorbate and ascorbic acid are both naturally present in the body when either of these is introduced into cells, since the forms interconvert according to pH.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate. In humans, vitamin D is unique because it can be ingested as cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) or ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and because the body can also synthesize it (from cholesterol) when sun exposure is adequate (hence its nickname, the “sunshine vitamin”).
Vitamin E – Vitamin E has many biological functions, the antioxidant function being the most important and/or best known.Other functions include enzymatic activities, gene expression and neurological function(s). It has also been suggested that the most important function of vitamin E is in cell signaling (and, that it may not have a significant role in antioxidant metabolism)
Whole Wheat Cous Cous – A North African pasta made by rolling tiny bits of durum semolina with water which is steamed and then dried. Unlike the commonly found yellow cous cous, this bown version is made from unrefined wheat granules.