A cook sautees onions and peppers.

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I at times take for granted that the audience for these posts understands what I mean when I write the instructions.  I realize that there was a time when I was starting out that I did not know until I looked it up or it was explained to me.  So, I thought I would compile a list of these terms and explain in one location and refer back to it each time I use a term or technique that could use more in depth explanation and/or pictures.

This will be a running list.  For starters, I listed some of the common terms I use through-out my blogs and pages. I will include a link back to this site in all new blogs for help in explaining some of the terms in the post.  If you have a question on a certain term or Technique – please let me know.

COMMON TERMS

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


A

B

Basting

Basting involves brushing, pouring, or spooning a fat or liquid over an item while it is cooking to add flavor and color.  The most well known method is basting a turkey or chicken with butter approximately every 15 minutes while it is cooking.  The key is to use enough but not too much so you don’t end up steaming the food and to baste often enough so the juices/fat on the bottom of the pan don’t burn.  Other common applications:

  • When pan searing a steak,  continuously spooning the butter/oil over the top to shorten cooking time, provide more even cooking and adding great flavor.  The drippings and fat/oil left over in the pan can then be used as a base of flavoring to create a sauce or gravy.  If too much fat is left over, you can transfer some to another glass bowl and add back into the sauce as needed or discard when you are done cooking.
  • Using a stock or broth to baste poultry, or fish. Again, be careful not to add too much at once so you don’t steam the item – unless that is your intent

Beat

No child services or animal control needed.. This context is for cooking only. : )

Beating is a higher speed method of combining ingredients and allowing air into the moist mixture (beating is not a term used for dry only mixtures).  The air will help to add fluff and lightness to your final product.

Typical mixtures for beating will include milk, water, eggs, oil, soft butter, etc.  You will be using either the Paddle, Whip or Beater attachment for your electric mixer (stand or handheld) and start on a low setting (so the dry ingredients don’t go flying around the kitchen) and then increase to a Med-High or High speed setting to thoroughly combine the ingredients and also incorporate some air.  You typically beat cake batter or eggs.  The air that is incorporated helps provide a nice light cake or omelet.  If you beat a mixture, then let it sit too long before cooking, it will lose it’s fluff and then produce a more dense end product.

If you beat something by hand, you can use a fork or a whisk and mix the mixture in circles at a fast speed.  The fork and whisk is preferred over a spoon, as the empty spaces allow the air to incorporate fully into the batter/mixture.  A spoon will combine the ingredients, but limits the amount of air incorporated, leading to a dense end product.

Blackened

You see it on the menu all of the time, you know the food comes out black and it is spicy. But what is it really?  Pretty much just that.  Blackened food (meat, seafood) is a combination of cajun spices and herbs rubbed into the ingredient and the process of cooking the ingredient over very high heat to “blacken” the spice mixture on the outside.  It is best to cook in a pan or broiling vs grilling.  The process of blackening requires the foods surface to have full contact with the cooking surface which is why grilling is not a good cooking method.

Typically the cajun spices contain cayenne or another type of pepper to give it a very hot spicy taste. However, you can use any spice mix and still have a “blackened” dish.

You can make your own combination of a spice mix, or purchase many of the available “blackened” or Cajun mixes available at your grocery store.  You will rub the entire surface of the ingredient (all sides too).  The let it sit for about 30 minutes or longer in the refrigerator.  For Beef, you will want to bring it out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes prior to cooking.

Get out your cast iron pan (be sure you have your vent going and a cover – it will smoke like crazy), put it over high heat, add about 1 TBS butter and 1 TBS olive oil and heat until it almost starts smoking. Add in the protein top side down and cover.  Reduce heat to med-high.  Follow cooking times for the item you are cooking and flip when just about done (typically between 2 – 4 minutes per side).  Remove, and serve.

Blanch

When I hear the term “blanch” I think of white, so this term can be confusing.  Blanching food does not equal white food. Blanching is a method to quickly boil food in very salted water, most commonly vegetables, then immediately immersed into a salted ice bath or under cold running water.

You would only boil the food item for 30 – 90 seconds depending on your food item – take one out to test before removing the bunch.  The reason for this is you still want to maintain that vibrant color, and keep the item a little crisp.  Plunging into a bowl of ice water or under cold running water will stop the cooking process and maintain the freshness of your vegetables.  This preparation is typically what you may find in a salad bar for Broccoli, Asparagus, Cauliflower. It’s not RAW but it still has a crunch and beautiful colors.

I will wash, cut, and blanch a bunch of vegetables on Sundays or Mondays.  Then store them in the fridge or even freezer.  Each night, I can make them a different way without taking long at all to do it, as I only have to cook long enough to re-heat them.  I can stir fry them, saute with olive oil, salt, pepper and yes garlic,  toss with pasta for a pasta primavera, add to salads, and so on.

Blend

Unlike beating, blending ingredients is a slower process.  You can blend all dry ingredients or a combination of dry, wet or moist.  Think of the process in terms of blending paints.. You can blend them a little so you have swirls or you can blend them all the way so you have a new color.

When working with flour and meats, over blending can introduce a toughness to the product you did not intend. Be mindful of the instructions and if it calls for lightly blend or thoroughly blend.

Bind

An ingredient added to a mixture that allows all of the other ingredients to “stick” together.  For example, when making crab cakes, if you don’t add a binder, when you cook them, they will fall apart because the crab doesn’t “stick” to itself or other ingredients.  Typical food binders are, and you may use more than one:

Eggs

Dairy

Mayo

Fat

Flour – needs moisture

Bread Crumbs – needs moisture

Cheese – may need moisture depending on the cheese

Casings – synthetic, plant or animal based

You typically need a binder when making the following:

Meatloaf

Meatballs (using any type of ground protein)

Risotto Balls

Fish/Crab cakes

Sausage

Deep Fried items

Bread

Dumplings

Burgers (any type of ground protein)

Fillings

Quiche / Frittata

Fritters

Boil

We all know what this feels like if you ever visited Florida in the summer.  Boiling is the process of brining a liquid to a constant heat level where it evaporates quickly. The liquid cannot get any hotter, instead it losses volume as it evaporates.  Boiling is a technique to reduce a liquid/sauce and concentrate flavors.  The flavor remains.  This makes it very important to control your salt.  Either wait to add salt until you are close to your desired thickness, amount or add just a touch at the beginning. A salty sauce is not easy to fix, if at all.  Back to boiling, all methods start with a high heat, then lower to maintain a certain state.

So there are a few different types of boiling:

Rapid Boil – the liquid is bubbling so big and furiously you think lava is about to burst out and steam is constant and heavy and you may not always be able to see the surface through the steam. This must be on the highest setting

Rolling Boil – the bubbles come up in a steady rate, and alternate between med, med-large and/or large in size and it looks like they are starting from the outside and rolling into the middle, steam is constant, but you can still see the contents in the pan. This is maintained by lowering a med-high heat.

Slow Boil – the bubbles are a slow steady and are usually med-small to med in size and consistent across the surface, steam escapes and will fog up your glasses, but not in your way.  This is maintained lowering to a med heat

Simmer – Slow, small to very small bubbles and consistent across the surface. In thicker sauces, they don’t always break the surface, but steam will escape through little bursts or blups.  This is maintained lowering to a med-low to low heat.

Does adding salt to water make it boil faster? No, not really at all.  But salt is important when cooking pasta (flavors the pasta) or blanching vegetables (keeps the veggies green or full of color and vitamins as well as adding a bit of flavor).

Does cold water boil faster than hot water? The long and the short. No.  Cold water needs to get from cold to hot, then at that point, it boils just as fast as the hot water.  So it really takes longer – the rate of getting from cold to hot is pretty fast, but that does not make it faster once it reaches hot.

Starting a pan with cold water is important for certain foods like rice.  Adding hot water to rice will start cooking the rice earlier than expected, therefore throwing off your cooking time.  With rice, always start off with cold water.

Braise

Braising is a method of cooking meat in a liquid in low heat over a long period of time.  This method is best used for the tougher cuts of meats you will find in the supermarket.  This method can turn a “cheap” cut of meat into gold. The good thing is, unlike cooking a filet or NY Strip steak to the perfect med-rare, when you braise, you are cooking to well done to break down the tough tissue and bring it to the point of falling apart when you touch it.  The cut of meat is moist, and full of goodness.  You can braise pretty much anything, but meat is the most common.  I also typically brown or caramelize root vegetables to add even more flavor (carrots, onions, garlic, celery)

Braising liquids can consist of one or more of the following, and the addition of herbs and/or spices:

Broth

Water

Wine

Soda (like coke)

Beer

Browning your meat before adding the liquid (season meat with salt and pepper first), will add more flavor to the liquid and meat. You can dust the meat with a flour mixture seasoned with salt and pepper prior to browning.  The addition of the flour mixture will add a thickening agent while braising.

Broil

Broiling is cooking under direct heat. I think just about every stove comes with a broiler, either in the main compartment or in the broiler tray underneath.  This acts similar to “grilling” your meat, but the heat is on top, not from underneath.

Your cooking times would be very similar to grilling over direct heat. You want to position the rack 3 – 6 inches from the heat source.  Any further, you might as well just roast it in the oven.  Obviously the closer to the heat source, the faster the outside will cook.  The further the better chance of cooking the inside before burning the outside. It all depends on thickness of the cut of meat or ingredient.

Broth/Stock

Both are achieved by boiling down the bones, shells, meats, skin, leaves, stalks, peels, or whatever left over parts are available from a particular ingredient (beef, seafood, vegetable).  These parts are typically boiled with a basic mirepoix (mixture of braising vegetables – onions, carrots, celery) and herbs (any one or combination of rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc..) and lots of water.  You need enough water to cover all of the ingredients by at least 1 1/2 – 2 inches.

The primary difference between a broth and a stock is in the finishing.  They are both strained to a clear-ish liquid. A broth can be eaten as a soup as is.  Where as a stock is further reduced to further concentrate the flavors to use as a base to a gravy, sauce or braising liquid.

A broth can substitute for a stock in sauces, braising liquids, etc…. however if you only have stock, you will have to add additional liquid or ingredients if you are planning on a soup.

Bouillon is a highly concentrated and dried form of stock.  It is typically revived in water and contains a lot of salt. So when using, be aware of the salt content, especially if reducing a sauce or soup.

A consume is a broth that has been strained, strained and over strained to make it very clear. No fat, herbs or spices… nothing. A clear broth.

Brown

Browning is a type of searing over med-high to high heat.  Your goal is not necessarily to cook the ingredient fully – but to add color, seal in the juices, and add flavor.  Turning the item to expose all sides to the heat source is necessary for a proper sear.

You can dust with a seasoned flour (flour tossed with salt and pepper) before browning.  This will leave behind some flour bits to thicken sauce, and when the item is added back to the sauce, the flour on the outside with add more flour to thicken the sauce.

Browning is typically done in a saute or cast iron pan so the full surface meets the heat and is seared. The item is then braised, held for use a little later, added to a crock-pot recipe, etc.. However you add it, be sure to keep all of the bits at the bottom of the browning pan.  To loosen them, toss in a  1/4 cup of liquid while the pan is still hot. Use a spatula and the bits will come up in a flash.  As long as they are not burnt – these little wonderful creatures will add huge flavor to the next steps.

Brush

Brushing (basting) is a way to put a liquid onto a roast, or poultry or pastry item in a controlled manner.  The basting squeeze bottle can force herbs or other seasoning off, where brushing can help to ensure the seasoning is applied consistently and stays all in place.  This is also a great method for applying an egg wash to pastry or a flavored butter or oil to a crostini.

You can purchase a small paint brush, sanitize it in hot soapy water (or in the dishwasher) and spend $2. Or you can purchase one of the many pastry/culinary brushes out there for more than $2.

C

Caramelize

Not unlike browning, caramelizing an item turns it brown, which concentrates the flavors.  However, the goal here is to release the inner sugars/juices of an item not keep them in.  Unlike browning, caramelizing is not over high heat, it is achieved over med-low heat and can start in a cold pan.

As a result of releasing the liquids, the items shrink.  For instance, when you caramelize onions, you may start with 4 cups of sliced raw onions, but end up with 1/2 – 1 cup of caramelized onions.

In addition, keep in mind, slower is better. If you want the best flavors from your caramelized treats, prepare for at least an hour.

Here is a recipe for caramelized onions – the same technique can be used for most other items.

Char

To char an item is basically burning the outside. This comes in handy for red peppers and tomatoes. This is a method used so it makes it easier to peel and infuses a smokey flavor.

You can hold over a flame or use the broiler to achieve this. Keep a very close eye on the items, and turn so all sides are charred, or “burnt.”  This is really the only time burning food is good. Except of course the burnt marshmallow (Yumm). That is a good example of charing actually. The outside is crisp, burnt, but the inside is soft, hot and delicious.

For peppers/tomatoes – after you char the item, place in a paper bag. When cool enough to handle, remove and the peel will just slide off.

Why paper? Paper breaths allowing the items to steam, and cool. Air flow is good.  A plastic bag may melt, and or minimize the desired effect.

Chiffonade

This is a fancy French term for “cutting into ribbons.”  However, it is a very effective technique for cutting larger leaf herbs, in particular – basil.  Basically – take the largest leaf and put on the bottom, then pile up 10 – 15 leaves on top of it, roll into a “cigar,” then starting at the tip, slice it into thin strips.  That is it.

Use it right away.  The act of rolling, cutting, etc.. can bruise the herbs which in turns makes the brown.  This is used mainly as decoration or to be added at the very end of a dishes cooking time.

Cut, Chop, Dice, Mince, Slice

Ingredients at times need to be cut down to size.  How do you do it and what exactly is the recipe looking for?  In all cases, (except when using a food processor/blender), you want to keep the cuts as uniform (identical in size and shape) as possible.

What is the difference?  There are many different way to prepare an ingredient.  What does each mean and what is the difference?  You are most likely going to be asked to cut something before it goes into the pot, bowl or whatever. Below is a description of the different type of typical cuts.  There are more, but for now, I will stay away from them.

Chop:  basically you will use a 6 – 10 inch (depending on your comfort level) chefs knife (wide near the handle and narrow at the tip- this allows for a rocking type motion and more precise cuts from the tip end).  To chop means cubes about the same size/shape, and fairly large.  ie: one med sized garlic clove can be chopped into about 10 pieces the size of a med pea.  However, to chop a carrot, it can be chopped into pieces about the size just short of a dime, and a potato even larger.

A uniform chop all of the pieces are about the same size and shape. This is good for adding to a stew or braise.

A rough chop they are approximately the same size, but not necessarily the same shape.  This works when you are going to toss in a food processor or blender.

Dice:  You can have a large dice, medium dice, small dice or smallest dice which is a mince.  The typical shape is a square, although can be a diamond or other specified shape.

he best way to ensure the consistency in the dice, is to match stick the item to be “chopped”.  That means, making long slices through the item of equal width.   Then you line/stack them up, and make an additional long slice. Then line them up like match sticks, and cut through them to create the appropriate square or diamond shape you desire.

The width of your slices determines what category of “dice” the item falls into:

Large dice is typically 1 inch

Medium dice is typically 1/2 inch

Small dice is typically 1/4 inch

Mince is as small as you can safely get it.

Coat

To coat – well if you live in warm climates, perhaps this is a new term.  I live in the North-East, so I am very familiar with coats. ; )  So culinary speaking, to coat an ingredient means to ensure it is covered and won’t come off.

For example: Coating an item with flour before frying, means, ensure all sides are covered in flour. You may need to shake off excess – that is ok.  Flour needs a moist surface to stick to, so be sure it is moist before coating.

Another example is in making sauces.  You may be asked to reduce a sauce until it “coats” the back of a spoon.  Think of this as a vest.  The sauce needs to cling to the spoon but can be tested making a zipper like movement with your finger down the front. If it looks like an open vest – you are good.  If it looks like your water colors just ran away – it is not yet ready.

Combine

A different way to say mix.  Basically, mix or toss the ingredients together so they are as evenly distributed as possible.

Core

No, this is not a description for a movie needing an over buff hero to save the world because the core of the universe is about to explode. Although, I think I have watched most of them (love Sci-Fi) and can probably write them in my sleep.. ; )

This is how to remove the seeds from fruit, such as apples.  To core an apple (or other type fruit) is to remove the center, and either keeping the entire fruit in tact or at minimum in quarters.

To keep fruit in tact:  You need to purchase a cylindrical apple corer. it is not expensive and readily available. Push it down from the top center of the apple until just comes out from below, then, pull it back through.  You may need to do some touch up work if you did not get all the seeds or outer coating.  To remove the core from the corer – use the disposable chopsticks that come with your takeout/delivery. They are great tools for more than just that. I used it to untie a very complicated knot from my nephew’s shoes – almost like knitting needles. but back to the purpose of this term…

For Half or Quarters:  Cut the apple as desired, and either use a paring knife or mellon baller to remove the seeds.

Cream

Easy – just get some at the store… oh – HA! There are other culinary definitions to cream.  Such as making cookies or frostings.  In the culinary (not dairy) sense, creaming means to beat/whip butter and sugar (and possibly eggs) together until fluffy and creamy.  They are then ready for the next step in the recipe.

Crimp

Crimping is something applied to a dough to make the pretty wave design for the edges.  It can be used on a pie or with a wonton.  Basically you take your thumb and pointer finger  of each hand at the same time and push the dough out slightly with your thumbs in opposite directions. One thumb pushes in and the other pushes out while the pointer finger holds the two edges together.  Think of making a fan out of paper.

Crisp

Crisp – the great sensation of bitting into a dessert or fried item and hearing that crunch. Yumm..  However, it can also apply to vegetables when cooking/pasta/rice.  If you want a slight crisp, then you have some give at first, then further into the bite is a still a little crisp.

In addition, you can return an item that is supposed to be crispy, but has become soft back into a crispy outside.  This is useful when making fried/baked items ahead of time and/or freezing them.

The oven is a great way to return the crisp.  Heat level to set the oven at is important depending on thickness.  You don’t want to burn the outside before the center is cold.  Typically anything homemade out of the freezer to the oven, set the oven at 350 (max 375). You can raise the temperature as the middle is thawed and warmed through. Follow the recipes and guidelines.

Croquettes

A mixture of potato with flaked or ground cooked meat, fish, poultry formed into balls or patties, coated with a bread crumb mixture and deep fried.

Cure

No 5K runs here. The cure lies in the salt, oil and/or sugar mixture and can include different spices and herbs.

Curing food (tuna and salmon are my favorite at home items, although sausage, ham, bacon are the most common), releases the moisture over time and concentrating the flavors in the food. Even before our beloved bacon reaches the smoker – it is cured in salt.   Salt is a natural preservative.

I cure very fresh (sushi grade) tuna and/or salmon at home in a mixture of salt and sugar (about 1/2 and 1/2 and wrapped tightly for 2 – 3 hours or longer – just be careful as the salt will impart a salty flavor). There are many recipes for cures available on the web.

Cutting Fruit with a PIT

Avocado is the first one that comes to mind, but this process can be used for any ripe fruit that contains a pit and adult supervision if a child is helping. If the fruit is not ripe, the pit may “stick” to the flesh of the fruit. A tip for that is below.

I will explain using an avocado:

  1. Place the avocado on the cutting board, leave skin on.
  2. Taking a 6 inch chefs knife (or your favorite sturdy prep knife), Slice from tip to bottom (as if cutting in half, stopping as you hit the pit),
  3. Keeping the knife in the fruit, rotate the fruit, so the knife cuts through the bottom, and back up the other side, and place the fruit back on to the cutting board.
  4. Continue slicing up until you reach the tip. Be sure the end of your cut, meets up with the start of your cut.
  5. Cup your hands, one on each side, and twist in opposite directions, and pull apart.
  6. This will free up one side to be pit free.
  7. To release the pit from the second side, put the half on the cutting board (skin side down), Pit up.
  8. Take your knife about an inch above the pit and bring it down with a little bit of force. It should stick slightly into the pit.
  9. Lift the fruit and hold in one hand. Take your second hand and now turn the knife clockwise (either way) until the pit is released.
  10. To release the pit from the knife, use a paper towel or oven mitt (so your hands do not slip), grip the pit and pull from the knife.

If the fruit is small like a grape or olive, you can de-pitt by “smashing” with the thick flat side of a large chefs knife or if ripe enough, squeeze it out.

If the fruit is not ripe enough and the pit won’t budge:

Cut around it as if you were peeling an apple, but you would cut until you hit the pit, turn the knife and slice around the pit to release the flesh. This may not be pretty and may take several steps.

If you are able to separate the sides, but cannot pull the pit out, you can take a small spoon and try to spoon it out, or take a small paring knife and cut around to loosen it, then try to spoon it out or pull it out.

D

Dash

Slightly more than a pinch. Like a pinch and a half.  Take some salt and take some between your thumb and pointer finger. Put it into a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon.  That is  a pinch.  A dash is a little more than that.

Deglaze

Sounds fancy, but it is not. It is the act of adding warm or hot liquid to a hot pan.  Actually this makes for easy clean up too.. but for our purposes, add a dash of warm to hot liquid (wine, water, stock, etc..) to your pan while it is hot and it will loosen all of the yummy bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. This is what you want for a gravy or sauce.

Adding cold water can distort the pan depending on the type of pan you have, so it is best to have at minimum at room temperature.

Direct Heat

Flame, heating element or hot charcoal directly over and/or under the item you are cooking.  This is great for searing the outside of meats/seafood where you want the inside medium rare or less and the outside seared.

Indirect cooking, you have the heat source to the side or in another compartment, and it is a slow cook, cooking both the outside and inside cooking at a more even temperature.

Dot

Dot, dot, dot, goose… oh wait – wrong game.

When a recipe calls to “dot” something with an ingredient (usually butter), it means taking pearl sized (not necessarily shape) portions of the item and place them all over the dish (like a pie or potato au gratin). The ingredient will usually melt when the dish is cooked adding great flavor and color if it is on the top.

Dredge

Basically, take an item, like a chicken filet or thin chicken breast, and place in a container with seasoned flour, turn over and repeat.  If a thick round item, you may need to roll it in the mixture..  Shake off the excess flour.

Drippings

All of the goodness that drips from a roast, turkey, and/or chicken or other roasted meat.  It may caramelize on the bottom of the pan when done, but adding water, or other liquid will keep it usable for flavoring sauce or gravy. If it burns, toss it out.

Drizzle

This is more for when you present (plate) your dish, than when you are cooking.  Basically, take a 1/2 spoonful of sauce, dressing, chocolate or syrup (or whatever), and  slowly (a couple of drops at a time), pour over, around zig-zag over (around) your dish.  Kind of like a trickle.

Dust

I am not a fan of cleaning, outside of the culinary world, I plead the 5th.

Dusting a food item is a very thin light coating of a dry/powdered ingredient.  Like powdered sugar very lightly sprinkled on waffles.  Or when you get the lightest snowfall, you can tell it snowed, but you can still see the original color of the car underneath, and your wipers still work.  That is a dusting.

E

F

Fold

Hopefully, most of us have folded a towel.  In cooking, think of the process of folding the towel in half and then in half again..  Typically one item is placed on top of another item (think chocolate mousse – the egg whites are placed on top of the chocolate mixture). Then you take a spatula or large spoon, and starting in the middle, go down, scoop up the side and bring the bottom mix to the top. Repeat slowly until both are lightly mixed.

Folding is used when you want to keep the air and lightness in the mixture.  Stirring will disturb the air bubbles an result in a dense product.

Fry – Deep Fry vs Pan Fry vs Oven Fry

Fried food. Yumm.  But can add a few unwanted calories as well as “bad” fat.  But understanding how to properly fry is as important as the fat used.  Fry basically means cooking in hot oil.

Deep Fry:  Just that – a large pot filled with at minimum of 4 inches (usually more) of oil.  Enough to fully immerse the food item and then some.

Pan Fry:  Enough oil in a stove top pan (with sides about  1 – 3 inches high) to come 1/2 way up the sides of the item being cooked. This will require a watchful eye on the food item as well as the temperature so the food does not burn. You will need to flip it 1/2 way through

Oven Fry: This is probably the healthiest of the fries. Toss your food item with oil or  a spray oil like Pam.  Bake at a high temperature (375 – 450).  The oil will help to crisp the food, but limit the amount of oil absorbed.

When frying, temperature is important.  too low, the food will soak in oil.  Too high – the outside will burn before the inside is cooked.  Follow directions in the recipe or for the frying you may have.

The right oil is important.  Use a vegetable oil – not an olive oil. Olive oil does not do well over the high heat necessary for deep frying or pan frying.  Its ok for oven frying.  However, olive oil is expensive, so stick to a blend of olive oil and vegetable oil.

G

Garnish

The simple definition is “to make pretty”.  When you go to a restaurant and you find a nicely wrapped lemon with a few leaves of parsley – that is a garnish.  You can eat it alone or use it for more flavor or not. A garnish is an edible item added to the plate to add color or design. The diner can chose how to use it with the dish.  Keep that in mind as some diners may in fact eat that with what you are serving. So chose a garnish that compliments your dish.

Glaze

The simplest glaze is powdered sugar and water/liquid (3 parts of sugar to about 1 part water/liquid).  Add more or less liquid to gain the desired thickness of the gaze. You can add in any flavorings you wish.

A honey glaze is typically used on ham. Honey is used instead of sugar.

Basically, it is a thin sweet “frosting”.

Grate / Shred

As Tony the Tiger says – it’s Greeeeaaaaat!..

Wrong great.  To grate a food item – usually a firm item – keep some bandages on hand.  Not really kidding on this one. I keep a box in the kitchen as well as those plastic “medical” gloves you can find at CVS or any hardware store.  That goes for cutting too. Watch any Cooking competition show and someone on every episode ends up wearing those gloves.

Anyway – there are many ways to grate.  Using a food processor or a hand grater.  Basically, it is a tool with holes. One side of the holes has a very sharp edge the other is dull.  You will pull the food item up across the sharp edge and you will end up with a “string” of that item.  Think shredded cheese.

The shorter in length the food item, the smaller the “string”.

Grease

To grease or not to grease. Greasing is important mostly in baking to prevent sticking. If you are baking an item that is chock full of fat, chances are – you don’t need to grease the pan.  However, if you are baking something with little fat (roasted veggies), then adding a very thin layer of fat or cooking/baking spray may in fact be needed.

If you are trying to cut down on fat, the good news is technology is right there with you.  You can purchase an item called Parchment paper, typically found in the baking, food storage sections.  It looks like a thin brown paper bag, but comes in rolls like plastic wrap.  Tear off a piece large enough to fit your baking pan.  The food does not stick and makes for easy clean up.

Another option is the use of a Silpat. It is a reusable rubber mat sized to fit most baking sheets. It can usually sustain temps 450 – 500. They can be a bit expensive, but re-usable and easily cleaned. NOTHING sticks to them.

Grill

To grill something used to mean over an open flame.  Now – you can grill inside or outside and not necessarily over an open flame, but the one thing that is constant is the airflow around the food.  Only 1/2 of the surface of the food is in direct contact with the grill top (that is what gives you the grill marks).

You can use a propane grill. This is very convenient as it is quick to start and control the temperature.  Or you can use a charcoal grill.  This takes a little longer to get started, but is the man’s man way to grill. Plus the charcoals add additional flavor to the food – similar to smoking.  In fact, you can toss some smoking chips on top of the charcoals and close the lid to get a warm/hot smoke on your food too.  I use a charcoal grill.. I cheat as I have a propane start so I kinda have the best of both worlds… ; )

Grind

Grind = pulverize. Think of coffee. It started out as a hard bean.  Once it goes into a coffee grinder, it is nothing but dust.

Grinding seeds or beans is a way to extract flavor and only use the amount you need. Having a powder form allows for blending of multiple spices – such as making a curry or cajun mix.

H

I

InDirect Heat

Indirect cooking, you have the heat source to the side or in another compartment, and it is a slow cook, cooking both the outside and inside cooking at a more even temperature.

Flame, heating element or hot charcoal directly over and/or under the item you are cooking.  This is great for searing the outside of meats/seafood where you want the inside medium rare or less and the outside seared.

J

Julianne

Is a type of cut.  It sounds fancy, but it basically means a long thin slice, similar to the cuts you will find in a coleslaw.  To obtain the right result – take a carrot.  Cut it in half length wise. Then with the flat side down (for stability), cut into thin slices or “planks”.  Then stack a few planks on top of each other, and slice again into strips.  There you have it.

K

Knead

I have plenty of needs, one of them being for puberty to pass for my son – I don’t know how much longer I can take that attitude.  But back to the question at hand (I know – bad pun.. )

kneading involves working a dough, such as a bread dough. Form the dough into a ball.  Flatten out slightly with your hands. Then take the bottom portion and fold over the top, then press and roll with the heals of your hands, and flip a few times.  repeat until the desired consistency is reached (the directions for the recipe should explain  how long to knead – usually 5 – 10 minutes by hand).

If you have a fancy mixer- there should be a dough hook avail.  Throw the dough in there and let the machine do the work (usually on a low setting – too high and you will burn the motor of your mixer).

The kneading process develops the gluten in the flour.  This gluten is what holds the bread together and keeps the dough elastic.

L

M

Marinate

Marinate is a process to infuse flavor into a food item and also tenderize.  The food item can be meat, fish, shell fish, tofu, vegetables, etc..  You can marinate in a wet mix or a dry mix.   The longer you let the food sit with the marinate, the more flavor seeps into the food.  However, you should take note of the amount of salt you use.  Salt also seeps into the food.  Too much salt and you will end up with a salty end product (dish).  Error on the side of caution when using salt. You can always add more salt when cooking or at the end of the cooking process.

Some foods don’t need much time at all to benefit from a marinade. The food items that can benefit from 30 – 120 minutes are:

Chicken

Shellfish

Fish

Pork

Tofu

Vegetables

Foods that benefit from a longer marinade time are:

Beef

Beef

Beef

Lamb

Beef

and Beef

Mash

Bring on the inner kid or conjure those old feelings from that bad breakup or that person at work that just made you mad… now take it out on those potatoes.  No better therapy.  When in a sour mood – boil some potatoes, add some butter and salt at a minimum.. and get a big wooden spoon or potato masher and go at those potatoes until there is nothing left but a nice silky yummy goodness.

If you are just a little upset, then having a chunky mashed potatoes (or cauliflower) is perfectly acceptable. I for one like some chunks, I also like the skin on too. But that is my preference.

If you do not have a potato masher, then using a sturdy slotted spoon will work as well.  Some also put the potatoes in a blender or food processor. This is fine if you are in a good mood.  ; )..  But if using the electric, you may need to add some liquid.  The liquid to use is some of the potato water, cream, sour cream, more butter, butter milk, stock, etc..

Have fun.  Doing by hand also builds those triceps.

Mix

To mix is to combine ingredients to the point they are just combined.  When mixing chocolate chips into a cookie dough, you don’t have to keep mixing until the chocolate chips start to break apart.  Just stir until the chocolate chips seem to be distributed throughout the dough.. Yes, some cookies will have more chips than others.. That is fine, just make sure you put those aside for yourself. ; )

Moisten

This is an easy one – add liquid, or a melted or soft ingredient like milk, water, butter, oil, wine, broth, etc..  to a dry mix.  The amount of moisture depends on what you are trying to do. Doughs do not require as much liquid as say a soup.  However, doughs can call for a bit of cold butter. While it will bind the ingredients, it does not melt until cooked, then the butter creates a steam makes a crust or bread fluffy.

N

O

Opaque

When cooking an item until it is “opaque” is the opposite of translucent/clear, it means until they are white.  Such as egg whites.  When cracking an egg, you can see through them. However, after beating them for a bit,  they turn white and fluffy, but not totally stiff as you would need for a merengue.

P

Parchment Paper

A paper product approved for baking purposes.  It is typically brown or white. Use it to line baking pans instead of using oil. It will save calories and prevent sticking of food items to the pan.  And makes for easy clean up.

You can typically find it with the tinfoil and plastic wrap, baking, or with the zip lock bag sections in the grocery store.  It is good to have on hand.

Peeling Garlic

My Immortal Beloved GARLIC!  Click on that link for my post on garlic. Ohh how I love this ingredient.

Peeling garlic is actually very easy.  There are so many gadgets available on the market.  I bought them. I no longer use them. The easiest thing you can use is the palm of your hand. Yes, you will smell like garlic.  However, I don’t mind and love the smell.. If you don’t – then next best thing is to use the flat end of a meat cleaver or chef’s knife, a palm sized rock ( thoroughly washed and sanitized of course), or if you have multiple cutting boards – put the garlic on the one, and “smash” with the second.

Then simply remove the clove from the peel and there you have it.  Don’t worry if you split or smashed the garlic clove.  As long as you did not need it whole, who cares. And actually, a split clove makes dicing or mincing even easier.

Pinch

No – not the Special K pinch.. I actually stopped that when I turned 16. No need to find other reasons to get down.. Being 16 and in high school was enough.

A pinch is a measurement. Not an accurate measurement as the amount depends on the size of one’s hands and their ability to grasp small granules.  Typically this is smaller than 1/4 teaspoon, or smaller than your smallest measuring spoon.

Try it out.  Pour some salt into the palm of your hand, use the other hand and take a pinch.  Put that into the smallest measuring spoon.  That is your pinch. Keep that in mind when adding salt, pepper, sugar, etc.. to a dish that calls for a pinch.  Actually you may be better off adding salt in this method than an actual measurement.

Pitting olives and cherries

Very time consuming.  Buy them pre-pitted when you can.  If not, add at least 30 minutes to your prep time if doing by hand.

There are a couple of ways to pit olives/cherries.  You can purchase a pitter.  It will keep the cherry/olive pretty much in tact so you can serve whole, stuffed, etc..

If you do not care about the look of the cherry/olive – then let us revisit the Garlic Smash method:

Use the flat end of a meat cleaver or chef’s knife, a palm sized rock ( thoroughly washed and sanitized of course), or if you have multiple cutting boards – put the fruit on the one, and “smash” with the second.

If the fruit is smooshy, you can always attempt to just squeeze it out as well. Start at the base, then squeeze your way up until the pit pops out.

Poach

Poaching involves cooking in a liquid over a low simmer. The major benefits of this method is keeping the food moist.  The negative – no browning and can draw out the flavor of some foods making it taste bland.

The most common use of this method is for cooking eggs.  Yum – reduces fat and no flavor loss.

Another good way to poach proteins is via olive oil.  This can add much flavor to the item, especially when cooked slow.

Puree

Just as grind = pulverize for dry ingredients, puree = pulverize for moist and wet ingredients.

Typically you will use a blender or a food processor.  I use this when making tomato sauce. I use whole plum tomatoes (peeled) and cook with all of the other ingredients.  However, if I served a tomato sauce with tomato chunks, my son would not eat it… so what do I do – in batches, pour into a food processor and/or blender and put on high speed.

This can be done for soups, sauces or whatever.  If like it chunky at home and will serve it as is out of the blender. However, if you want a nice smooth sauce, then after you puree, put a fine mesh strainer (little holes) over a bowl and strain the puree.  I also mash it down with the back of a large spoon to get all of the juice out.

You can also use a food mill to achieve the same results.

Q

Quit

Never quit! You may get frustrated, have a bad day in the kitchen, and then just want to give up on your cooking progress. It takes time. Start slow and start with recipes that you know you can do.

Slowly add new techniques, one at a time to master. Before you know it, everyone will be asking you to help them.

Being able to provide a home cooked meal – no matter if it is for your family, friends, kids, boyfriends, husbands, etc.. – it very rewarding.

Stick to it. Ask for help or a demonstration. If you try something on this site and it doesn’t work for you, let me know. I can help.

Keep in mind, recipes are guidelines, for the most part. Don’t be afraid to experiment. My son does and I love it. I may not eat some of his food (tends to be very spicy), but he is learning.  Every mistake is actually good. You now know what will happen if you over cook something, or burn something, or add too much cayenne pepper.  Not a problem.  Keep a backup in your freezer that you can pull out at any time. Individually wrapped items thaw faster than bulk frozen.

Other Tips:

  • Mix your dry herb/spice mixture together in a separate bowl first.  Taste the mixture before adding to other ingredients. It is easier to adjust now, then after the food is already cooked.
  • Try what you want with a sample portion of what you are trying to make.  ie: seasoning on a piece of fish, meat, etc.. Cut a 1/2 slice off the raw piece, add the flavoring you want, and pan saute, then taste.
  • Turn that burner down!  High is great for boiling and getting a good sear, but most of your cooking should be over med to med-high heat. This will prevent the outside from getting over done or tough, while the inside is still not cooked (for chicken, fish, etc..)  For beef, I am ok with a rare center, but that is me.
  • Start with flavors you know, then introduce new spices and herbs as you become more comfortable with your seasoning amounts and cooking techniques.
  • Every thing you read says let that meat rest before you cut into it. That is true, however, if you are just starting out you need to understand when something is cooked right.  Take your piece of meat, fish, chicken off the heat, press in the center to get a feel of it (or use an instant read thermometer), then cut into the center and check doneness. If not done, put it back into the pan. When you are learning, this is OK.  After all you are only cutting into your piece. That is a good gauge.
  • When to stir – if something you are making is thick (like a cream based sauce or soup), stir often, if not continual. Leaving it sit to long on the burner can cause burning which will ruin the dish.  If you are trying to sear, brown or caramelize, then let it sit longer.  The longer it has contact with the cooking surface, the better chance of obtaining the color you are looking for. Just be cautious of the heat level you are using. Lower heat can sit longer, high heat, pay more attention to it.
  • Keep a close eye on the progress when broiling. If your rack is too close, you could burn the outside quickly.

R

Reduce

You will come across this term when making sauces, stocks, broths, etc. Adding liquids to enhance flavors of your sauce is good.  However, sometimes they are too liquid and you need to thicken, or concentrate the flavor.  To do that, you need to “reduce” the amount of liquid in the sauce.

How?  you need to heat the sauce to a point where it starts to release steam.  This steam does not release flavor, just the water.  You can do this over time with a slow simmer or you can do this fast with a rapid boil.

It all depends on what you are making and your time frame.  If making a slow cooked tomato sauce, you want a slow simmer.  If making a quick sauce, a more aggressive boil will do the trick.

When a recipe calls to reduce by half – that means if you start up with 2 cups, you want to end up with 1 cup.  The good thing about sauces:  They leave rings on the pan.  So you can tell what level you started at, and then determine how much your sauce reduced by comparing the current level to the top ring.

Reduced Fat

I am NOT a fan of fat free dairy or meats. The texture and flavor is just not there.  And other items, not having fat is replaced by excess sugar or sugar substitutes. Also not a fan. Who needs more chemicals?

Fat in some quantities is good, you still get the creaminess, texture and flavor you expect.  To compensate, I use other ingredients that add flavor and no one would even know you used a lower fat item.

I am a fan of reduced fat or 2% items.  Especially in Dips and sauces.

Roast

To roast something is basically cooking in the oven without a lid.  This allows the heat to circulate around the food and browning it in the process.  If roasting meat/poultry, you would typically put in on a roasting rack.  This will keep the meat out of the juices and allow the cooking process to impact top and bottom of the meat.

To roast vegetables, slice them no less than a 1/4 in thick, and even thicker. Roasting in ovens with un-even heating can burn overly thin items and leave the middle not done.  At a minimum. I toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Adding herbs such as oregano is good, especially for roasted tomatoes. The flavor is amazing and I use to add flavor when using low fat cheese, dairy or sour cream. No one will miss the full fat when using these.

S

Saute

I use this method of cooking pretty much every day.  It is fast and easy and fits most week night cooking needs.  One way to make sauteing fast, is to ensure your items are cut into an appropriate size for the heat level you are using.

I typically use a med-high heat for the majority of cooking.  I may heat the pan first over high, then lower the heat. This is good for searing food.

Paying attention to the pan is important for a saute. You will most likely need to stir the food often to prevent sticking, over cooking or burning.

I also add a little oil.  Depending on the type of pan you are using (non-stick vs regular) will determine how much oil or fat you want to add. Using a true non-stick, it is said you do not need any added fat. However, I always add some because a good extra virgin olive oil or butter can add so much flavor, and help to provide a base for a sauce if you wish.

The smaller the food item, the faster it will cook.  Except in the means of caramelizing anything.  Then it is low heat over a long period of time.

Understanding the cooking times of each item is important in a successful dish.  You can break the items up into separate saute pans or times. EX: Saute the meat first (this will help to impart flavors to everything added after) and cook until just under done; then cook the onions (for example), then add in the garlic and peppers (for example).  Add in your liquids, simmer to reduce a bit, then add your meat back in and finish off the dish.

Onions take longer than garlic.  I make the mistake of adding both at the same time.  However, the garlic can burn before the onions are done the way I want.  So not I cook the onions first until just about done, then add the garlic.  Bell Peppers take no more than 1 – 2 minutes. Longer, they become mushy.

Blanching items first helps keep cooking times consistent too.  The items are already pretty much done, so all can be added at once and cooked in the same amount of time.

Scald

I want to do this pretty much every morning when my teenager won’t get out of bed for school. Ohh – wait that is scold.

Scalding is not much different.  When used in a recipe, it typically refers to a dairy product, like milk. Use caution when doing this because the difference between scalding and burning are seconds.

If a recipe calls for you to scald milk, add the milk to a sauce pan and heat over med-high heat until it comes to a rolling boil (a film may form on the surface, this is OK).  Remove from heat immediately.  Stir often, especially at the beginning. It doesn’t take long.  If you do not stir, the milk proteins will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn quickly. Once it burns (or browns), you need to throw it out and start over again.

You cannot get rid of the burnt taste, in this or any other dish. I tried once. I left a cheesy dip on the burner too long without stirring. Too late, the burnt flavor penetrated the entire dip and I was expected at a party in 1/2 hour to serve the dip.

I did my best to remove the burnt particles, but alas, the burnt flavor was still there. Someone asked me if it was a smoked dip – and I said yes. It sort of passed, but I knew as well anyone who has eaten anything burnt – I burned it. I still ate it, not many others did. ; )

Score

We all hope or favorite teams will score this Sunday for the SuperBowl, or our kids will when we have to get up at 6am on a Sat or Sun to bring them to a game or practice (that would make it soo worth it).. but that is not what we are talking about here.

Scoring food is making a shallow cut on the outside (skin).  A good example is a ham roast studded with cloves.  All of those diamond cuts came from the act of long diagonal cuts\slices – that is scoring.

This is also done with bread.  The slits you find in those long Italian or French loafs are also scoring.

Why score?  To let steam (bread) / fat out (Duck Breasts/Ham Roasts), flavor/fat in (glazes, basting, herbs), or to just add decoration (peanut butter cookies).

Sear

To sear is to seal. To effectively sear a food item, you need a HOT surface. Can be a cast iron pan, a Saute pan, an Oven/Stove top safe pan or the grill.  But it has to be HOT.  This is where that HIGH temperature setting is key.  Heat that surface as high as you can get it and heat the oil/fat until it is simmering almost to the point of smoking (careful with butter as it will burn quickly in a very hot pan).  Turn on the vent to high (if indoors), open the windows and get ready to handle the smoke alarm.

Place the food on the hot surface, and let it sit until it naturally releases. It may not seem so, especially if that smoke detector is constantly going off. It will. If you try to flip or take it off before it is ready, it will stick and pull apart.  It doesn’t really take long 1 – 3 minutes is typical.

Searing creates a seal on the outside of the food. This keeps the juices and flavors in. The outside will cook faster than the inside. This is good if cooking to a rare – medium rare.  If cooking med – well done, you can still sear, but lower the heat as soon as the pan/oil is ready to keep it from being too burnt on the outside and too tough on the inside.

Another trick is to sear on the stove top, then place in the oven to finish. It is a slower cook providing more even cooking and reducing the changes of burning the outside once it has been seared.

Season – Food vs Pan

You really want the food in the pan. However this is understanding the difference when asked to season food vs seasoning a pan or cooking vessel.

Seasoning food in the simplest term is adding salt and pepper.  As you read though out this blog and depending on what you are cooking that can also include different spices, herbs, oils, fats, cheeses, etc.

However, when seasoning a pan, you are not adding herbs or spices, you are sealing the surface.  Most (and always follow the manufacturers directions) involve rubbing with oil (usually vegetable oil) over the surface. Preheating the oven to 450 – 500 degrees, adding the pan in the oven, and then turning the oven off.  Let the pan sit in the oven until the oven and the pan are cool.  This is typically done before the first use and as needed depending on the amount of cooking you do.

Another way to season a pan is to cook in it. This is most common in cast iron pans.  Once you cook something, let the pan cool, the pan is cleans by hot soapy water. That is it.  As you continue to cook, some the flavors are “absorbed” into the pan and help to season the next dish you create.   Never use harsh chemicals or abrasives when cleaning.  If you have stuck on foods, you can the pan with water and let boil for a minute.  You should be able to easily release any stuck on food.

Another type of dish that is seasoned are wooden mixing bowls.. most specifically the wooden Caesar salad wooden bowl. Rubbing with a raw garlic clove will season the inside, and continued use will also elevate the succession of salad dressing made.

Seeding a pepper (gloves)

I have gloves in () because if you are dealing with anything hotter than a bell pepper, you may want to protect your hands. I don’t know about you, but if like me, I touch my face or other body parts and having them burn is not pleasant. I don’t care how many times I wash my hands, the oils from hot peppers stays with you about as long as garlic on the skin and on the breath.  Use those “surgical” plastic gloves.  They can easily be found in the first aid section of drug stores and even in hardware stores near the painting/plastic sheet section. I keep them on hand. They are cheap and worth it, and come in handy should you cut yourself, which happens to even the most accomplished chefs.

There are many ways to do this, depending on size or desired outcome (slicing or need a whole pepper):

  • Slice the pepper in half and scoop out the seeds, membrane and core from each half.
  • Hold the pepper upright, slice down the sides (like panels) in an arch so you are left with the center/core “rib” and seeds intact. Throw that out.
  • Slice off the top, then take a small spoon or knife and scoop or scrape out the seeds/membrane.

Seeding a tomato

Why seed a tomato?  To reduce the amount of liquid and for some, seeing or biting into the seeds are not appreciated.  If you do not, be prepared to spend more time reducing the sauce to remove the extra liquid.  As for the seeds, it comes down to a preference and/or how refined you want to make a dish.

As with seeding peppers, you can seed a tomato in a few different ways.

  • Slice off the top, and scoop or scrape out the seeds and pulp with a spoon or knife.
  • Cut in half or quarters and scoop or scrape out the seeds and pulp.
  • Cut off the top and squeeze out the seeds and pulp
  • Discard the seeds, juice and pulp or reserve to use for a salsa, soup or sauce base within a day.

To peel a tomato, score (cut a criss cross on the top and bottom of the tomato), and place in boiling water for about 1 – 2 minutes or until the scored skin starts to lift up and peel back.  Remove from the water, place under cold running water, and peel the skin off.  Keep under cold water or an ice bath (ice, with some salt and water) to stop the cooking.

Set

Set or Set Up means a food basically means something needs to firm up.  This is used in coating, custards, sauces, meats, etc..

To let meat/poultry set or rest are the same thing. Let it cool slightly so the juices re-distribute or in a way solidify slightly so they don’t run.

When making custard, you are typically heating liquid so you can combine other dry products such as sugar. gelatin and salt to allow them to dissolve.  To let a hot custard set allows it to thicken and firm up.  This is also true for sauces.

If you are dipping something in melted chocolate, the let set time allows the chocolate to harden so you have that crunchy exterior or to thicken as well – think of truffles or chocolate covered pretzels.

Some times letting set also requires you to chill or slightly freeze.  Such as any of the above or when thinly slicing anything, you want it to set up or “harden” a bit to make the slicing easier.

Shred

This should be easy to explain as I think every one is familiar with shredded cheese and carrots easily found on all salad bars or when making pizza.

There are different sizes of shred. I think most people have a box shredder. Depending on the size needed, you would use a different sized side.

A small shred is very thin, can be prone to burning fast if used as a topping when baking. However, is excellent when making a cheese sauce as it melts fast and can easily be combined with other ingredients.  Also good for topping when NOT baking – like tacos or baked potatoes. I also like it in Caesar salads.

A medium shred is just that, medium – about the same size as the shredded carrots you can find in the supermarket.  Good for almost anything that requires shredded cheese.

A large shred is about 1/4 – 1/2 in thick. This can work with pizzas, nachos, but tends to take longer to melt.  So it is better suited for something that will bake or cook longer.  In bread is fine as well. Due to it’s thickness, it can take direct heat, like a broiler, better and resist burning longer than a small or medium sized shred.

Sift

Shifting is processing one or more dry ingredients through a mesh to reduce clumps, make fluffy and combine ingredients.

Simmer

Heating a liquid to the point just before boiling.  Slow, small to very small bubbles and consistent across the surface. In thicker sauces, they don’t always break the surface, but steam will escape through little bursts or blups.  This is maintained lowering to a med-low to low heat.

Typically used to cook sauces (like a great Italian tomato sauce) over a long period of time.  The longer simmering some sauces, casseroles or chilies is good, as it breaks down the fibers in meat that is tough, as well as letting all of the seasoning, fats, meats, garlic, etc meld and infuse together to create an in-depth tasting food.

Skim

Similar to skimming a book or homework, the same process holds true here.  It means removing the fat or skin that forms on the surface of a stock or sauce.

Slice

To slice something, means making a cut down (usually a forward motion (to score it) followed by a backwards motion of the knife). Can be thick or thin.  Think of sliced cheese, onions, carrots, bread.

Slicing an onion into half-moons:

  • Start by peeling the onion.
  • Then cut in half length-wise (top to bottom)
  • Place cut side down, and using the natural “rib” marks of the onion, slice down to create 1/2 moons.  These are great cuts for caramelized onions.  If you want thinner, then make them thinner.

Steam

To steam an item is similar to blanching, yet the food does not touch the liquid.  Take a deep sauce pan, but about 2 – 3 inches of liquid (usually water) in the pan. Bring to a boil.  Put the items to be steamed into a steam basket, strainer, or bamboo steam baskets.  You want something with holes so the steam can penetrate the food.  Covering is ideal as it will trap the steam so the food is cooked from above and below.

Other benefits to steaming is no oil , salt is needed keeping the food healthier.  The vitamins are kept within the food and not drained into the water. Cooking without breaking the casing (like dumplings, or items wrapped in rice paper).

Steep

Tea.  Or more general – placing items in a sachet, coffee filter or cheese cloth then immersing in a hot or lightly simmering liquid to release and infuse the flavors.  The vessel can then be removed, leaving the flavors behind without the need to strain to remove the particles.

Stewing

Stewing is a lot like simmering. Basically it is cooking a protein in a liquid (usually slightly thick) over a long period of time.  The use of crock-pots, ovens, dutch ovens, or on the stove top with a lid on the pan/pot are typically used.  The time can range from 2 hours to over night.   This process tenderizes meats or items that are tough.  You would not want to use with an item like scallops or an expensive cut of meat like Chicken Breast, Fillet or Porterhouse. This has the direct opposite effect on leaner meats, than stew meats, poultry or seafood.

Stir-Fry

Much like sauteing, stir-fry is cooking quickly over high heat with oil.  A Wok is best as it allows for an easier tossing of ingredients to allow all to come in contact with the surface and oil and prevent from burning.

But stir fry is very active.  Constant attention is required. It is also important to toss/stir the ingredients often.

Most Chinese type cooking is performed in this way. Sauces are created in the same pan once the items are just about cooked to perfection. Vegetables should still be vibrant with a crunch, meat should be tender. Remove from heat source as soon as possible.

Blanching is great for this style of cooking as well as cooking items in batches – ie: cook the meat first, then veggies, then get the sauce going and add all back for a final infusion and coating.

Sweat

I need to do more of this and start using all of the exercise stuff I have…  I think we all know what it means to sweat, exercise included or now.  We are releasing water. that is as far as my medical definition will go.

To sweat a food item, like onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, means to release the moisture.  You are not looking to brown it, but wilt it.

T

Thicken

A sauce or soup that is thick coats the back of your spoon as well as coating “sticking” to your food – such as pasta, meat, seafood.  It allows you to add so much flavor to a food item that may not have as much flavor as you would like.  It is also good for spooning over rice.

If you have a sauce in the works that is too thin – meaning it slides off, piles up at the bottom of the plate or makes your rice mushy, you need to thicken it.

There are many ways:

  • Without adding anything, bring to a rolling boil to evaporate the water and reduce the liquid, thus thickening and strengthening the flavors (careful if it is already salty, this will make it more salty
  • Dijon mustard, prepared horseradish,
  • Add dairy – milk, cream, butter, cheese, sour cream – all will thicken especially if you continue to simmer for a few minutes.
  • Add a slurry – flour or cornstarch are the most popular.  To make a slurry, add a tablespoon or so of flour or corn starch to a cup or jar with a lid. Add 2 tablespoons or so of COLD (warm or hot now is bad as it will cause the flour/starch to expand too soon) water or milk to the mixture.  Shake or whisk to remove the lumps.  If to thick, add more liquid.   It should be slightly runny, like a creamy soup.  Slowly pour (stream) about a TBS of the liquid into the simmering dish, whisking the entire time.  Add a little more if after a minute it is still too thin, repeat if needed.
  • Add soft silky smooth tofu. About a 1/4 cup at a time.  Blend with an emersion blender, food processor or blender.
  • Add bread, rice, potatoes (potato water) or another starch.  Start with a 1/4 cup at a time. Simmer until you reach desired consistency.

Thin

Opposite of the above (thickening). If you have a sauce or soup or syrup that is too thin, the easiest way to bring it back is to add water.  Start with a table spoon at a time and continue stirring until the liquid is incorporated. Add more if needed.  Make sure you attend it before it burns and reduce the heat.

You can also use stock – vegetable, chicken, beef, or whatever.  However, that will add more flavor so you need to be careful depending on the flavor you want.

Water is safe to add, as water is what escaped to make it thick.  Flavors stay.

Depending on how hot it is, ice cubes also work. They reduce the temperature quickly and add water to bring back your dish.

Toss

Toss that ball over here.  A light mix of ingredients. Put a lid on it, and shake lightly to toss the ingredients.  Use your hands to lightly toss the ingredients. This is a method used to not bruise or damage fragile ingredients (like fresh pasta, avocado, delicate lettuce and fruit slices).  It lightly coats the ingredients in a dressing or sauce. If you use utensils, used over sized and maintain a light grip and easy pressure.

If using your hands, make sure they are washed and / or use plastic disposable gloves.

U

V

Vinaigrette

The most basic vinaigrette is an oil (extra virgin olive oil is best) and vinegar solution. 1 part vinegar (or acid like lemon juice) and 3 parts oil (1 TBS vinegar and 3 TBS oil).  That’s it.. or is it?  You can take this simple formula and add so many different flavors to it – fresh or dried herbs, garlic, shallots, onions, salt, pepper, mustards, wasabi, ginger, horseradish.. or substitute vinegar (lots of available vinegars) for rice wine vinegar and/or soy sauce for an asian flair.  Reduce the olive oil by a bit and add sesame oil.

W

Water/Ice Bath

No this is not a retreat or something you do as part of the Polar Bear club.  This is method to cool foods quickly.  Typically to stop the cooking process and retain a crispness and/or natural color of an ingredient such as vegetables or shrimp for shrimp cocktail.

In 2 quart bowl (resize depending on bowl and/or amount of ingredients), add about 2 cups of ice, 1 TBS of salt and fill with cold water until about 2 – 3 inches from the top.

Prepare it just before of blanching or Steaming an item.  These methods of cooking do not take long and when done, you want it ready.

Once you feel the food is properly blanched/steamed, strain it through a slotted spoon or strainer, and put in into the ice water bath.  This stops the cooking and preserves the vibrant color.  When completely cool – remove from the ice / water bath, drain and proceed to the next steps in the recipe – or serve as is.

If you do not have enough ice, you can transfer the food to a strainer and place under cold running water.  It takes a little bit longer to cool down the item (which means it will cook longer), but still has similar effects and can be used in a crunch.

Whip

Beat the heck out of a liquid.  If you have an electric mixer (stand or handheld) it means put it on high ( of course after starting on slow and then increase to high so the liquid does not splatter all over ) until the liquid is now opaque, fluffy, stiff, or whatever end result your recipe calls for.  If you do not have an electric mixer you need a whisk or fork and go until you feel your arm will fall off – then go a little longer. ; )  Or run out to the store and just get one.  You can find affordable mixers in grocery stores.  They are not the best, but will do fine for this job.

Whisk – incorporating air, removing lumps

Whisking and Whipping are similar in how you process the food, but differ in when to stop.   You can whisk something for a minute (like you would do for scrambled eggs)… however if you are whipping, it is much longer and the end result is different (think whipped cream)

Whisking is typically done by hand, as it is a method to combine or break down ingredients, not necessarily to make stiff (like whipping).

When adding a thickening agent or liquid to another liquid, using a whisk to combine it recommended.   Also if adding a dry ingredient to a wet ingredient, whisking is recommended to break down any lumps created by the dry ingredients.  Actually, sifting the dry ingredients before adding to a liquid will reduce lumps as well.

X

Y

Z

Zest

I have a zest for life. It’s good to have it.  Fun, light-hearted and just add excitement to everything I experience.  That is much like zest in the culinary world.

Adding zest brightens up a dish.  Makes it fresh and exciting.

How do you add zest and what is it?  Well, it mostly means adding a fruit based zest, such as lemon, lime or orange.

To create the zest is to use a micro plane (or very small grater), and grate off the very top portion of a citrus fruit peel.. That part contains juice and oils that then infuse the fruits natural flavors into a dish.  STOP if you see any of the white pith, as that is the bitter part. Toss that out.

If you don’t have one, I suggest you purchase one. This is a great tool for many things and is not expensive at all. You can use it to grate ginger, garlic, nutmeg, chocolate, cinnamon (or other hard spices).

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